Remind me later is a blog about all aspects of art and technology, focussing in particular on some of the thoughts and questions raised by my visit to Silicon Valley in the Spring and my encounters with art and artists along the way.
It will also be a chance to share news of my experiments as I prototype new work and try out new ideas in response to my visit.
Main image: Probably Chelsea by Heather Dewey-Hagborg at the Exploratorium, San Francisco
My project to go In Search of Silicon Valley has come to a close. The final outcomes included ‘A Cybernetic Meadow’ – a new installation at The Auxiliary Project Space, Middlesbrough, plus a zine and a talk.
The project has been great. My head was totally scrambled by everything I encountered on my visit; I managed to partially unscramble it and write some thoughts down in the zine, which provided the basis for the talk, and the installation gave me an opportunity to make the online world human-scale and something that we can walk around and through rather than just experience on our phones. I’m looking forward to developing my thoughts and ideas from this project in future work.
You can find links to all the project outcomes, including the zine and the talk, on my website here: www.robertgood.co.uk/silicon-valley. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
Particular thanks to Lizz Brady who curated my work at The Auxiliary and who helped with the build and put the zine together. A great collaboration which I hope will continue into the future. Thanks also to The Auxiliary and to Arts Council England for making this happen.
And so to The Auxiliary project space in Middlesbrough this week with artist and curator Lizz Brady.
Lizz is helping me to build a large scale installation to reflect on the themes of technology and connectedness that I have been investigating for my project In Search of Silicon Valley.
So far the build is going really well – we have two of the structures in place and it has been super satisfying to be making things rather than writing lines of code.
Somewhat predictably, there are teething problems with the technology. We have visuals but no sound; sound but no silence when we want it; cables but no connection. All probably to be expected, and hopefully nothing that cannot be resolved with a bit of trial and error, brute force and/or cold hard logic.
But it does remind me just how complex technology is, how many potential points of failure there are and how much of a modern miracle it all is.
If you are in Middlesbrough this week do call in to see how we get on and let us know your thoughts on art, tech and the internet.
Pics: Lizz Brady
With thanks to The Auxiliary and Arts Council England
In 1967 Richard Brautigan dared to imagine a technological dreamland where ‘mammals and computers live together in mutually programming harmony like pure water touching clear sky’. Forty-five years later, how’s that looking?
My project In Search of Silicon Valley approaches its conclusion next week with an opportunity to draw everything together and prototype some new work.
A Cybernetic Meadow will be an experimental installation, build and Open Studio hosted by The Auxiliary, Middlesbrough and curated by Lizz Brady. Over seven days we will build a series of structures that explore our relationship to technology. Are we addicted to our phones? Is social media infantilising us? How can we process the deluge of information that is available to us? Visitors will be able to walk in, through and around animations and soundscapes.
The result will be an opportunity to step back and reflect, and ask ourselves where we are heading.
There will also be new animations, plus a new soundscape and lighting experiments.
So join us in Middlesbrough next week if you can – would be great to see you.
With thanks to Arts Council England and The Auxiliary, Middlesbrough.
There is a paradoxical claustrophobia about the vastness of the internet. The world is condensed into a smartphone. We talk about being glued to our screens because it seems as though when we are online, we are unable to look around, outside or beyond. Donning a VR headset immerses you in an expansive new world, but completely cuts you off from those standing nearby.
Alongside this physical constriction there is an emotional flattening. The online environment of social media, news headlines and meme culture does not allow for nuance or context. Everything is stripped back to bare essentials. There is no room for the luxury of explanation or exposition.
‘Because Internet – Understanding How Language Is Changing’ by Gretchen McCulloch takes a look at how language is evolving to deal with the new digital terrain.There are great discussions on text speak, emojis and memes. I didn’t realise, for example, that putting a full stop at the end of a text can imply passive aggression. I have been doing it for years, thinking that I was just being over precise.
Language itself will be fine. It cannot help but evolve to meet the demands of each new generation. Or rather, each new generation cannot help but repurpose language to find a way to express themselves.
But we should be mindful nevertheless of the new digital terrain in which our self expression is playing out. With fewer words and less time in which to make a point or grab your attention, we are necessarily going to pump up the linguistic volume. Sentiment is condensed and flattened as texts move online. Emotions are emptied out.
I have been thinking about these dynamics over the summer. ‘Poetry Please’ is the result, exploring the contrasting language forms of books and bytes. Poems that meander slowly and lyrically on the printed page are condensed into instant quotes. The art of poetry is reduced not to prose but to text.
I have been spending the summer learning a new craft. I have been visiting the wonderful Make Space workshops in Cambridge to learn how to use their CNC Model Mill and CNC Router. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and means that the machines drill and rout based on 3d plans drawn up on a computer. So is this really craft? I don’t know, possibly not. Undoubtedly though, it is another example of technology augmenting skills that would have been done entirely by hand only a few decades ago.
What I have liked so much about this experience is not only the learning of a new skill (enjoyable, challenging and frustrating in equal measure) but the physicality of working with wood (ok, I admit it, mostly MDF) and largely swapping the computer screen for the noise, smell and clunkiness of a machine the size of a kitchen table.
The pieces that I have been making are lettering carved into wood for a new project in Middlesbrough this October (details to follow in a future post). To see them emerge from the machine gives a buzz of achievement, even if the machine did most of the work.
It is becoming clear to me from the many conversations that I have had over the summer (new podcast episodes coming soon) that all tech revolutions, whether the printing press, steam engine or motor car profoundly change on our lives. This much is a truism. The problems always seem to arise once the initial delight and novelty wear off and are replaced by exploitation and ubiquity. It seems that we struggle to get the balance right.
To put it another way, for better or for worse we are stuck inside our physical bodies and we experience the world through our senses. At some deep and intangible level we need to be grounded in, and connected to, the world around us and the earth that we share. All technologies are bolt-ons to this and they are successful to the extent that they enhance and complement our sensory selves. Once they take us away from the essence of who we are, then we are heading for trouble.