N. Katherine Hayles proposes to discuss ideas that will be presented in her upcoming book, You Are More Than You Think: the power of the cognitive nonconscious. She describes current models of consciousness, stressing cognitive processes which create the basis for consciousness but are not available to introspection. After Hayles outlines many inadequacies, inefficiencies and costs of consciousness, she reviews some of the benefits of nonconscious cognition–defining cognition as a process that interprets information in contexts that connect with meaning. She argues that all biological life forms have some cognitive capacity, and that computational media constitute another field of cognitive processes. Hayles speculates that awareness of nonconscious cognition will de-center humans from the humanities. She suggests that awareness of alternative forms of cognition offer a way of making complexity comprehensible.
Fabian Marcaccio disavows any interest in representation, decoration or the object, but focuses on process and methodology. He describes how his early interest in taxidermy, dissection and comics led to his “groundless” paintings that spilled out over the edge of the rectangle. From the late 1990s, his large-scale Environmental Paintant works–unlike traditional paintings–engage viewers in motion, as they walk along beside them. Unlike these abstract works, the “picto-photo-sculptural” Structural Canvas Paintant works employ representation, but filtered through his artistic influences and his life and media experiences. Marcaccio concludes with a discussion of his recent re-engineerings of longstanding visual motifs via 3D printing.
Neil Denari surveys historical examples of buildings that might or might not constitute a thesis, starting with Corbusier’s Villa Savoye and the Florey Building, Oxford (1971) by James Stirling, to Toyo Ito’s Taichung Metropolitan Opera House (under construction). He feels Robert Venturi’s house for his mother (1964) definitely argues a thesis, as do Peter Eisenman projects from House III (1961-71) to the City of Culture of Galica (2013), and projects by Superstudio, Buckminster Fuller and Coop Himmelb(l)au. Denari discusses his own Interrupted Projections (1996) as a project that presented ideas worked out in detail in his subsequent career. He discusses the difference between designs that exist in movies and reality, and the distinction between just going with your interests and attempting to make a contribution.
Perry Hall begins by discussing how the decalcomania paintings of Max Ernst prompted him to ask, How does one grow a painting? His early decalcomania paintings led to experiments with impasto for sculptural effects. In 1997 Hall created video studies of paint moving, from which came the first “live paintings,”–videos of paint moving in tanks. Hall introduced sound, and experimented with ferrofluids. Hall describes his recent black and white turbulence drawings. He concludes by stressing that he is not an illustrator, but uses these tools to create conditions where the unexpected can happen.
Richard Schulman outlines his background. After a stint with Julius Schulman in the late 1970s, he pursued portrait photography, specializing in artists. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that he began to systematically photograph architects and their buildings. Schulman cites as mentors Julius Schulman, Gordon Parks, André Kertész, and Andreas Feininger–but he notes as more important images from movies that have inspired him: Red Desert, Touch of Evil, Manhattan, 2001: a Space Odyssey, Night of the Hunter, and Blade Runner. Schulman stresses the importance of his explorations on foot of cities and streets. Before approaching a building, he attempts to understand the distinctive light of the place. This investigative approach leads to the discovery of unexpected angles. He illustrates this with work, much of it from his latest monograph, Portraits Of The New Architecture 2. Schulman defines his task as “finding the personality in the building,” or, even more fundamentally, “chasing the light.”
Liam Young characterizes his talk as “a tour through a city that might look like a fiction, but is hiding everywhere in plain sight,” and describes himself as an architect working between documentary and fiction. Via Unknown Fields Division he has explored sites where the future is already taking shape, and through the think tank Tommorrows Thoughts Today Young explores emerging trends of the present. Young presents a tour of the City Everywhere, with the “animated media system” Kim Kardashian, to discover who we have become in the pixilated world. They discover discrepancies between GPS and actual terrain–“ghost geographies”–such as the island of Aditnálta, which exists only in its online documentation. A search for the physical spaces of the Internet leads to the Pineville Data Center, the spaces of the distributed workforce, the workers in factories that produces personal electronics, and ultimately to the lithium mines beneath Bolivia’s salt flats. Young concludes with an experiment in making current conditions visible and explicit: Silent Spring: a climate change acceleration performance.
Ben Bratton begins his talk on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the city with a fable with the message: The future city isn’t for us (humans). Critiquing the traditional distinction between sensing and thinking, he argues for a more thorough-going materialism. Bratton argues that Hayek’s thesis that state-directed economic planning was impossible because no one system could gather the necessary information, has been overcome by the interlinked global financial system and corporations like Amazon. This concentration of massive computing power and data need not result in expanded neoliberalism or totalitarianism. The positive aspect is that these platforms have expanded the idea of a User beyond a person to a proliferation of non-human and hybrid other Users. Bratton argues that instead of worrying about machines that want to be human–as in most science fiction–we should be trying to evolve and learn with our non-human neighbors.
Ben Bratton characterizes this and the two upcoming talks as complimentary to his forthcoming book, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. He characterizes Carl Schmitt’s concept of nomos–the division of land that functions as the basis of politics and society–as something that technology has augmented with the “nomos of the Cloud”: Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface, and User. He discusses each of these layers in detail, touching on issues of politics, statehood, communication, and identity. He concludes by suggesting that there might be other layers, or that layers may mix. He characterizes the current surveillance regime as an inverse panopticon, promoting exhibitionism and bad faith, and he warns of a post-Athropocene era in which machines wouldn’t be hostile to humanity, but indifferent.