Italiano [English below]

 

È appena uscito il volume Science and Art. The Contemporary Painted Surface, a cura di Antonio Sgamellotti, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti e Costanza Miliani, pubblicato dalla britannica Royal Society of Chemistry. Il progetto, di quasi 550 pagine suddivise in 23 capitoli, traccia un percorso delle forme artistiche contemporanee che si dispiega dalle avanguardie storiche degli anni ’60 fino alle forme contemporanee e alla dimensione scientifica che informa sia la ricerca degli artisti che gli strumenti che consentono l’analisi delle opere. Dunque, dagli storici Pollock, Manzoni, Fontana, Albers, Baj, Plessi, Fabre, Hockney – per ricordare i più celebri – si arriva fino alla net.art, alla bioarte, alle odierne forme di industrial design e di architettura.

Il mio contributo al volume è il saggio “The Deep Meaning of Poetry: Eduardo Kac’s Art of the Fundamental Processes”, sull’opera dell’artista brasiliano Eduardo Kac, tra i maggiori in campo internazionale a partire dai primi anni duemila, e a seguire un’intervista all’artista stesso. Lo scopo del mio intervento non è quello di ripercorrere e ricapitolare l’attività di Kac, ma di individuare alcuni elementi chiave, idee e opere, che sono nodali nella sua ricerca e di rilevante impatto culturale. Per un panorama accurato sull’attività di questo artista si veda il volume Eduardo Kac, Telepresenza e Bioarte. Interconnessioni in rete tra umani, conigli e robot, Bologna, CLUEB, 2016, edizione italiana curata da Franco Torriani e dal sottoscritto di Telepresence & Bio Art. Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2005.

L’attività di Eduardo Kac ha attraversato varie tecniche e forme espressive, recentemente ha inventato la “Space Poetry and Art” con l’opera Inner Telescope, concepita per gravità zero, realizzata nello spazio. Con il suo lavoro Kac ha sollevato domande importanti sulle trasformazioni della società, in un costante rapporto creativo con la cultura, la tecnologia e la scienza del suo tempo. Nella sua ricerca la comunicazione, intesa come scambio reciproco di informazioni, come dialogo, come partecipazione, costituisce un argomento fondamentale, come emerge anche dall’intervista che segue il mio saggio. Questa attitudine rende Kac un perfetto interprete delle risorse e delle contraddizioni del contemporaneo, con una forte visione di come il tempo presente può evolversi nel futuro. Il suo interesse per la teoria della comunicazione, la linguistica, la semiotica, la filosofia, così come la sua conoscenza delle tecnologie e delle discipline scientifiche, delineano la personalità complessa di un artista, un ricercatore, uno studioso e un teorico.

Eduardo Kac, Inner Telescope, artwork floating in the International Space Station (ISS), in orbit around Earth, 2017

 

Dalla quarta di copertina:

Science and art are increasingly interconnected in the activities of the study and conservation of works of art. Science plays a key role in cultural heritage, from developing new analytical techniques for studying the art, to investigating new ways of preserving the materials for the future.

Following on from the 2014 title Science and Art: The Painted Surface, this book consists of a series of chapters written together by scientists, art historians, conservators, curators and artists dedicated to conservation, execution techniques, languages and conceptual topics. Science and Art: The Contemporary Painted Surface largely covers execution techniques, materials conservation and languages of artists, representative of twelve different countries, all protagonists of the development of innovative significant techniques and methodologies.

The book opens with a focus on widely historicized artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Lucio Fontana, Enrico Baj, Piero Manzoni and Joseph Albers. Its core is dedicated to the work of major worldwide renowned living artists, in a perspective that, while considering the Sixties as the historical starting point of contemporaneity, does not neglect to offer a view on the work done in the immediately preceding years. Several interviews to artists are included. Final chapters are dedicated to contemporary design, net art, and painted surfaces in contemporary architecture.

 

Indice The Contemporary Painted Surface

 

Di seguito il primo paragrafo del mio saggio:

 

Networks, interactive arts, Telepresence, Robotics

In his wide activity Eduardo Kac has been working with digital technologies, telepresence and networks. In these realms he has been especially interested in the possibilities of a “dialogue based on telecommunications, to the extent that it overcomes local boundaries and makes intersubjective experiences possible across the network on a global scale” [1]. It is the art of networking, opposed to the “monological ideologies” [2] embodied by the traditional one-way television transmission. This “dialogism”, this reciprocal information exchange, that is a critical topic in networks and telecommunications, pervades all Kac’s artistic research, also outside the digital and networks realms. Along this path he identifies the potentialities of participation, of the interactive artistic forms (that he calls “dialogic electronic art” [3]) which tend to limit “the emphasis of visuality to give precedence to interrelation and connectivity” [4]. A path that goes beyond the traditional idea of an art to contemplate, that introduces the use of unusual tools and techniques for art, also beyond their rules and constitutive technical aims, in order to develop a critique of the increasingly saturated and oppressive daily infosphere.

Telepresence and robotics can reveal an important artistic potential. Kac extends the meaning of the art of telepresence by defining it as “the integration of telecommunications, robotics, human-machine interfaces and computers” [5], enclosing it in the wider framework of interactive electronic art [6]. In recent decades, Robotics has experienced overwhelming growth, and in its many applications and forms – industrial robotics, social robotics, biorobotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, etc. – it is going to become a pervasive and essential field in everyday life. The tendency to delegate repetitive or unattainable activities and operations to external devices created by humanity, and to which humanity has transferred its own knowledge, has been existing since a long time. Automata have been historically present in many cultures, from Europe to Islam [7], to China, to Japan. As well as the attempts to construct living-like entities, mythological simulacra of human and animal life. These ideas pervade the whole history of humanity: the Greek Talos, the Jewish Golem, the Medieval [8], Renaissance and eighteenth-century automata, the nineteenth-century Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the twentieth-century robots, the androids, cyborgs and replicants in literature and cinema, the sophisticated contemporary social and industrial robots, the explorer robots sent to Mars…

Robotics is a transdisciplinary territory which ranges from the mythological and historical traditions of many cultures to the literary and theatre narratives (in fact the word “robot” was born in theatre [9]), to cinema and television, to industrial applications. But it is also a transdisciplinary research field, where both humanistic and scientific disciplines collaborate: biology, physiology, psychology, philosophy, automation, electronics, artificial life, artificial intelligence, physics, computer science, mathematics, mechanics… Since the end of the 1950s and the experiences of kinetic art, robotic art (or “cybernetic art”, as it was initially called) has often hybridized with traditional art forms, like performance, installations, dance, theatre. And also telepresence and telecommunication, like in Eduardo Kac’s artworks Ornitorrinco (1989) and Rara Avis (1996) [10].

The art of telepresence highlights the aspects of relationship, the dialogical opportunities. It can have a critical and social value, being

[…] a means for questioning the unidirectional communication structures that mark both traditional fine arts (painting, sculpture) and mass media (television, radio). I see telepresence art as a way to express on an aesthetic level the cultural changes brought about by remote control, remote vision, telekinesis, and real-time exchange of audiovisual information. I see telepresence art as challenging the teleological nature of technology. To me, telepresence art creates a unique context in which participants are invited to experience invented remote worlds from perspectives and scales other than the human. [11]

According to Kac, this “space of reciprocity”, which due to digital technologies and telepresence undergoes a profound transformation, constitutes a key element. The “real space” and the very notion of distance become progressively irrelevant [12], while the image, and more generally the narration, replaces the real by implementing the predominance “of the effect of reality on the principle of reality” [13].

Recently, many digital-based technologies have emerged. Among them Augmented Reality, which interactively and in real time adds symbolic information layers to the environment; Big Data, that are technologies to analyze or extract information from data sets that are too large to manage using common data-processing applications; the Internet of Things (IoT, and its evolution, the Internet of Everything, IoE), which interconnects objects, tools and devices allowing them to exchange data and take an active role; the development of industrial, social and personal robotics, with increasingly autonomous and economic devices and vehicles. Moreover, a number of applications can combine these technologies with Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life, Deep Learning and Machine Learning, with increasingly sophisticated algorithms, multiplying the possibilities and at the same time raising troubles of a social, cultural and political nature: let’s think, for example, about the security and privacy related issues.

 

Pier Luigi Capucci, The Bioarts Realm, 2007, based on a text posted by George Gessert to Yasmin, mailing list for art–science–technology interactions around the Mediterranean rim, on 25 March 2006 [Image originally published in Ivana Mulatero (ed.), Dalla Land Art alla Bioarte/From Land Art to Bioart, Turin, Hopefulmonster, 2007, bilingual (Italian/English)]

 

English

 

Curated by Antonio Sgamellotti, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti and Costanza Miliani, the volume Science and Art. The Contemporary Painted Surface, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, has just been published. The project, about 550 pages in 23 chapters, traces a path of contemporary artistic forms that unfolds from the historical avant-garde of the 60s up to the contemporary art forms and the scientific dimension that involves the research of the artists as well as the tools that allow the study of their works of art. Therefore, from Pollock, Manzoni, Fontana, Albers, Baj, Plessi, Fabre, Hockney – just to remember the most famous – the path gets up to net.art, to bioart, to today’s forms of industrial design and architecture.

My contribution to the volume is the essay “The Deep Meaning of Poetry: Eduardo Kac’s Art of the Fundamental Processes”, on the work of the Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac, an artist among the greatest in the international field since the early 2000s, and an interview with the artist. The purpose of my text is not to retrace and recapitulate Kac’s artistic activity, but to pinpoint some key elements, ideas and works, that are crucial in his research and and that can have an impact on culture. For an accurate overview of the activity of this artist, see the book Eduardo Kac, Telepresence & Bio Art. Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Eduardo Kac’s activity has crossed through many techniques and art forms. Recently he created the Space Poetry and Art, with an artwork, Inner Telescope, specifically conceived for zero gravity, which was made in space. With his activity Kac has raised many nodal questions on the transformations of the society, in a constant creative relationship with the culture, the technology and the science of his time. In his research communication, intended as a mutual information exchange, as a dialogue, as a participation, is a fundamental topic, as he points out in the interview that follows my essay. This aptitude makes Kac a perfect interpreter of the resources and contradictions of the contemporary, with a strong vision on how the present time can possibly develop and evolve into the future. His interest in the theory of communication, linguistics, semiotics, philosophy, as well as his knowledge of technologies and scientific disciplines, outline a complex personality of both an artist, a researcher, a scholar and a theorist.

Eduardo Kac, Inner Telescope,artwork floating in the International Space Station (ISS), in orbit around Earth, 2017

 

From the cover back page

Science and art are increasingly interconnected in the activities of the study and conservation of works of art. Science plays a key role in cultural heritage, from developing new analytical techniques for studying the art, to investigating new ways of preserving the materials for the future.

Following on from the 2014 title Science and Art: The Painted Surface, this book consists of a series of chapters written together by scientists, art historians, conservators, curators and artists dedicated to conservation, execution techniques, languages and conceptual topics. Science and Art: The Contemporary Painted Surface largely covers execution techniques, materials conservation and languages of artists, representative of twelve different countries, all protagonists of the development of innovative significant techniques and methodologies.

The book opens with a focus on widely historicized artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Lucio Fontana, Enrico Baj, Piero Manzoni and Joseph Albers. Its core is dedicated to the work of major worldwide renowned living artists, in a perspective that, while considering the Sixties as the historical starting point of contemporaneity, does not neglect to offer a view on the work done in the immediately preceding years. Several interviews to artists are included. Final chapters are dedicated to contemporary design, net art, and painted surfaces in contemporary architecture.

Presented in an easily readable form for a large audience, the book guides readers into new areas uncovered by the link between science and art, and will be of interest to artists, art historians and curators, as well as those who appreciate art.

 

Indice The Contemporary Painted Surface

 

Below the first paragraph of my essay:

 

Networks, interactive arts, Telepresence, Robotics

In his wide activity Eduardo Kac has been working with digital technologies, telepresence and networks. In these realms he has been especially interested in the possibilities of a “dialogue based on telecommunications, to the extent that it overcomes local boundaries and makes intersubjective experiences possible across the network on a global scale” [1]. It is the art of networking, opposed to the “monological ideologies” [2] embodied by the traditional one-way television transmission. This “dialogism”, this reciprocal information exchange, that is a critical topic in networks and telecommunications, pervades all Kac’s artistic research, also outside the digital and networks realms. Along this path he identifies the potentialities of participation, of the interactive artistic forms (that he calls “dialogic electronic art” [3]) which tend to limit “the emphasis of visuality to give precedence to interrelation and connectivity” [4]. A path that goes beyond the traditional idea of an art to contemplate, that introduces the use of unusual tools and techniques for art, also beyond their rules and constitutive technical aims, in order to develop a critique of the increasingly saturated and oppressive daily infosphere.

Telepresence and robotics can reveal an important artistic potential. Kac extends the meaning of the art of telepresence by defining it as “the integration of telecommunications, robotics, human-machine interfaces and computers” [5], enclosing it in the wider framework of interactive electronic art [6]. In recent decades, Robotics has experienced overwhelming growth, and in its many applications and forms – industrial robotics, social robotics, biorobotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, etc. – it is going to become a pervasive and essential field in everyday life. The tendency to delegate repetitive or unattainable activities and operations to external devices created by humanity, and to which humanity has transferred its own knowledge, has been existing since a long time. Automata have been historically present in many cultures, from Europe to Islam [7], to China, to Japan. As well as the attempts to construct living-like entities, mythological simulacra of human and animal life. These ideas pervade the whole history of humanity: the Greek Talos, the Jewish Golem, the Medieval [8], Renaissance and eighteenth-century automata, the nineteenth-century Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the twentieth-century robots, the androids, cyborgs and replicants in literature and cinema, the sophisticated contemporary social and industrial robots, the explorer robots sent to Mars…

Robotics is a transdisciplinary territory which ranges from the mythological and historical traditions of many cultures to the literary and theatre narratives (in fact the word “robot” was born in theatre [9]), to cinema and television, to industrial applications. But it is also a transdisciplinary research field, where both humanistic and scientific disciplines collaborate: biology, physiology, psychology, philosophy, automation, electronics, artificial life, artificial intelligence, physics, computer science, mathematics, mechanics… Since the end of the 1950s and the experiences of kinetic art, robotic art (or “cybernetic art”, as it was initially called) has often hybridized with traditional art forms, like performance, installations, dance, theatre. And also telepresence and telecommunication, like in Eduardo Kac’s artworks Ornitorrinco (1989) and Rara Avis (1996) [10].

The art of telepresence highlights the aspects of relationship, the dialogical opportunities. It can have a critical and social value, being

[…] a means for questioning the unidirectional communication structures that mark both traditional fine arts (painting, sculpture) and mass media (television, radio). I see telepresence art as a way to express on an aesthetic level the cultural changes brought about by remote control, remote vision, telekinesis, and real-time exchange of audiovisual information. I see telepresence art as challenging the teleological nature of technology. To me, telepresence art creates a unique context in which participants are invited to experience invented remote worlds from perspectives and scales other than the human. [11]

According to Kac, this “space of reciprocity”, which due to digital technologies and telepresence undergoes a profound transformation, constitutes a key element. The “real space” and the very notion of distance become progressively irrelevant [12], while the image, and more generally the narration, replaces the real by implementing the predominance “of the effect of reality on the principle of reality” [13].

Recently, many digital-based technologies have emerged. Among them Augmented Reality, which interactively and in real time adds symbolic information layers to the environment; Big Data, that are technologies to analyze or extract information from data sets that are too large to manage using common data-processing applications; the Internet of Things (IoT, and its evolution, the Internet of Everything, IoE), which interconnects objects, tools and devices allowing them to exchange data and take an active role; the development of industrial, social and personal robotics, with increasingly autonomous and economic devices and vehicles. Moreover, a number of applications can combine these technologies with Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life, Deep Learning and Machine Learning, with increasingly sophisticated algorithms, multiplying the possibilities and at the same time raising troubles of a social, cultural and political nature: let’s think, for example, about the security and privacy related issues.

 

 

Note / Notes

 

1) Eduardo Kac, Telepresence & Bio Art. Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2005, p. 104.

2) Ibidem.

3) Eduardo Kac, op.cit., p. 103.

4) Ibidem.

5) Eduardo Kac, op.cit., p. 138.

6) Ibidem.

7) From 31/10/2015 to 28/02/2016 at the ZKM in Karlsruhe has been performed an exhibition on Medieval Arab automata. See the catalogue: Siegfried Zielinski, Peter Weibel (eds.), Allah’s Automata. Artifacts of the Arab-Islamic Renaissance (800–1200), Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz, 2015.

8) Elly R. Truitt, Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

9) “Robot” is from the Czech word robota, which means “heavy labor” or “forced labor”, introduced in 1920 by the writer Karel Čapek in the three-act drama R.U.R. (Rossumovi univerzální roboti).

10) Eduardo Kac, “Ornitorrinco and Rara Avis: Telepresence Art on the Internet”, Leonardo, vol. 29, n. 5, 1996, pp. 389–400. Also in Eduardo Kac, Telepresence & Bio Art. Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2005, in particular the Chapter II, “Telepresence Art and Robotics”, pp. 125–214.

11) Eduardo Kac, Telepresence & Bio Art. Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots, op.cit., p. 139.

12) Eduardo Kac, op.cit., p. 142.

13) Eduardo Kac, op.cit., p. 144.