“It’s up to you what matters…”

Everything is an interactive experience where everything you see is a thing you can be, from animals to planets to galaxies and beyond. Travel between outer and inner space, and explore a vast, interconnected universe of things without enforced goals, scores, or tasks to complete. Everything is a procedural, AI-driven simulation of the systems of nature, seen from the points of view of everything in the Universe.Learn to change what you are to create worlds within worlds within worlds, or let go any time to allow Everything to take over and produce a never ending documentary about the world you live in.”

Targeting Jupiter’s Icy Moon

“Targeting Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, this expansive sculpture exhibition offers an unprecedented view into Tom Sachs’ extraordinary artistic output and advances his quest to find extraterrestrial life with bricolaged sculptures. The exhibition will fill YBCA with everything his astronauts need to successfully complete their voyage—including the Mobile Quarantine Facility, Mission Control, the Apollo-era Landing Excursion Module (LEM), and special equipment for conducting scientific experiments—immersing the audience in a universe of sculpture occupying the entire downstairs galleries in addition to YBCA’s public spaces. Space Program: Europa will feature live activations of the Europa flight plan by Sachs’ astronauts during the opening and closing weekends. In these demonstrations, the astronauts will showcase the rituals and procedures of their mission, including the cultural export of chanoyu, the ancient art of the tea ceremony.

“Tom Sachs (b. 1966, New York) is a New York–based sculptor known for his work inspired by icons of modernism and design. Using modest studio materials, Sachs creates parallel universes incorporating semi-functional sculpture, sometimes deployed by the artist and his studio assistants for interactive projects, as in Nutsy’s (2001-3) and Space Program (2007 and 2012). YBCA, San Francisco

Terratic Animism

“Terratic Animism is a project focusing on relationships between animation, animism, technology and how these influence our relationship to our surroundings. The work combines performance with video recordings of explorations of past-Utopian infrastructures in USA, combined with photography and virtual renderings of landscapes. The work was developed with support from MASS MoCA Asset for Artist program and the Danish Arts Council.”

Jakob Kudsk Steensen
Terratic Animism, 2016
Costume, spotlights, mylar, wood and video
Duration, 13min07sec
Format: 4K and 2K versions available.

Control Threats

“People’s desire to make sense of the social world is closely coupled with the extent to which they experience control over their environment. Various complementary theoretical perspectives, on meaning-making (Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006; Park, 2010; Van den Bos, 2009), paranoia (Kramer, 1998), and compensatory control (Kay, Whitson, Gaucher, & Galinsky, 2009; Rutjens, van Harreveld, & van der Pligt, 2013), assume that threats to control increase people’s mental efforts to make sense of the social world, imbuing the world with meaning, purpose, and order. These insights may explain why conspiracy theories seem to gain momentum particularly following impactful societal events that are likely experienced as control threats by citizens (e.g., a terrorist strike, a war, or a natural disaster; see Pipes, 1997; Robins & Post, 1997; Shermer, 2011). Indeed, research reveals that people are more likely to attribute impactful, harmful societal events (e.g., a politician is assas- sinated) to conspiracies than societal events that are less impactful or harmful (e.g., someone tries to assassinate a politician but fails; see McCauley & Jacques, 1979), a finding that is attributable to people’s sense-making motiva- tion (Van Prooijen & Van Dijk, 2014).

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“In a similar vein, various operationalizations of control threats have been found to predict conspiracy beliefs. For in- stance, an external locus of control—that is, a dispositional tendency to believe that one’s outcomes are controlled by external forces—is correlated with interpersonal mistrust and paranoia (Mirowsky & Ross, 1983) and belief in conspiracy theories (Hamsher, Geller, & Rotter, 1968).

“Furthermore, a seminal study by Whitson and Galinsky (2008) reveals that experimentally induced control threats increases the extent to which participants perceive patterns, such as images in random noise, patterns in stock market information, and conspiracies. Complementary findings indicate that control threats elicit responses that are widely associated with conspiracy belief, such as attributing increased power to one’s enemies (Sullivan, Landau, & Rothschild, 2010), and scapegoating (Rothschild, Landau, Sullivan, & Keefer, 2012). Furthermore, constructs that are closely associated with control threats, such as death anxiety (Newheiser, Farias, & Tausch, 2011), uncertainty (Van Prooijen & Jostmann, 2013), and attitudinal ambivalence (van Harreveld, Rutjens, Schneider, Nohlen, & Keskinis, 2014), have been found to similarly influence conspiracy beliefs. In the following, we discuss how the present contribution is designed to expand on these insights.”

Text: The Influence of Control on Belief in Conspiracy Theories: Conceptual and Applied Extensions, Jan-Willem Van Prooijen and Michelle Accker, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 29: 753–761 (2015).

Image: Adolph Gottlieb, Green Dream, 1969, Serigraph, 24.13 x 19.13 inches

Big Box Office

“Beneath a tempestuous sky, the army of the heathen Amorites seethes like a swarm of ants about to be exterminated. The Israelite leader Joshua stands on a jaggedly upthrust rock – the first of many such violently shaped peaks and crags to be found in the agitated geology of Martin’s imagination – surveying the scene with triumphant complacency.

“With a single raised hand, spot-lit against glooms of immense depth, he urges the conquering hordes of his own army to go for the kill. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1816, just a year after Waterloo, this depiction of God’s chosen people defeating the forces of evil may have been patriotically intended to evoke parallels with the present, and Britain’s defeat of France. Perhaps for that reason, it proved extremely popular.

“Martin followed up with The Fall of Babylon (1819), another apocalyptic crowd scene, painted with a theatrical scene-painter’s relish in archaeological fantasy. Vast crowds of Londoners flocked to see it, drawn by Martin’s spectacular vision of a great city’s sudden destruction, much as audiences are drawn to the latest disaster movie.

Belshazzar’s Feast was an even bigger hit. The astonished tyrant is shown at the moment of his demise, together with his fellow-decadents and the cautionary figure of Daniel, in a pink palace of inordinate size painted in rushingly vertiginous linear perspective. John Constable’s biographer, CR Leslie, noted rather sniffily that Belshazzar’s Feast “made more noise among the mass of people than any picture that has been exhibited. The artists, however, and connoisseurs did not like it much.”

“The ambivalent response to Martin’s work – loved by the public, mostly hated by the critics – was also an index of his disconcerting originality. His closest contemporary was Turner and Martin himself could be seen as a coarser version, an artist who took Turner’s philosophical melancholy, his fatalistic belief that all civilisations inevitably end badly, and made it big box office…”

Text: John Martin: Andrew Graham-Dixon, Apocalypse, at Tate Britain, Seven magazine review, The Telegraph, September 23, 2011.

Revelation Space

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“The depiction of filmic space in recent years is marked by the possibilities of digital technology to create new worlds and new visions, and yet this creation is accomplished in a predetermined way. While sometimes taking a leap into space, we do so in a way that is both breathtaking and familiar. Consider the remarkable opening shot of Contact [1997], a film that is somewhere between 2001 and Star Wars in its combination of metaphysics and childhood fantasy.

“Digital technology can change the actual in ways impossible for earlier technologies: Whether building upon images of objects from our own reality or starting from scratch, computer graphics and animation have the capacity to bring us into space that resemble the interior spaces of the mind. This realization informs the opening shot of Contact: Begining with discordant and random radio noises, giving us a brief history lesson of recent years, the camera pulls away from an image of the Earth to recede into the space and silence of our solar system, the Milky Way, and other galaxies – only to conclude in the eye of a young girl, Ellie Arroway, who will grow up to be an astronomer and the film’s heroine.

“As Ron Mangid notes, the images of the journey through space are poetic recreations of the digitized images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Unlike other space journeys […] which visualise a forward movement and penetration into space, this one gives us the perspective of receding itno space, of viewing the universe as it rushes past us, ultimately to create the sense of the universe terminating in the girl’s mind. These 5,000 frames create a prolonged three-minute shot that appears to verify [the] thesis that in the midst of new technology and new spatial visions on the screen, filmic space is still under the control of the eyes and the mind of the viewer, a point underscored by the recognisable quattrocentro perspectives that structures the entire shot.”

Space and Beyond: The Frontier Theme in Science Fiction, by Gary Westfahl, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. P 74.

Glimpses of The Uncanny Valley

“Japanese roboticist Doctor Masahiro Mori is not exactly a household name—but, for the speculative fiction community at least, he could prove to be an important one. The reason why can be summed up in a simple, strangely elegant phrase that translates into English as “the uncanny valley”.

“Japanese roboticist Doctor Masahiro Mori is not exactly a household name—but, for the speculative fiction community at least, he could prove to be an important one. The reason why can be summed up in a simple, strangely elegant phrase that translates into English as “the uncanny valley”.

“Though originally intended to provide an insight into human psychological reaction to robotic design, the concept expressed by this phrase is equally applicable to interactions with nearly any nonhuman entity. Stated simply, the idea is that if one were to plot emotional response against similarity to human appearance and movement, the curve is not a sure, steady upward trend. Instead, there is a peak shortly before one reaches a completely human “look” . . . but then a deep chasm plunges below neutrality into a strongly negative response before rebounding to a second peak where resemblance to humanity is complete.

“This chasm—the uncanny valley of Doctor Mori’s thesis—represents the point at which a person observing the creature or object in question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough off-kilter to seem eerie or disquieting. The first peak, moreover, is where that same individual would see something that is human enough to arouse some empathy, yet at the same time is clearly enough not human to avoid the sense of wrongness. The slope leading up to this first peak is a province of relative emotional detachment—affection, perhaps, but rarely more than that.

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“The figure [in the] diagrams this curve of emotional response, plotting it (from top to bottom) first against how closely an entity’s motion resembles human movement, then against physical resemblance to human appearance, and last against a synthesis of the two. It is significant to note, judging from the relative depth of the curves, that Dr. Mori apparently considers motion more important than simple appearance, though he stresses that both are affected at least as much by subtle nuances as by more striking factors.

“The conclusion drawn by the good doctor is that designers of robots or prosthetics should not strive overly hard to duplicate human appearance, lest some seemingly minor flaw drop the hapless android or cyborg into the uncanny valley—a fate to be dreaded by all concerned. He maintains instead that a prosthesis or a robot should be visibly artificial, but smart and stylish in appearance, placing it somewhere near the top of the first peak. This ethos, incidentally, can be seen clearly in a great many science fiction and fantasy manga and animé stories.

“The same factors that inspired Doctor Mori to research and describe the uncanny valley and the rest of the curve to which it belongs are of immediate concern to any creator of fantasy or science fiction. Aside from the readily apparent potential for careful tailoring of a character’s or species’ “look and feel” to evoke a specific reaction from the audience, there are some perhaps surprising possibilities and consequences…”

Glimpses – The Uncanny Valley