Thursday, 24 February 2011

Hooray, I've had a paper acepted for the GLITS e-journal (an electronic journal of literary and cultural criticism produced in the Department of English & Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London. ) about the South project and Ivan Dar's illness...an exciting week all round - with Alexandra and I doing a Thursday Club talk and presenting my EEG paper on Saturday at the Amnesia conference...a whirl of academic chatter...the panel discussion on the Social Web was very exciting in light of events in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia etc. It's a good point that once you knock out the internet and mobile communicvations the only place people can find out what's happening is on the streets..

Monday, 21 February 2011

God and Geometry film

The sound and light are coming from the box...
video

God and Geometry


Interesting that the film came out backwards, I take this as a sign of well founded resistance to figuration...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

potentiometer to motor





















int sensorPin = A0; // select the input pin for the potentiometer
int ledPin = 13; // select the pin for the LED
int sensorValue = 0;

int motorPin = 9; // define the pin the motor is connected to
// (if you use pin 9,10,11 or 3you can also control speed)

/*
* setup() - this function runs once when you turn your Arduino on
* We set the motors pin to be an output (turning the pin high (+5v) or low (ground) (-))
* rather than an input (checking whether a pin is high or low)
*/
void setup()
{
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);
pinMode(motorPin, OUTPUT);
}


/*
* loop() - this function will start after setup finishes and then repeat
* we call a function called motorOnThenOff()
*/

void loop() // run over and over again
{
// motorOnThenOff();

sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);
// turn the ledPin on
analogWrite(ledPin, sensorValue);
// stop the program for milliseconds:
digitalWrite(motorPin, sensorValue);
// turn the ledPin off:

//motorOnThenOffWithSpeed();
//motorAcceleration();
}

/*
* motorOnThenOff() - turns motor on then off
* (notice this code is identical to the code we used for
* the blinking LED)
*/
void motorOnThenOff(){
int onTime = 2500; //the number of milliseconds for the motor to turn on for
int offTime = 1000; //the number of milliseconds for the motor to turn off for

digitalWrite(motorPin, sensorValue); // turns the motor On
delay(onTime); // waits for onTime milliseconds
digitalWrite(motorPin, LOW); // turns the motor Off
delay(offTime); // waits for offTime milliseconds
}

/*
* motorOnThenOffWithSpeed() - turns motor on then off but uses speed values as well
* (notice this code is identical to the code we used for
* the blinking LED)
*/
void motorOnThenOffWithSpeed(){

int onSpeed = 200; // a number between 0 (stopped) and 255 (full speed)
int onTime = 2500; //the number of milliseconds for the motor to turn on for

int offSpeed = 50; // a number between 0 (stopped) and 255 (full speed)
int offTime = 1000; //the number of milliseconds for the motor to turn off for

analogWrite(motorPin, onSpeed); // turns the motor On
delay(onTime); // waits for onTime milliseconds
analogWrite(motorPin, offSpeed); // turns the motor Off
delay(offTime); // waits for offTime milliseconds
}

/*
* motorAcceleration() - accelerates the motor to full speed then
* back down to zero
*/
void motorAcceleration(){
int delayTime = 50; //milliseconds between each speed step

//Accelerates the motor
for(int i = 0; i < 256; i++){ //goes through each speed from 0 to 255
analogWrite(motorPin, i); //sets the new speed
delay(delayTime); // waits for delayTime milliseconds
}

//Decelerates the motor
for(int i = 255; i >= 0; i--){ //goes through each speed from 255 to 0
analogWrite(motorPin, i); //sets the new speed
delay(delayTime); // waits for delayTime milliseconds
}
}

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Notes after meeting with Sarah today, re viva:

Viva notes Sarah asked some very good questions, so I'm really grateful to have time to think carefully about my responses..


The main focus of work – subjectivity and representation and the acquisition of knowledge (epistemology)

when making software agents, I also needed to understand agency.



These themes emerged as they are linked to core problems in artificial intelligence – state clearly what those problems are -

what is propositional knowledge, what is symbolic representation – how else do we humans

know things? Tell this as a story that relates to my practice – how did I identify these themes?

How did my practice develop in relation to these themes?


Why connect artists's books and narrative? This is not a link that all book artists would make, we might think at first, but the focus of book art is to use the book as a medium the way other artists might use paint, and also to interrogate the book form, this often encompasses an exploration of the meaning and form of narrative, whether it is Sol LeWitt's algorithmic books, some artists also refer to themselves as narrative artists, but I not much of their work is unswervingly orthodox, and rooted in the auratic domain of the art object. William Blake is perhaps the best known book artist, although Drucker et al define book artists as essentially a late twentieth century phenomenon (60's onwards) . The Livre d'Artiste commmisioned by Anbroise Vollard from Bonnard etc were also illustrative , such as the loosely narrative pornographic poems of Paul Verlaine's , Parallèlement, 1900


But if I can return to Sol Lewitt and also Dieter Roth (daily mirror book 1961) and Ed Ruscha 26 gasoline stations (1963) we see a concern with seriality and sequence provided by the turning of pages -


'Roth's distinctive contribution to the emergent genre was his examination, through his bookworks, of the formal qualities of books themselves. These formal qualities such as flat pages, bound into fixed sequences were deconstructed and investigated, for instance in 2 Bilderbücher (1957) which comprised 2 picture books of geometric shapes, with die-cut holes cut into each page to allow glimpses of patterns from the pages beneath. Structural investigations such as these became the subject matter of the book itself.'

Many artists have taken up the challenge to experiment with the content and physical structure of the traditional book form.

(Tate Modern site tp://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/prints_books/features/artists_books/definitions/index.html.)

also Guy Debord and Asger John making artsist books of found narraitives – narrative derives from

news papers, eg Memoires (1959)

unreadable books such as Dieter Roth's Literature Saussage (a pulped book sausage) Literaturwurst 1961 – 1974


Legendary, Lexical, Loquacious Love by Eve Rhymer (Karen Reimer), 1996, an alphabetical re-ordering of the text in a romance novel

More explicitly, as identified by Katherine Hayles in Writing Machines, such books as House of Leaves , and Tom Phillip's A Humument, 'Hayles examines the ways in which literary texts in every genre and period mutate

Hayles explores works that focus on the very inscription technologies that produce them, examining three writing machines in depth: Talan Memmott's groundbreaking electronic work Lexia to Perplexia, Mark Z. Danielewski's cult postprint novel House of Leaves, and Tom Phillips's artist's book A Humument.

A Treated Victorian Novel. 'One day, Phillips went to a bookseller's with the express intention of buying a cheap book to use as the basis of an art project. He randomly purchased a novel called A Human Document by Victorian author William Hurrell Mallock, and began a long project of creating art from its pages. He paints, collages or draws over the pages, leaving some of the text peeking through in serpentine bubble shapes, creating a "found" text with its own story, different from the original.' (wikipedia/) explicit playfulness with narrative and the book form.

Hayles concludes by speculating on how technotexts
affect the development of contemporary subjectivity.

"Writing Machines is a major addition to the scholarship on hypertext and, in general, on the relation of technology to literature. As this volume so clearly demonstrates, Hayles is a subtle reader of texts, a knowledgeable critic of new technology, and a fine theorist of culture... I am certain readers of Writing Machines will place it near the top of their list of books on hypertext."
--Mark Poster, University of California, Irvine

http://mitpress.mit.edu/e-books/mediawork/titles/writing/writing_book.html



notes – further Suchman, Braidotti,


where have I not succeeded? South requires intensive involvement, its fragmentation may also be problematic (like much digital fiction) though I see this as a necessary quality may annoy some, as might the intrusion of the software – this came out in the evaluations, also there are techniocal problems – the small screen requires small computational input, but I think this constraint may be beneficial, I am not averse to Twitter's constraints. I would now write the sofwtare for Mobile phones. I would make a device myself, I now have the the skill, with a voice and bio sensors, I would use technology for more deeply embodied interaction – eeg and GSR, as I have now done for new projects.


The basic problem of representation is not fully resolved in this project, but I have been able now to move forward with works that have sprung from this, involving bio sensors, motion capture and physical computing. There are still hard coded rules in the system, but I think the hackablity of the code goes some way to opening up the issue of representation.



Why do I say the digital can 'enliven' ?? I argue book art is in danger, as Lucy Lippard has also noted, of reverting to the rarefied and antiquated Livre d'artiste, instead of the medium that interrogated the meaning and form of books- it must address the digital if it wants to remain current, and vital. Encompassing the digital and save it from fetishistic and anachronistic, auratic craft objects. I am not against craft at all, but I am against stasis and stagnation in art form particularly an art form that has as rich and radical a history as book art.


Explain situatedness – Suchman, sailors, Brooks, etc reread Haraway.

Need for a sucessor science, realist, relational, not a god trick or a view from nowhere.

Site specificity and situatedness.


What are my agendas? If I have them they emerged from practice and research. Alternatives to rigid a priori structures that lead to an impasse in AI, and disembodied models of knowledge.



What does the digital add to books? Potentially - dynamism, learning, mutability, adaptation, intersubjectivity, multi-media, growth, sensitivity, knowledge of situations and sites and subjects.


///////////

Lemurs and storytelling

K Dautenhahn

www.aaai.org/Papers/Symposia/Fall/1999/FS-99-01/FS99-01-010.pdf

non-human primates do have symbolic representations and K Dautenhahn sees human primate storytelling as evolving from intersubjective expression of knowledge about family members, primates do remember reationships among groups, and do exhibit evidence of referring to a past - a proto-storytelling behaviour.

Friday, 11 February 2011

The Neural Art Navigator

oops will have to be The Neural Art Navigator as the Neural Navigator is being used by a medical imaging system in Utrecht, its an exciting phase for VAINS, as we will get a chance to demonstrate a radical new system for online art interaction..curtesy of the EEG headset and christmas holiday hack.

The Neural Navigator

Abstract

The Neural Navigator: a novel navigation and collaborative filtering system for retrieving online art content.


The problem of suitable and innovative means for filtering and navigating online art content has long been acknowledged by influential figures in the domain of digital art practice, for example Beryl Graham (1999), Edward Shanken (1992) and Lev Manovich (1996) have all critiqued the fragmentation and anachronism of many online art contexts. This paper will describe the development, testing and evaluation of the Neural Navigator, an embodied system for navigating and collaboratively filtering online art content that addresses many of the core problems in the field of online art interaction.

The Neural Navigator is a physical computation system that deploys EEG (electroencephalography) to sense the electronic brainwave frequencies of individuals while they are visiting online art sites. The system analyses the patterns of electroencephalographic signals and matches them to suitable art works based on a collaborative filtering algorithm developed over the last two years by Eleanor Dare and Lee Weinberg, doctoral students at Goldsmiths (University of London) in the departments of Computing and Art.

The paper will describe the reasons for pursuing an embodied form of online navigation, framing this goal within the context of increasing interest in embodied interactive systems, while acknowledging the contribution of cognitive scientists such as Francisco Varela, Eleanor Rosch, Evan Thompson (1993) Alva Nöe (2009, 2004) and significant art practitioners such as Jeffrey Shaw (2002) and Robert Lazzarini (2001).

The proposed paper will describe the empirical testing of this system and the reactions of users to the experience of a seemingly sub-symbolic, autonomic process of interaction with the Computer Fine Arts Collection, which has been the focus for the development of the Neural Navigator. The architecture of the Neural Navigator has been influenced by an enactive and situated methodology that privileges action over a priori goals, and instead seeks an emergent, fluid and constantly changing set of navigational pathways. The paper cites Lucy Suchman (2007) and Alva Noe (2009, 2004) as key theoretical figures in the decision to pursue an enactive methodology, this will be clearly outlined and justified, as will the contribution of this work to the field of online art navigation, filtering and content retrieval.

Key words: Content retrieval; collaborative filtering; bio-sensors; social content and tools;

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Friday, 4 February 2011




Alexandra made this poster for our Thursday club appearance, it brings back losts of good and funny memories about this project. I am glad we are going to do a sort of retrospective of it, leading up to our more recent work with getures.

A Strange House in Stockholm

This is ED and AA in Nils Bohr's house in Carlsberg city where we presented our individual doctoral research last summer...


Look A, the door! To nowhere...In Stockholm. We will talk about this place at The Thursday Club, a house that generated stories while we were there.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

some Arduino blinks

note to self
//blink light number of button presses
int count = 0;
const int ledPin = 13; // the number of the LED pinconst int buttonPin = 7; int buttonState = 0;

void setup() {

Serial.begin(9600);
pinMode(buttonPin, INPUT);
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);
}

void loop(){


buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin);
if (buttonState == HIGH) {
count++;
doBlink(count); //method for blinking
delay(200);
}

if(buttonState ==LOW){
// turn LED off:
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); }
Serial.println(count);


if(count>7){
count = 0; }

}

//pass button presses as arguments for number of blinks:
void doBlink(int aa){
for(int i =0;i//stupid blog wont allow me to
//write a for loop, but this is a for loop while i is less than aa


delay(200);
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);
delay(200);
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);
}
}



15 minute version of longer paper here for safe storage:

Tensers and detensers; lost memories and embodied traces in the Marriage of Eliza Dagworthy 1915


Abstract



Like many people I have gaps in my memories, and thus in the symbolic narrative of my life. Before the age of nine my childhood memories are largely without detail. By and large those years may therefore be described (at least by convention) as ‘lost’. As a visual artist and artist-programmer the notion of such an aporia or cognitive deficit is particularly problematic. In the absence of representation what, if anything, can be retrieved, and what exactly can be communicated to others? In a wider philosophical sense such questions of representation and stable meaning have a high degree of cultural urgency. Marita Sturken (1999) urges us to examine the ‘cultural encoding of forgetting as a loss or negation of experience’ (1999: 252). Her question ‘what is an experience that is not remembered?’ (234) is one of the fundamental riddles of my own childhood. Sturken asks us to question the presumption that unmemorised experiences should be framed as a ‘loss of self’, and a ‘loss of subjectivity’ (243). These are critical questions in the context of my own research into amnesia.



Lost Memories and embodied traces is an idea for a computationally based project about the representation of my missing childhood memories. The focus of the project will be to explore the notion that memory is not an exact replica of events but is pieced together in a dynamic process that is strongly influenced not only by past experiences but by social contexts and sensory responses.

A core conceptual focus of the project is the idea that memory is not located in individuals, objects, or social systems alone, but is spread across complex social, technological, cognitive and biological systems. The project therefore aims to develop a conceptually innovative methodological and practice based focus for the exploration of memory.


Introduction

Proust wrote in relation to the past: ‘it is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect’ (Proust, 1913).


I have not accepted Proust’s assertion at face value but instead have used it as the catalyst for my core research questions, which are as follows:

• In light of Proust’s assertion what representative realm does the past (here taken to mean memories of the past) inhabit?

• If it is beyond symbolic/intellectual representation what other forms of articulation are available?

• Is there such a thing as somatisation of memory, or, less contentiously, embodied memory?

• Is memory itself an idealised notion – like that of the stable, originary subject?

•What is the relationship of time to memory, can we even be certain that a rigidly tensed time exists?



My attempts to address these questions have so far taken the form of generating two artist’s books and writing image manipulation software that uses EEG (Electroencephalography, the detection of the electrical signals emanating from the head) and GSR (Galvanic skin response, sometimes known as a ‘lie detector’) biosensors. The research has also drawn upon Philip Ausslander’s notion of ‘the performativity of performance documentation’ (the title of his 2006 paper), Peter Fritzsche’s paper ‘The Case for Modern Memory’ (2001), and, of course, Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida (2000) among many other sources, including populist texts and Wikipedia articles about improving memory, losing memory and theories of forgetting.




The first action I decided to take in attempting to examine my own amnesia was to create a book, arguably the reactive behaviour of a book-artist. But in the absence of coherent material what was I to put in such a book? Of course I am not the first person to try and represent absence in lexical form. Georges Perec’s novel, La Disparition (The Void, 1969), is a book without the letter e. These gaps represent, or so we might conjecture, the absence, and indeed, the murder in Auschwitz of his own mother. In a similar vein Austerlitz (2001) by W.G Sebald is a 428-page book without paragraph indentations. The book articulates absence through an embarrassment of riches or non-sequiturs – architectural and historical details as well as mystifying photographs that painfully magnify autobiographic lacunae. For my own book, Method of Loci (2011), the only content I have been able to draw upon is that which is publicly available, as I have no childhood photographs apart from one passport image dated 1971.



The child who looks out at me from that old blue passport is apparently lost to my adult self and to my adult memory structures. In the absence of other materials I have resorted to documenting web-based images of places, feelings and textures, symbols of fragments that have traveled with me into adulthood. These include low-resolution images of a church hall play group on One Tree Hill in South London which I attended in the mid 1960’s, the first road I lived in, swarming ants, black and white kitchen tiles, and Tom Thumb cigarillos, which my grandmother used to smoke while knitting, engulfed in a musky blue miasma. It was in documenting generalized memories into this book that I re-discovered online the old photograph that has become the loci of memory for this project.



The book, with that one exception, is therefore constructed from generalities, which might be characterised as ‘frames’ or ‘scripts’ in the language of artificial intelligence – declarative attempts to logically reconstruct human processes of remembering. These are contrived sets of structures amidst the chaos of missing data, not unlike the lexical structures assembled by Perec and Sebald.

Having constructed a book solely consisting of photographic images, some of which represent non-visual qualia such as postures, smells, sounds and felt textures, I then constructed a second book, Loci of Memory, which consists only of texts, though I have subsequently added a few drawings. These texts represent academic, populist and fictional accounts of memory loss and memory retrieval, as well as my written responses to them. Thus these books represent both reconstructed subjective memory fragments sourced from public data and collective accounts of memory also sourced from publicly available information.




I drew upon the data contained in Loci of Memory to try and construct a morphology of my own amnesia which I do not have time to elaborate upon now. But I can briefly state that a bio-chemical account of my own amnesia is more compelling then the trauma-memory argument. In a study of 10,000 trauma survivors (Pope, Hudson, Bodkin & Olivia, 1998) found there were virtually none who suffered from trauma-amnesia. Indeed my own memory of the ‘private’ trauma of maternal abandonment is clearer than the events that surround it (though never conforming to full a blown narrative, but more akin to an unedited film without a script (Sturken, 1991: 235), in which I am always an external observer). This is in keeping with models of memory that posit (in certain circumstances) the negative and traumatic as more memorable then the neutral or pleasant [3].

The cognitive neuroscientist Michel Gazzaniga has stated “Everything in life is memory, save for the thin edge of the present” (Foster, 2009:2). However, Gazzaniga’s assertion is not without ideological significance and should not be taken as an unassailable statement of fact. When he says everything is memory, this is perhaps an over generalised memory of memory. Likewise there are pressing theoretical arguments for tenselessness that refute Gazzaniga’s belief in a thinly edged present, let alone a past represented through memories.



Serious doubts about the absolute value of time were implicit in Einstein’s conception of simultaneity (1905), in which time is dependent on both observers and on space, thus undermining Newton’s absolute belief in its ontological independence. Hilary Putnam (1967) extended this theory into tenselessness, the counter intuitive refutation of our belief in a tensed temporality. Instead he proposes a transitive and relational coordinate system of unprivileged observers situated at different coordinate points in space and time.





The thin edge of the present: memory and the concept of now

Michel Gazzaniga’s statement “Everything in life is memory, save for the thin edge of the present” (Foster, 2009:2), is at odds with other neuro-scientific accounts of experience, in particular those of Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch (1993). It is also at odds with philosophies associated with Varela and Maturana’s enactivism, including Bergsonian Process philosophy, Buddhism and Nils Bohr’s principle of complementarity (1933-), the idea that items can have contradictory properties and subsequent conceptions of quantum level behaviour and the influence of observers on events. Between them these bodies of thought may be drawn upon to support a conception of human experience that is contingent, unfolding and for want of a better term, always occurring, or entangled within, the present. In Bergsonian terms time is a non-discrete, flowing duration (which is not, perhaps as radical as Putnam’s detensing).



My work with biosensors aims to explore a more process based conception of memory, and to test the distributions of agencies that relate to the way we remember what we call the ‘past’ through what we call the ‘present’ through the body. The Marriage of Eliza Dagworthy, 1915 has become the focus for my work with sensory technologies and image manipulation techniques. But of course an image is not a memory or a fixed reality and to treat is as such is to enter perilous theoretical territory, but as W.J.T Mitchell (Mirzoeff, 1998) warns in relation to the post-modern presumption of the non-naturalness of images, the naturalistic fallacy should not become an ‘unexamined dogma, it threatens to become a fallacy just as disabling as the naturalistic fallacy it sought to overturn’ (Mitchell in Mirzoeff, 1998).



The photograph entitled The Wedding of Eliza Dagworthy is the Loci of memory for an investigation into the ontological integrity of both memory and photographic images, enabling me to test their distributions within both cultural and non-cultural dimensions. The image is particularly significant in light of Marianne Hirsch’s (1997) concept of post-memory, or ‘the experience of those who grew up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth’ (Hirsch, 1997:23). My paternal grandparents, and to a slightly lesser extent, my own parent’s lives were temporally and experientially anchored to the second world war, events were defined as having taken place before, during or after it. The war was their compass point, indeed, I think of my own birth date as ’20 years after the end of the war’, something my grandparents must have instilled in me by example.



The Wedding of Eliza Dagworthy 1915, was taken one year into another defining war, and arguably represents the entangled nature of the personal and the historical, family history and national history. Within my practice this photograph also relates to the performativity and dynamism of documenting events and to the embodied nature of both photography and memory.



The Wedding of Eliza Dagworthy apparently presents a hackneyed trope of yokels in their best clothes standing outside their family farm in South Devon, it is superficially reminiscent of Lark Rise to Candleford (1945) or Cider with Rosie (1959). A quick troll through the world-wide-web will reveal many such images of wedding groups standing stiffly outside English farms. However on close examination only one or two members of the Dagworthy wedding party can bring themselves to present full smiles. Perhaps the subjects are bored or aching, having stayed in the same stiff postures for several minutes? Everyone has long sleeves and the flowers are restricted to white roses or carnations, an indication that it is early spring and that there is an uncomfortable chill in the air? Or perhaps there is a deeper reason for their half smiles. The clothes are not fashionable, the ugly outsized hats are from an earlier era and the women’s dresses are also unfashionably long, indicative of both the economic situation of the family and the fact that the war has been going on now for a year.


We can see then that the counter-narrative of this image is rapidly emerging, and is quite separate from the ostensible theme of a happy rural marriage. As Roland Barthes writes, it presents ‘an altogether different ‘script’ from the one of shots, sequences and syntagms’ (Barthes, 1988:57). But the punctum of this image (that which both wounds me and connects me to it, as opposed to the studium or intellectual content) is not the economic restraint of the situation or the stereotypically unfashionable dress of rural families. It is historical and personal, the knowledge that many of the young men in the villages of Woodbury and Woodbury Salterton are away at war. Those with the Devonshire regiment are stationed in India, Egypt, Iraq and Italy, undoubtedly their first trips abroad. Perhaps even their first time out of the county of Devon. An additional punctum or piercing element in this image is also represented by the absence of my great grandfather who I presume has just died in his late thirties or forties, and by the forlorn presence of my own three year old grandmother, Amelia Dagworthy, who will one day have to look after myself and my siblings after we are suddenly abandoned by our own mother. She is standing unsteadily at the front of the group, frowning at the photographer.


This impression of loss is at odds with the national image of its time, of necessary sacrifice and patriotic fervor. It is at odds with a telelogical picturing of history, as a path towards progress despite wars and premature, violent deaths. But are these false divisions –between the punctum and the studium, the pain of the punctum is informed by my socio-historical and cultural knowledge of what this image represents. I am not convinced the division is real, nor am I yet to be convinced that they meet in a via media such as Bergson’s conception of intuition. (But I’d really like to know what other people present here think about this.)



In relation to the conditions of my own childhood a deep-seated cultural suppression is at play. In spite of the shock and incomprehension that was customarily offered to us as a response to our own childhood abandonment, (this was in an era just before the liberalisation of Britain’s divorce laws) such abandonment is not historically rare, or biologically inconsistent. Indeed there have been what Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (2000) describes as ‘epidemics’ of both infant abandonment and infanticide:


For the past millennium, Europeans under legal and religious constraints preventing them from killing their children have still opted to abandon them whenever opportunities arose. By 1640, 20 per cent of baptised babies in France were being left at state orphanages…..It seems that women's desire to abandon their children has always been underestimated.
(Thomas Sambrook, 2000).



Amnesia relating to children’s experiences is not limited to my own childhood memories; it has deep seated implications for our understanding of the historical realities of family life and the conditionality of parental attachment.



The photograph of Eliza Dagworthy’s wedding seems similarly ambivalent, withdrawing and denying an umbilical nexus, in this case, with the past. However, despite its ambivalence and the generality of its composition, I still recognize myself in the image of my great aunt Eliza’s marriage, and also likenesses to my father, my uncles, my younger half brother, my sisters, and my grandmother. But should I ask myself as Barthes does, ‘who is like what?‘ (Barthes, 2000:100). Am I imagining an identity in these fragments of myself and my living relatives - scrying a ‘truth of lineage’ as Barthes calls it (103), a generalised ‘persistence of the species’(105), an identity that is at odds with reality of this image? For, in addition to my own memories the photograph, like all photographs, in its ‘seizing of a moment always, even in that very moment, assures loss’ (Kuhn, 2002).



As Fritzshe states ‘in this view photography is the very expression of Terdiman’s “memory crisis”, at once creating a documentary record of the past to fashion a sense of continuity and performing the anxiety about the durability and authenticity of the connections that have been established’ (2001).





And yet my own reactions to this image fluctuate; I observe that they are in process. Do these fluctuations point to the contingency of memory itself or the subject who ‘holds’ these memories, if they are even seperable? I suspect the obvious answer is that it points to the contingency of them both. One day while looking at this image I felt a kick in my stomach, a moment of visceral shock. It was not a moment of logical analysis. I realised that we were both, in a sense, abandoned and betrayed by our parents at about the same age, the age my grandmother is in that photograph. So much made sense to me after I felt this, perhaps even my choice to work with this image out of all the many images I had amassed for this project.



What else might my body tell me? Was I remembering or reconstructing? Was this deductive logic, embodied knowledge, or Bergsonian intuition? More importantly, what might my body tell you about my memories and about the nature of memory itself? In other words, what is there beyond a textual reading of this image, beyond my previous exegesis? I wonder if there are other responses that might disrupt my own narratives of family history as reflected in this photograph from nearly a century ago? What is there now, or indeed, is there only the now in which to articulate memory?


Conclusion: Point-Instant, sensing and making memory traces



In keeping with Plato’s Pharmakon my work with images and memory supports the idea that symbolic representations of memory are at once both poison and remedy. At the same time, I would like to test the notion that memory has neither meaning nor autonomy outside of the present. Of course I am not alone in questioning the tensedness of time, belief in the totality of the present moment as Michael Eido Luetchford explains (2004) is a core tenet of Buddhist philosophy:


According to Buddhist thought, the past is not real, because it no longer exists, and the future is not real because it has not yet come into existence. Only the present moment is real existence. Early Buddhist philosophers developed a theory of existence as a point-instant
(Michael Eido Luetchford, 2004).



This is supported to some extent by Bergson’s resistance to the mathematical reducibility of time as an experience, but to instead a non-linear and flowing, mathematically unbounded experience of time or duration. However, Bergson clearly does believe in the past (as well as the future) but it is one that is activated as memory by action in the present.


Again this notion of memory accords it an agency, but can it really hold such power and if it does, is amnesia also agential? My use of biosensors, in the form of EEG and GSR sensors enables me to perform the dynamism of my relationship to my own memories and my embodied responses to the photograph of my Grandmother and her family. I propose that the photograph has the potential to be both symbolic and sub-symbolic, offering a complex complementarity, in this case, that they are both culturally and biologically received and conceived, signifying absence and presence, that like memory they are embodied and dynamic, indexical and generative. As my relationship to this image unfolds the image itself is transformed, when the GSR sensor detects a significant drop in resistance I am shocked, and at the same time the software generates a new image of Eliza Dagworthy’s wedding photo.



The shock to my body triggers a re-imaging and dissolution of Eliza’s wedding, one that is ontologically entangled with its own documentation. Phillip Ausslander highlights the paradox at play in two notable and even more extreme works of performance documentation, Chris Burden’s Shoot (1971), a ‘notorious’ work in which the artist enlisted a friend to shoot him (with a gun) in a gallery setting, and Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void (1960), in which the artist appears to be flinging himself out of a window. My work with Biosensors and photography aims to similarly destabilize the originary event while questioning and inverting the status of documentation and the conventional notion that an event precedes and authorizes its documentation. As Ausslander points out, our perception of these processes is taken for granted:


the presumption of an ontological relationship between performance and document in this first model is ideological. The idea of the documentary photograph as a means of accessing the reality of the performance derives from the general ideology of photography, as described by Helen Gilbert, glossing Roland Barthes and Don Slater: “Through its trivial realism, photography creates the illusion of such exact correspondence between the signifier and the signified that it appears to be the perfect instance of Barthes’s ‘message without a code.’ The sense of the photograph as not only representationally accurate but ontologically connected to the real world allows it to be treated as a piece of the real world, then as a substitute for it.’”
(Ausslander, 2006).


At the same time, the vulnerability of biosensor technology (even medical grade EEG sensors) to environmental noise and false readings adds another element of ontological doubt to the technologies of representation at play in this work and arguably blurs the boundaries between subjects and objects, originary and documenting events.


This is in keeping with my conception of the Lost memories and embodied traces performance / installation (loosely diagramed below). The roboticist Rodney Brooks wrote ‘In AI, abstraction is usually used to factor out all aspects of perception and motor skills…When we examine very simple level intelligence we find that explicit representations and models of the world simply get in the way. It turns out to be better to use the world as its own model’ (Brooks, 1987). But what happens if you try to factor out abstraction and leave only perception and motor skills in an arts context? Not at the level of Brook’s very simple situated robots, but at the level of human interaction with such a performance/installation?


This is the core methodological framework for the project. To participate in this work subjects will be finely calibrated via their bodies to the corresponding state diagram of my own body at varied times of memory retrieval. Calibration will be facilitated via heart rate (using a treadmill), galvanic skin response and EEG readings. I am also considering the use of urine and hormone tests to establish both a biological and psychogenic calculus of my unfolding experience of memories. Participants will experience mild electric shocks when near exact states are matched. The shock will also trigger and impact on the documentation of our corporeal synchronization and a reconfiguration of Eliza’s wedding photograph.


In effect I would argue that this is a type of sub-symbolic time machine in keeping with a detensed and embodied theory of time and special relativity. Whether this type of spatiotemporal synchronisation and performativity is possible, or indeed, is in violation of physical or logical laws will become apparent at the time of its implementation. At the same time the project seeks to explore Maria Sturken’s question (1999) ‘what does the act of forgetting produce?’(243). The project acknowledges the possibility that forgetting is, to quote Sturken, a ‘primary means through which subjectivity is shaped and produced’ (243). I would also suggest that representation, in the form of memory may be a way of separating ourselves from the world, and that amnesia, in contrast, has the creative potential to erode conventional notions of the ontological split between ourselves, others and our experiences.





[1]Available at http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/philosophers/putnam/Accessed 20/01/11.[2] J.E. McTaggart (1908), among many other physicists and philosophers, questioned the existence of time, although he recognized the value of tenses, he also asserted the logical incompatibility of the past, present and future. The biggest challenge to Newton’s conception of a stable, independent and absolute time was Einstein’s emphasis on relativity or simultaneity, in which the order of events is dependent on an observer’s reference frame.[3] An anecdotal experience of vivid trauma memory was the witnessing of a multiple high-speed car crash a few years ago. I was with several friends who all reported afterwards that, like me, their view of the event had unfolded in slow motion. As we witnessed one car somersaulting over another it felt as if we could have made phones calls, drank coffees or chatted about the weather before it finally landed and smashed into the other cars. An experience that illustrates the strangeness of both memory and time, and, perhaps, their non-linear co-dependence and arguably the way they are both entangled with our biochemistry.[4] ‘Recruiting for the Devonshire Regiment in 1915’Available at http://www.devonheritage.org/Nonplace/DevonReg/RecruitingfortheDevonshireRegimentin1915.htmAccessed 11/01/11[5] Before relativity the main theoretical approaches to time included absolutists (such as Newton) who believed that time exists independent of material objects or anything external and on the other hand, relationists, who believed time was dependent on physical movement. Conventionalists such as Poincaré, did not believe in an absolute time as Newton did, but were committed to the convenience of a general agreement upon time. [1] Sullivan, G. (2005) Art Practice as Research, Sage). [2] Available at http://artpracticeasresearch.com/ accessed 28/01/11


Panel idea:

More than at any previous time in history, we are continually engaged in the simultaneous living/authoring and reporting/critiquing of our lives. To what extent does the click-here label culture of the internet, social media, and 24-hour blogging prescribe rather than describe the present moment?

First I would challenge this statement, and argue, that perhaps, since the invention of written language, and probably even since our conception of ourselves as subject to a mind body split – that necessitates an infinite regress of self-checking homunculi, we have passed into a state of near continuous self-filtering, self-consciousness and self-representation, or re-presentation. Discourse of ‘the gaze’ (from Lacan to Laura Mulvey and Annette Kuhn) has also described the way in which we, and arguably, women in particular, are engaged in continuous acts of self–conscious self re-presentation, that we our encoded with "to-be-looked-at-ness", in Mulvey’s words. So I would not want to hark back to an idealised, pre-networked past in which we were not engaged in some form of living/authoring schism. Though of course the question of who were being looked at or scrutinised by is contentious and contested.

I like Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen’s notion that that the gaze, which here I read off, to apply to an invited readership, is a relationship, one that moves ‘between offering and demanding a gaze’, entailing a more complex framing of the power relations ay play in self-presentation.

More importantly I would also argue that we need to explore alternative forms of communication that are mindful of the dangers inherent in re-presentation. Any practice of representation is to quote Donna Haraway ‘a boundary making’ practice, representation is generative of an a priori ontological split between ourselves and the world, between ourselves and events. We put the world at arms length in re-presenting it, so, as I hope my paper has made clear, I would emphasise that blogging’s limitations and prescriptions are no less sedimenting then other forms or representation, they exist within a continuum, and that what we are looking at here are differences in degree, not significant differences in kind (thanks to Bergson and Sarah Kember for this insight). In keeping with my own doctoral methodology I would recommend a performative turn in such self-authoring, and point to embodiment (as I do with amnesia) as an opportunity for more fluid, dynamic, becoming.

The roboticist Rodney Brooks wrote ‘In AI, abstraction is usually used to factor out all aspects of perception and motor skills…When we examine very simple level intelligence we find that explicit representations and models of the world simply get in the way. It turns out to be better to use the world as its own model’ (Brooks, 1987). But what happens if you try to factor out abstraction and leave only perception and motor skills in this digital context? Not at the level of Brook’s very simple situated robots, but at the level of human interaction with such self authoring?

I’d point as at Karen Barad and Fransico Varela, Alva Noe, Haraway and Rodney Brooks…to conceive of an intra-active critique – something closer to the diffraction Barad and Haraway discuss as a more generative, dynamic, alternative to reflection.