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AI art and biohacks that ponder posthumanism, CGI fever dreams that (further) distort reality, software that speaks truth to power: HOLO explores critical creative practice that emerges between art, science, technology, and society—a space of radical imagination where new ideas and cultural paradigms are born. Join us for daily discoveries by becoming a HOLO Reader.
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“I belong to that generation where the first things I made with computers … there was no screen. If you can imagine that. You couldn’t see what you were doing. You would see [the results] the next day, or three days later, and then you’d say … that’s not what I wanted! When the screen appeared, it completely changed my life. It was like moving to Paris all over again, that’s how exciting it was…. I had this feeling that this was invented for me. This was an academic research institute, so people didn’t really care how the graphics looked, or what graphics even were, really. But that is all I cared about. I realized very quickly that the computer screen was the thing for me.”
Vera Molnar to Zsofi Valyi-Nagy (translated from Hungarian), Paris Dec 19, 2017
“Why only look at exhibition history as evidence of an artist showing their work? Instead, I suggest we broaden this idea of showing work to sharing work.”
The usual narrative around Vera Molnar’s work is that she didn’t exhibit her work until the mid-1970s, and even then, only sparingly. It is true that she didn’t focus on exhibiting and building relationships with galleries until the 1990s, especially after her husband passed away. Whether her husband was the reason why she didn’t exhibit much before this is up for debate, but let’s save that for another day. Instead, I want to ask a different question: why only look at exhibition history as evidence of an artist showing their work? In today’s research note, I suggest we broaden this idea of showing work to sharing work. In other words, what were the more informal contexts in which Molnar shared her images or her ideas? We are going to peek at some of the alternative spaces in which Molnar’s work reached audiences: informal research groups, festivals, academic journals and conferences, art magazines, and self-published artist’s books.
In 1967, a year before she first accessed the electronic computer with the help of Pierre Barbaud, the Molnars co-founded the group Art et informatique (Art and computing) at l’Institut d’esthétique et des sciences de l’art (Institute for aesthetics and the science of art) at the Sorbonne in Paris, where François Molnar worked as a researcher. The group mainly consisted of music composers, including Barbaud and Janine Charbonnier, but also included poets like Jacques Mayer, who wrote in the parameter-driven Oulipo style made famous by novelist George Perec. Vera Molnar was the only painter in the group; in fact, despite their near-identical names, Art et Informatique would have little contact with the Groupe Art et Informatique de Vincennes (GAIV), formed at the University of Vincennes across town in 1969. As Molnar recalls, the Sorbonne group met weekly to discuss their works-in-progress and the more theoretical stakes of computing for the field of aesthetics. As these conversations gained momentum, the members of Art et informatique shared their work with broader audiences at events like the SIGMA festival in Bordeaux, which showcased contemporary intersections of art and science. While François Molnar had already participated in the first edition of SIGMA in 1965, co-organized by Michel Philippot (the composer who inspired Vera Molnar’s ‘machine imaginaire’) and Abraham Moles (who developed the field of ‘information aesthetics’ in France), Vera Molnar did not formally participate in the festival until 1973, when the festival was titled “Art et ordinateur” (Art and computer). Here, she gave a talk titled “L’Oeil qui pense (The thinking eye),” which she borrowed from the notebooks of Paul Klee. She also designed the festival posters as well as the catalogue for the exhibition “Contact,” in which her computer plotter drawings were shown alongside computer graphics made by Herbert W. Franke, Kenneth Knowlton, Manfred Mohr, Frieder Nake, and the GAIV artists, among many others.
It was in these liminal spaces between art and science that Vera Molnar’s work first reached an international audience beyond the Sorbonne computer lab. Throughout the 1970s, her images circulated in American periodicals including Computers and Automation, (later renamed Computers and People) and Computer Graphics. These black-and-white reproductions were flanked by technical specs––what machines she used to make them––as well as short anecdotes from the artist. Molnar also penned longer articles for journals, perhaps the most widely distributed being the Franco-American journal Leonardo, edited by artist/engineer Frank Malina, which was published in English and thus had a wide Anglo-American readership. In response to her 1975 text “Toward Aesthetic Guidelines for Paintings with the Aid of a Computer,” Molnar received quite a bit of fan mail. She replied by mailing out photocopies of her livrimages, her artists’ books, including Love-Story and Out of Square (both 1974), which she referred to in English as “computer picture books,” until she ran out. Molnar self-published her early livrimages, cutting and pasting their accordion folds by hand, only later collaborating with printmakers and publishers (mostly notably Bernard Chauveau) to make higher-quality artist’s books, two of which are included in the Beall exhibition (Ni Queue ni tête, 2014 and Six millions sept cent soixante-cinq mille deux cent une Sainte-Victoire, 2012).
I don’t mean to suggest that giving an artist’s talk at an academic conference, or publishing computer graphics in a specialist journal, are the same as gaining art-world recognition. Of course, these are quite different kinds of achievements. However, I want to suggest that these alternative modes of ‘exhibiting’ might have done things for Molnar’s work that exhibiting in traditional art venues couldn’t have. For one, they brought her work to an international audience, one that was perhaps more open-minded than the traditional museum-goer when it came to determining what counts as art and what doesn’t. Moreover, by printing her words alongside reproductions of her work, these print publications in particular worked to level the hierarchy between the artist’s theory and practice, placing them on equal footing. On the one hand, we could say Molnar had to be her own critic in the absence of art-world attention. But on the other hand, this gave her an advantage, as these venues provided more space for context and the artist’s own voice, allowing her to direct her own narrative.
(1) For more on Molnar’s Livrimages, see Vincent Baby’s text “Les Livrimages” (1999, in French)
“The Fable of Net in Earth,” the 2022 ARKO Art & Tech Festival kicks off in Seoul. Inspired by decentralization (mycology, Web3), it brings together Morehshin Allahyari, SunJeong Hwang, and Young Joo Lee, and others. Featured works include Eobchaecoin (2022), Nahee Kim’s unabashedly ponzi cryptocurrency (it will be very profitable in 2082), and De Anima (2018-21, image), Clara Jo’s film probing humanity’s relationship with nature, that draws on footage from Kenya, Myanmar, and France.
Kyriaki Goni is a Greek artist based in Athens. She holds a BA in Fine Arts, an MA in Digital Arts, and a BA and MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Manifesting through websites, drawing, videos, sound, and text, her practice explores the political, affective and environmental aspects of technology. Her installations build alternative ecosystems and shared experiences by connecting the local with the planetary, the fictional with the scientific. Recent solo and group shows include exhibitions at Aksioma, Ars Electronica, Gherdeina Biennale, Onassis Stegi, Shanghai Biennale, and Transmediale. Photo: Thanos Danilof
What just happened? From June 3rd to July 17th, Kyriaki Goni premiered a new multimedia installation, The Future Light Cone, at the 2nd Warsaw Biennale. Commissioned especially for the exhibition by Biennale curators Galas-Kosil, Bartosz Frąckowiak, and Paweł Wodziński, Goni stages six large-scale tapestries alongside drawings, video, and a rare metal object that imagine more-than-human cosmologies.
Narratives about other worlds and near futures matter because they influence how we perceive, act upon, and engage the present. Space exploration may seem like far-off fiction, but the infrastructures built, resources extracted, and words used in its service are very real and so are the impacts on marginalized people. The SpaceX facilities in South Texas, for example, operate in the middle of a major wildlife habitat and close to several racialized, low-income communities. Residents report pollution, shattered windows due to rocket launches, and falling space debris but are ignored. SpaceX has plans to develop the entire area under the new name ‘Starbase’ and treats the land as terra nullius—a problematic legal term for ‘territory without a master’—by erasing local histories and buying people off.
In addition to their long history as religious, illustrative, and decorative objects textiles also carry a notion of femininity. Introducing gender into a conversation dominated by privileged white men is my way of invoking ideas of care and resilience, which to me are crucial considerations for any journey or exploration, be it out in space or here on Earth. As Donna Haraway put it: instead of taming that which we seek to understand, we “must learn to converse” with it.
The top of each tapestry features a text fragment referring to human hubris—our perceived entitlement to objectify everything around us. They are drawn from articles, news headlines, and tweets I read during my research. The texts are echoed visually at the bottom, with imagery directly linked to colonial extraction practices.
Each composition weaves together stories of our past, present, and possible future. At the centre of Martian Landscape I, for example, is an image the Curiosity rover captured of its own tracks on Martian soil. Embedded in the frame of camera calibration patterns, is a depiction of a geodesic dome (often used to present ideal settlement structures in games and films), an illustration from Colonel Frank Triplett’s 1895 Conquering the Wilderness, and a citation from Donna Haraway’s 1988 feminist essay “Situated Knowledges,” where she writes about science, vision, and the gaze.
Featuring sounds and images recorded by NASA’s Perseverance rover, Kyriaki Goni’s video poem Signal from Mars (2022, 05:28 min) imagines an alien message. The work draws on Donna Haraway’s 1988 essay “Situation Knowledges,” in which the American ecofeminist argues that what is known, and how it is known, reflects the situation and perspective of the knower (historically male, white, heterosexual, human). Goni removes the bias built into the rover instruments and, instead, gives voice to Mars’ landscape, its rocks, and ancient ocean to engage future human visitors—us—in conversation. “Are you coming to tame?” the red planet asks, wary of our intentions. “Are you coming in peace?”
By citing the ‘future light cone,’ I’m drawing attention to the need to shift focus back to the here and now. Instead of perpetuating anthropocentric practices, and exporting them to other worlds, we should, perhaps, tune into Indigenous and deeply local knowledge systems that have a tradition of acknowledging, respecting, and caring for human and non-human life. For example, traditional fire management techniques from forest communities might teach us valuable lessons as weather conditions worsen and wildfires, once again, rage across the globe.
In this serial interview format, HOLO checks in with artists, designers, curators, and researchers to get the lowdown on a timely topic—be it a new project, exhibition, or current event that ‘just happened.’
What else ‘just happened?’
Alex is a Berlin-based writer, artistic director, and cultural worker. As the founder and creative director of HOLO, he helps produce and disseminate knowledge on disciplinary interstices, artistic research, and cultural transformations in the digital age. Over the years, he curated exhibitions, conferences, and educational programmes for organizations and festivals including A.C.C. (KR), Mapping (CH), MUTEK (CA), and NODE Forum for Digital Arts (DE).
American logistics company UPS begins installing in-truck surveillance cameras. This summer drivers are reporting back-of-truck cargo area temperatures of 49° C, and in a move that made workers bristle, UPS rolled out Lytx telemetry cameras (image), which track GPS and monitor for “behaviours associated with collisions”—not air conditioning. “Whatever its capabilities, the mere presence of the camera has stoked fear and paranoia among my coworkers,” writes driver Matt Leichenger.
A retrospective collecting 40 works by the Australian artist, “Patricia Piccinini: We Are Connected” opens at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum. Showcasing her unsettling sculptures and installations that morph contemporary biopolitics towards the grotesque, the show features works including The Bond (2016, image centre) and The Field (2018, image), which, respectively, depict a mother cradling a human-ish fleshy creature, and a (wildly) genetically modified crop.
Researchers create the world’s first synthetic embryos—no sperm, eggs, or fertilization required. Molecular Geneticist Jacob Hanna and his team accomplished the feat by reprogramming stem cells from mice back to a naïve state, and simulating a placenta’s blood and oxygen requirements with a nutrient solution; the cells self-assembled into embryo-like structures with an intestinal tract, a proto-brain, and a heart. “Our next challenge is to understand how stem cells know what to do,” says Hanna.
N∰menon, an installation by Melle Nieling and Amelie Mckee opens at Künstlerhaus Dortmund. Produced during a Plicnik-Collective summer residency at the German venue, it consists of a series of apparatuses intended to draw attention to the lack of a user. Drawing on video interviews that describe a mysterious event with spiritual and economic resonance, the spartan scene stokes “feelings of paranoid threat, in which the unknown opens the imagination.”
Concluding her PlatteForum residency, Raquel Meyers’ solo exhibition “Concrete Redundancy” opens at the Denver urban art laboratory. Meyers, a Spanish artist known for her work with obsolete technologies, organizes artifacts created with typewriters, teletext, and fax machines into “techno-rubble”—a tribute to Denver7’s soon-to-be-demolished brutalist landmark. “Concrete Redundancy is a tool for the struggle,” the exhibition text states, “an Anthropocene souvenir for the future.”