Nonsense Lab

Department of Biological Flow
RGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)
2011
(re)mixed media sculpture
installation view and detail

at “Brazil”
May 24, 2012
Electricity is Magic Gallery

Bunker Archaeology

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part One

"Thinking involves the microperceptions that are the virtual content of the not-yet out of which potential worlds are composed. Thinking exposes the overlappings of the actual and the virtual, their complex inadequation. Research-creation works at this in-between of immanence and actuality where multiplicities converge into affirmations. Creativity folds out of thought even as it proposes thought to itself. Thought is an untimely proposition."

          — Erin Manning, “Creative Propositions for Thought in Motion,” 2008

"See and be seen. Interpolate and interpellate. In a gesture of fragility and exhaustion, the Department of Biological Flow considers questions of tempo, intensity and ethics in public space and interrogates opportunities for movement in the contemporary vision machine."

          — advertisement for D S NFORMAT ON exhibition

 



D S NFORMAT ON
Threnody from the Vision Machine
-
Sean Smith and
Department of Biological Flow
2001-2046

 

1. Bunker Archaeology

Where does a process begin? When does it begin? How?

Is there a starting point? If so, one cannot be easily identified in this case. There is no neat and tidy cause and effect to this story, that much is certain, no neatly ordered program of experimentation. There is no hermetically-sealed laboratory of controlled thought from which hypothesized results emerge — though there is a white cube involved.

We are describing the smooth white cube of a university art gallery, uniquely marked by its inscription within the concrete white cylinder of an institutionalized exoskeleton. From a god’s eye perspective — which is to say when viewed from straight above, perpendicular to terra firma and flattened — it appears as a square inscribed within a circle — and are these two forms not irrevocably bound together within the precise numerics of royal science? Circle within square within circle, and so forth: centrepoints and radii and equidistant segments and entirely too rational tangents — the latter which get their name from the Latin tangere or touching. Circles and squares are precise only insofar as how they come into touch with one another.

- - -

A tangent: Humans cannot perceive “perfect” versus “imperfect” circles, nor can we create one of the former, materially, in the absence of technical assistance. We’re always on the move. Rather, we’ve extrapolated a concept of the circle from the morphogenetics of matter-flow as they concresce into semi-stable patterns of an apparently perfect roundness. We locate this concept in mathematics and then in our instruments, which return the favour by producing perfect circles in our thought.

But matter-flow isn’t perfect: it is turbulent and distorted and always decaying imperceptibly. Our circles, both those we perceive in “nature” and those we reproduce in embodied “social” forms, are always delightfully misshapen as their particles push one another in ways both predictable and unpredictable. This isn’t to say these circles are any less significant and powerful, save their inability to be god-like. Instead they make explicit that their power derives not from their ideal mathematical form-as-such, but rather because they participate in generating the future-past of a certain intensity.

Our perceptions and gestures can never quite reach the concept, but our circles are still precise insofar as how we come into touch with them — or insofar as we perceive the intensity of the approach.

- - -

Where were we then? Right, the map. This gallery and its institution aren’t just any square inscribed within any circle: the eye in the sky perceives its likeness in the form below, the narrow corridor that connects the concrete perimeter to the rest of the curriculum a sort of optic nerve that channels objects of information into and out of the enclosure, canals or conduits to this smooth gleaming white space and those processes given the label “art”.

Or change the channel, god-like. The eyeball sits spherically in its ocular socket and the surface can be sliced in so many ways. Perhaps the map is an orthogonal projection and one sits on the gray matter, looking out with that orientation we call “forward”. The god’s eye view stares directly through that which is rocklike and solid to find the liquid abyssal beyond.

In return, the critique of ocularcentrism shifts fluidly away from the iris (with its colour and aperture) and towards the retina (with its pattern and exposure). The latter is not only a primary locus of biometric identification but the threshold at which light information is converted to electricity, which is to say, converted to the network mode of circulation.

Subjecte 020063867, retinal scan, right eye: “Due to its unique and unchanging nature, the retina appears to be the most precise and reliable biometric. Advocates of retinal scanning have concluded it is so accurate that its error rate is estimated to be only one in a million.” (Wikipedia)

The blood vessels that give the biometric identifier its differentiating pattern trace branchlike back to the origin and scotoma of the optic nerve, portal to contingent authority and integrated spectacle. Punctum caecum ēlectricus. Perhaps the focal point of the gallery should be viewed from slightly off-centre, then, where the optic nerve would be located in this orthogonal perspective? Perhaps this is where the story will unfold and be told, with the blind spot as zone of political action.

Did I mention this space looks like a military bunker — or maybe a nuclear reactor?

This was my artlab for four days in January 2012. This is where the experiment took place.

Minority Report
2002
Dir: Steven Spielberg

- - -

The critique of ocularcentrism must move away from the iris (with its colour) and towards the retina (with its pattern). The latter is not only a primary locus of biometric identification but the point at which light information is converted to electricity, which is to say, converted to the network mode of circulation.

Department of Biological FlowRGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)(re)mixed media sculpturein process

Department of Biological Flow
RGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)
(re)mixed media sculpture
in process

Department of Biological FlowBall Bearings (Reticulated Foam)silkscreened latex balloon installationin process

- - -

Generally speaking, we might suggest it is the multiple Eye (and its interface with the touch of Skin) that governs the preparation for contagion, processing, incarceration and trauma found in late modern sport, while the Voice (and its interface with the touch of Skin) anchors its eternal recurrence of particular sporting histories in nostalgia.

Finally, we might suggest that the Flesh (and its interface with the touch of Skin) both implicates and is implicated by the now of consumption. It is here that exchange occurs, tempos slightly out of joint, though one hopes not overly so. It is here that we gesture towards new forms of encounter, new politics, new exchanges — in part through and with the Skin, but also by interfacing Flesh directly, in resonances of harmony or interference.

_____

sportsbabel, april 2011.

Department of Biological Flow
Ball Bearings (Reticulated Foam)
silkscreened latex balloon installation
in process

- - -

Generally speaking, we might suggest it is the multiple Eye (and its interface with the touch of Skin) that governs the preparation for contagion, processing, incarceration and trauma found in late modern sport, while the Voice (and its interface with the touch of Skin) anchors its eternal recurrence of particular sporting histories in nostalgia.

Finally, we might suggest that the Flesh (and its interface with the touch of Skin) both implicates and is implicated by the now of consumption. It is here that exchange occurs, tempos slightly out of joint, though one hopes not overly so. It is here that we gesture towards new forms of encounter, new politics, new exchanges — in part through and with the Skin, but also by interfacing Flesh directly, in resonances of harmony or interference.

_____

sportsbabel, april 2011.

Department of Biological FlowRGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)reworked sisal and steel wirein process

- - -

"The Ganzfeld effect (from German for ‘complete field’) is a phenomenon of visual perception caused by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of color. The effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is ‘seeing black’ - apparent blindness. … The Ganzfeld effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals. The noise is interpreted in the higher visual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations. This is similar to dream production because of the brain’s state of sensory deprivation during sleep.”

Department of Biological Flow
RGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)
reworked sisal and steel wire
in process

- - -

"The Ganzfeld effect (from German for ‘complete field’) is a phenomenon of visual perception caused by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of color. The effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is ‘seeing black’ - apparent blindness. … The Ganzfeld effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals. The noise is interpreted in the higher visual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations. This is similar to dream production because of the brain’s state of sensory deprivation during sleep.”