Quantum Life

“That life was not organic, animal and vegetable and lesser kingdoms, growing, breathing, drinking, eating, breeding, hunting, hiding; it kindled no fires and wielded no tools; from the beginning, it was a kind of oneness. An original unity differentiated itself into countless avatars, like waves on a sea. They arose and lived individually, coalesced when they chose by twos or threes or multitudes, reemerged as other than they had been, gave themselves and their experiences back to the underlying whole. Evolution, history, lives eerily resembled memes in organic minds.

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“Yet quantum life was not a series of shifting abstractions. Like the organic, it was in and of its environment. It acted to alter its quantum states and those around it: action that manifested itself as electronic, photonic, and nuclear events. Its domain was no more shadowy to it than ours is to us. It strove, it failed, it achieved. They were never sure aboard Envoy whether they could suppose it loved, hated, yearned, mourned, rejoiced. The gap between was too wide for any language to bridge. Nevertheless they were convinced that it knew something they might as well call emotion, and that that included wondering.”

Text: Poul Anderson, Starfarers

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Curiosity and Bewilderment

Digital Grotesque II – a full-scale 3D printed grotto – has premiered at Centre Pompidou’s ‘Imprimer le monde‘ exhibition. This highly ornamental grotto is entirely designed by algorithm and materialized out of 7 tons of printed sandstone. It heralds a highly immersive architecture with a hitherto unseen richness of detail.

“The angles and perspectives by which the spectator can observe the grotto were simulated during the design process, and the form was then optimized to present highly differentiated and diverse geometries that forge a rich and stimulating spatial experience for the observer.

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“A subdivision algorithm was devised to exploit the 3D printer’s full potential by creating topologically complex, porous, multi-layered structures with spatial depth. A single volume spawns millions of branches, growing and folding again and again. Hundreds of square meters are compressed into a 3.5m high block that forms an organic landscape between the man-made and the natural.

“Digital Grotesque II is a testament to and celebration of a new kind of architecture that leaves behind traditional paradigms of rationalization and standardization and instead emphasizes the viewer’s perception, evoking curiosity and bewilderment.”

Text and Pics: Michael Hansmeyer with Benjamin Dillenburger, Digital Grotto 2, 2017

Ancient Structures

“In 1886, the French Orientalist and academic artist Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) painted The First Kiss of the Sun, a serene early morning view of Giza from the east. In it, Ra’s rays have set aglow only the peaks of the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, and the sun is not yet high enough to illuminate the shorter pyramid of Menkaure nor the squat sphinx of Khafre, whose head emerges from the mist in the center of the picture. Three camels mellow in the foreground, their positions mimicking the triad of skyward thrusting tombs beyond. It had been six years since Gérôme’s final trip to the Nile River Valley, but in working in the comfort of his Paris studio from a sketch made on site, he conveyed in startling coloristic chiaroscuro the way the rising sun’s rays reveal the ancient structures from the top down against the brightening sky. Gérôme gave a whitish cast to the apexes of the larger pyramids, although then as now only Khafre’s, the central and tallest one, still retains traces of the gleaming buffed limestone veneer that in the Old Kingdom would have covered all four sides of these ancient monuments.

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“Gérôme’s travels in Egypt were critical to his understanding of these wonders of the ancient world. He had to witness them in the light of dawn to better understand their power. It is the intersection between nature’s cycles and human presence that such monuments catalyze: they better connect us to our environment. They heighten our awareness, drawing us out of a focus on ourselves, and help us to define our lives and lifespans against infinite time. The Land Art of Walter De Maria (1935-2013) can be regarded as a contemporary crystallization of these ideas, inspiring equal parts unease and elation. But unlike The First Kiss of the Sun, they are not inert: they demand and repay the viewer’s personal presence and concerted focus. The intimate experience of his projects and the way that De Maria insisted that you must take only the visual and visceral experiences away with you is consistent in all his work. It may seem strangely controlling, but it is the only way to connect with artworks more often encountered via reproduction.

“It was at quarter to seven in the morning at around 7,150 feet above sea level in the desert somewhere near Pie Town that we first saw the top edge of the sun above the eastern ridge behind De Maria’s monumental outdoor sculpture. Seconds before, as in the effect in Gérôme’s 131-year-old painting, the stainless steel tips of the easternmost of the four hundred rods installed in a one mile by one kilometer grid in the summer and autumn of 1977 had begun to glow. At between fifteen and twenty-five feet high, they were earlier witnesses to the light of our nearest star. We swiveled around to see all the pole points beginning to shine. In the three minutes it took for the sun to fully reveal itself, each shaft stirred to gilded life, and the poles, the majority of which had been invisible in the crisp and eerily silent early dawn, now spread across the plane before us like golden light-saber beams emitting from the scruffy earth. The poles, like the Great Pyramids, are the conduits for an experience that links sky and land, light and form, human endeavor and endless time. The pyramid of Khafre is some 4,549 years old. The Lightning Field just turned forty…”

Text: Walter De Maria and The Lightning Field at Forty: Art as Symbiosis, The Brooklyn Rail. 

Image: Jean-Léon Gérôme, The First Kiss of the Sun, c. 1886.

Spiral Jedi

“This is a short mash up my friend Teddy Gage digitally altered for me. It is a snipet of footage taken from Robert Smithson’s film Spiral Jetty. I asked Teddy to “Star Wars Kid” it for me. Just as the original footage of a kid caught on video goofing around with a broomstick was altered by countless anonymous animators by added light sabers effects, Teddy has inserted a light saber into Smithson’s hand” – John Powers.

The Obvious

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“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”
― Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

Pic: Bill E. Lytton, Red Telephone Box, from the series London Tourism, 2012. Created by layering thousands of tourist photos of typical London sites.

“C’mon, Dave, get back; we gotta load up.”

“On July 30, 1971, the Lunar Module touched down on moon’s Hadley-Apennine region, between a meandering gulley and a range of steep mountains. With Al Worden orbiting overhead, Scott and Irwin spent three days on the surface. During that time, Scott toured around in the never-before-used lunar rover; he describes himself as “the first licensed driver on the moon.”

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“His time on the surface was nearly finished before Scott managed to squeeze in a brief Fallen Astronaut ceremony. “I was going to drive the rover out, set up a TV camera to watch the liftoff, put down the little astronaut and the plaque, and take a photo,” he says. “On Apollo 15 we took over 1,100 photos on the surface of the moon, and all those are without any rangefinder or light meter. So that was another part of setting up the Fallen Astronaut: making sure I got a good photo of it, because nobody knew about it.”

Finally Scott found his moment, and he wanted to keep it private. Irwin distracted Mission Control in Houston with inane chatter while Scott took a few bounding steps north from the lunar rover and made Fallen Astronaut a citizen of the moon.

“He pulled Fallen Astronaut from his oversize pocket, placed it directly on the moon dust, and nestled the memorial plaque next to it. A spiritual man who keeps his faith private, Scott treated the dedication of Fallen Astronaut as a wordless funeral service. And a short one. “There was a big checklist to take care of first,” he says. “We had to stow all the rock samples and the cell samples, and there’s a lot of procedures you have to go through before you get in and close the hatch for the last time. So it was a brief moment, then Jim [Irwin] said, ‘C’mon, Dave, get back; we gotta load up.’ ”

Text & Pic: The Sculpture On The Moon, Slate.

 

“The alien, the industrial & the natural…”

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“In Dan Holdsworth’s latest series Transmission: New Remote Earth Views, he appropriates topographical data to document the ideologically and politically loaded spaces of the American West in an entirely new way. In his images of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mount Shasta, Mount St. Helens, Salt Lake City and Park City, we see stark, uninterrupted terrains where meaning is made through what it is absent, as much as what is seen. What at first appears to be a pure white snow-capped mountain is in fact a digitally rendered laser scan of the earth appropriated from United States Geological Survey data, a ‘terrain model’ used to measure climate and land change – to measure man’s effect on the earth. Belying his empirical methodology is the fact that each of these terrains has a rich and conflicting cultural legacy. Beginning with the idealised aesthetic of the Romantic sublime via the deadpan industrial frames of the New Topographics photographers a century later, each has been subject to the gaze of artistic, political, and sociological categories claiming this territory as their own. Extending ideas of the frontier and seeing anew, Transmission captures the world as if from space, functioning not only as a map of the land but as a mapping of the discourses that these lands have come to represent. Working outside of the wilderness myths that render the images from the photographic avant-garde the ‘after’ to nineteenth-century visions of Carlton Watkins’ ‘before’, Holdsworth opens up a working territory that is open to the ambiguous and ethereal, oscillating between realms of art and science, the familiar and the alien, the industrial and the natural…”

Text & Pic: Dan Holdsworth, Transmission: New Remote Earths, 2012.