Art And Fear
Virillio’s back and he’s got the caps lock key working again. He’s also got the benefit of a readable translation this time.
It’s strange to think that “Art and Fear” was written before September 11th. The Midlantic Tachyon Projectors are as nothing compared to the Chunnel ones…
“Art and Fear” is the closest I’ve read to any sort of signpost in art in a long time, and that alone would make it worth reading. There’s much more to it, though. The triumph of the aesthetics of Auschwitz in art and science and the removal of the right to silence (or rather not to be spoken for) are the twin threads of its two lectures/essays. They’re good reading, thought provoking, and have that unsettling, “Twilight Zone”-straw-donkey-with-drugs-in feel of Virilio at his most urgent. And despite the fact that it never mentions them, it’s yet another view on just why the Chapman Brothers suck so badly.
I don’t know why Stelarc scares Virilio, though. Stelarc hasn’t threatened to cryogenically freeze *Virilio’s* head…. 🙂

Computer Arts Society
The CAS is restarting. See the homepage at the BCA, or contact [email protected] (the name given out on flyers at the Harold Cohen talk).

Harold Cohen Talk Last Night At The Tate
Harold Cohen gave a good talk, and a good Q&A session afterwards (including fielding questions from Huw Jones from the Landsdowne Centre For Electronic Arts and Dave Bausola from Ixi). I managed to meet Harold and briefly say hello beforehand.

I can’t do justice to the talk in a weblog entry, so it’s fortunate that a video of the talk will soon be online here. The talk ranged over Harold Cohen’s introduction to computing, the potential of technology, the artistic demands of expertise and technological innovation in an “idiot-proof” age, the struggle to explain colour to AARON, how AARON’s latest work came about, and more.

AARON’s latest work is painting-based with a wider range of objects, shadows, and more expressive virtual “brushwork” as well as a new palette made possible by its new archival quality large-scale inkjet printer. It’s strange seeing AARON’s plants and other objects without their traditional black outlines, but AARON is now truly painting rather than colouring drawings. I do wonder about “simulating” the layering of opaque colour to be rendered flat by an inkjet printer: this feels different from the physical “proofs” AARON has produced previously, but the results certainly look good and the effect could be achieved with real opaque paint anyway. I think I missed several minutes of the talk just looking at the slides of the new images as they were shown. I’ll need to check that archive myself to see what I missed. 🙂

Open Clip Art
Via Creative Commons, the Open Clip Art project from

Clip art is horrible. Here’s an opportunity to change that… 🙂

On “Language”
(From a discussion on Aesthetics-L)

The existence of a penumbra does not cause light and dark to wink out
of existence. Ordinary language philosophy’s obsession with edge-cases
fills lonely evenings but ignores the break-out strategy of
*generating* language.

I don’t know what the opposite of bootstrapping is (self-obviating?),
but linguistic arguments regarding the limit of language have an
obvious and fatal flaw, as do attempts to communicate on the limits of

Most people don’t care how language works. It usually doesn’t fail to
in some way. History and fiction are full of examples of the failure of
language and communication both tragic and amusing, the limit of
language is not a stunning philosophical insight. What is stunning
about philosophy is the failure to get with the program and accept
fuzziness, poetry, or any other continuous, combinatorial idea of
language rather than wallow in late Modernism’s dreary fascination with
pathology and bogus exactitude. Language is not discrete, and if it was
you’d hit Godel anyway. There is a signal in the noise. Get used to the
static, or ironise it into signal like Trip Hop did.

Language (and art) is (potentially) infinite. It is possible to
characterise and show the limits of infinite series (or whatever, you
can work with them anyway), but given that human experience and lives
are finite, this is unlikely to be a serious problem. At worst we have
to accept that meaning is fuzzy and lazily evaluated. Which is
potential, not limit.

If there are no ideas, no concepts, no language and no communication,
or they are broken, or we are deluded in our understanding of how they
work or that they work, something very strange is going on. That would
be an interesting focus for philosophy, and since it involves
appearance(s), aesthetics.

Linguistic enamourment is masturbatory, and linguistic reflexiveness is
historically deconstructable…

Generative Philosophy
Looking at Bayesian-filter-busting spam email, I had an idea. Train a genetic algorithm to make Markov chains. Train the chain on Project Gutenberg’s philosophical texts. Train a spam filter on the same texts. Then evolve philosophical texts, evaluating them by keeping the ones that the filter catches.
Generative philosophy…

…And What I Use
Inspired by the animators, I’ve taken to using red & blue 0.5mm propellor pencil leads from Pentel along with Staedtler Marsmicro 0.5mms for light sketches, and red, blue & black Sanford Peel-Offs for heavier work. Mirado Black Warriors are good on smooth paper, but I prefer Derwent Sketching pencils for rougher paper (sketchbooks rather than copier).

Materials Fetishism Two: Phallic Symbols
Pencils seen used by animators in documentaries on Disney, Pixar, and The Simpsons:
(Tuscan Red?) Berol Verithin
Staedtler Mars Lumograph
Sanford Black Peel-Off China Marker (!) Yep, Glen Keane…
Mirado Black Warrior
Mirado Yellow

The lead pencils often have coloured erasers on the end, even those with integral erasers.

Interesting Project Gutenberg Texts

I’ve started trying to read “Aesthetic Theory”. I suspect it’s a bad translation, because the introduction is as unreadable as the main text, possibly even less so. Like recent Virilio translations…
There’s a critique of the book on that mistakenly believes Adorno’s musical biases to be “the intellectual equivalent of white flight”, whereas in fact I imagine that they’re just anti-American, as he left the place to return to Germany before writing “Aesthetic Theory”…