Rebecca Morgan Frank
Oh You Robot Saints!
A poetry volume that “sings the lines between machines and the divine” by elegizing a menagerie of early automata including octobots, an eighteenth-century digesting duck, medieval mechanical virgins, and robot priests
This content is for members only.
AI art and biohacks that ponder post-humanism, CGI fever dreams that (further) distort reality, software that speaks truth to power: HOLO Readers enjoy full access to our weird and wonderful discoveries at the nexus of art, science, technology, and culture. Join us and support indie publishing in the process.
Art historian Zsofi Valyi-Nagy enters Vera Molnar’s “alternative exhibition spaces,” from research groups, to journals, to self-published books. By exploring ways of circulating her works and ideas outside of traditional art venues, the generative art luminary garnered an international, more open-minded audience. “I suggest we broaden this idea of showing work to sharing work,” Valyi-Nagy writes.
“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.
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.”
German duo Mouse on Mars (MoM) performs using ROBODYNAMIC DIFFUSION: RDD (2021, image), as part of “Technobodies,” a program across Munich venues Lenbachhaus, Haus der Kunst, and Museum Brandhorst. Jointly developed by MoM’s Jan St. Werner, Michael Akstaller, Nele Jäger, and Oliver Mayer, RDD is a directional speaker bot that projects sound in a tightly focused beam, creating opportunities to induce “controlled disorientations and sensory redirections” in audiences.
Exploring how medicine and shamanism can begin to blur into one another, “Post-Human Narratives—In the Name of Scientific Witchery” opens in Hong Kong. Featured artists include Betty Apple, Mayumi Hosokura, and Yu Shuk Pui Bobby, with contributed works ranging from Liv Tsim’s biomatter fabrications (2022, image) to Florence Lam’s Zirca, an extremely witchy performance about channeling energy—applying so much of it to materials that they produce light.
Perhaps the first bike-friendly indoor exhibition (cyclists can enter via a ramp), “bike in head” opens at Städtische Galerie Bremen, Germany. Rather than focus on the aesthetic object, included works by Wolfgang Zach, Anne Krönker, Kosuke Masuda, Aram Bartholl and others shift attention to the bicycle’s entanglement with society and self. Bartholl’s Unlock Life (2020, image), for example, stages tossed rental bikes recovered from the bottom of the Spree river.
“It offers access to every file I have, making it an endless rabbit hole,” writes Matylda Krzykowski of Desktop Exhibition: A Curatorial Format (2018, image), in the latest issue of Techniques Journal. For the issue about ‘bordering,’ the Berlin-based deep thinker about space (both online and IRL) ruminates on the intimacy of digital collections, drawing on eclectic references ranging from Elizabethan home layout to Marcel Duchamp’s mini-monograph Boîte-en-valise (1935-41).
Irish CGI artist and filmmaker David OReilly calls OpenAI’s newly announced DALL-E credit system a scam. In an Instagram post (that also circulated widely on Twitter), OReilly argues that paying for an AI image generator trained on uncredited, unpaid creative labour by artists “who never asked to be included in a proprietary learning model” is a “bullshit deal.” “It rips off the past generation for the current one and charges them money for it.”
Combining robotic painting methods with Arabic artisanal practices, Liat Grayver and Nora Al-Badri’s 4-day exhibition “Continuum” opens at Berlin’s transmediale Studio. Together with graffiti artist and computer scientist Daniel Berio, the two Berlin-based media artists explore, reconnect with, and reappropriate the aesthetic(al) heritage of their families’ Baghdad origins through the computational reproduction of calligraphy and ornamentation.
Deji Art Museum in Nanjing, China, opens with its inaugural exhibition “In the Line of Flight, for Possible Worlds.” Presenting installations, video, and interactive works by key artists including Pierre Huyghe, Tomás Saraceno, and “father of Chinese video art” Zhang Peili, curator Zhang Ga creates a “post-pandemic microcosm” for reflection. Peili’s XL Chamber (2017, image), for example, is an algorithmic ‘trap’ whose shutter doors open and close randomly.
“These withering years are killing trees,” writes climate and ecosystem researcher Daniel Griffin in the New York Times opinion pages. Not your usual op-ed, Griffin’s analysis is bolstered by graphics from Nathaniel Lash, that pan horizontally across the rings of a 500-year-old Mount Pinos Douglas fir, charting its 1538 saplinghood through stifling droughts over the centuries to, troublingly, its missing rings and slivers of growth in several post-2010 years.
Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the birth of the trailblazing Korean American media artist, “Nam June Paik: Super Baroque” opens in Seoul. Featuring late career works, it includes Sistine Chapel (1993), Paik’s Venice Biennale media architecture ‘update’ to Michelangelo’s frescoes, his similarly architecture-focused Baroque Laser (1995), and the primary coloured reimagination of One Candle (1998, image) with a video camera and five CRT projectors.
In his ongoing pursuit of automating his artistic practice, Swedish artist Jonas Lund turned to AI to self-replicate into an army. Feeding a respective text prompt to OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, a sea of Lunds emerged, making art on laptops in signature blue shirts and hats. “Me and my 50+ clones working in the studio on the next master piece,” he writes on Twitter as concerns over AI-powered image generators impacting artists negatively become ever louder.
Bringing her RGB eccentricity to French Canada, Sara Ludy’s solo exhibition “Swimmer’s Canyon” opens at Art Mûr Montréal. In the titular VR piece, curated by Samuel Arsenault-Brassard, the American artist and composer sends viewers on a journey “through a star-filled canyon to a swimming hole, presenting a world populated by the absurd and the unknown.” Not in Montréal? The six VR scenes included can be viewed—and owned—as NFTs as well.
Featuring 100 works by international designers and artists, “Unknown Unknowns,” an exhibition “whose boundaries are hazy and permeable” opens at Triennale Milano. Curated by astrophysicist Ersilia Vaudo, the show features new commissions from designer Irene Stracuzzi, architects SOM, and artist Refik Anadol. A fourth, Yuri Suzuki’s Sound of the Earth: Chapter 3 (2022, image), is a globe comprised of 300 speakers that play an ambient megamix of crowdsourced geotagged field recordings.
“And if we’re in a race between bad catastrophe and some kind of beginning prosperity for all—when you’re in a race that intense, you don’t want to sit down on the ground and start crying. ‘Oh, we’ve lost already.’ That would be a bad thing to do, because you’re in a race.”
“The usual stories about disability teach us that disability is the exception when in fact it is the rule,” writes Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, introducing freshly published Manual 17. The credo carries through the issue of the RISD Museum periodical (its theme: ‘variance’), which includes a rumination on how body mods and tattoos are a form of Crip Futurism, and an ode to the ingenuity of the plywood leg splint Charles and Ray Eames designed during WW2 (1941-2, image).
“Machine Bodies (Is Cyborg Good or Evil?),” the flagship exhibition for Vector Festival, opens in Toronto. Curated by Karina Iskandarsjah, the show considers the post-AI body. Featured are Xuan Ye’s What Lets Lethargy Dream Produces Lethargy’s Surplus Value (2020), which examines the datafication of sleep, and works by LA Birdwatchers and Madeleine Lychek that abstract predictive policing (image, background) and machine learning misinterpretation (bottom).
Fusing virtuality and Persian Lore, the online exhibition “PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES“ opens at Cologne’s Priska Pasquer Gallery. For it, Iranian artist Mohsen Hazrati has created an allegorical space for reflection, over which its titular winged creature hovers; the phoenix also evokes the mythical Simurgh, a virtuous Persian “symbol for self-knowledge.“ Curated by Tina Sauerlaender, the show is accompanied by an NFT edition that captures its avian protagonist in flight (image).
To dive deeper into Stream, please or become a .
Daily discoveries at the nexus of art, science, technology, and culture: Get full access by becoming a HOLO Reader!
- Perspective: research, long-form analysis, and critical commentary
- Encounters: in-depth artist profiles and studio visits of pioneers and key innovators
- Stream: a timeline and news archive with 1,200+ entries and counting
- Edition: HOLO’s annual collector’s edition that captures the calendar year in print