Lightning Talks, Week 3
This week’s lightning talks mark the nearing of the Fellowship’s midpoint, and to several of the Fellows, this involved big decisions regarding the scope and content of their project’s ambitions. Jason’s investigation into the nature of nothingness intending to be expressed in Virtual Reality will be a “mise en abyme” made to be an immersive environment. A mise en abyme, (the placing of an image within itself to form an infinitely recurring sequence) will demonstrate the recursive property of representation while the three dimensional quality afforded by VR calls upon the classic depiction of nothingness as an abyss. Auguste’s project (so broad in scope as to encompass thinkers from Aristotle to Carnap to Darwin) was this week neatly summarized as “what can we learn about creativity from biology?”. When asked to define creativity, Auguste was ready with a response: “creativity is functional novelty”. Iris and Auguste both cited collaborative discussion between their projects on the nature of novelty and function.
Cristina’s project continues to oscillate in a process of exploration and definition: defined last lightning talk as “making art with technology” (a characteristically both broad and specific tagline) this week further crystallizes her working themes: continuity afforded by contradiction; connectivity, network and community; and the nature of Deep Learning. Iris’ project, still walking the tightrope between an illustration of the brain and a proposal for an ideal education system, combined the two domains by focusing this week on “the very concept of optimality”. Liam has made rapid progress on his project, having programmed a working interface that calculates the gravitational pull of our system’s various planets on one’s body, depending on your geographical position.
Some scholars related their internal struggles: Chris, whose project aims to uncover the philosophical genealogy of modern (dualist) identity and make a case for its destructive implications through an interactive artpiece, voiced anxieties over his project perhaps becoming overly moralist (or even, in his words, dogmatic in its adoption of a particular ideology). What followed was a discussion on the nature of dogmatism, art as explicit statement or hermeneutic object, and the risks of holding a stance while simultaneously engaging in inquiry. Xin Wei remarked that art does not necessarily require an explicit message, while others encouraged the dissemination of a moral position. Hannah and MJ’s project, for example, focused this week on exploring what kind of metaphysical and moral framework might look like in a Utopic context, which in their words would entail similar categorical dissolutions to those Chris hopes to encourage. They cite the distinction between Self and Other, the Self and the World, and similar such delineations as barriers in the way of a holistic philosophy of the Good. Such dialogue between parallel projects will surely shape coming weeks.
A new presence in this week’s Lightning Talks was B21’s new Mentor in Residence, Sha Xin Wei. Xin Wei, former Canada Research Chair in Media Arts & Sciences at Concordia University and former director of their Topological Media Lab -home also of Building 21’s artist in residence David Jhave Johnston- had many valuable insights for the Fellows. Among his reading recommendations for the fellows were Proust, Deleuze, Peirce, Whitehead and Foucault. Xin Wei’s background spans mathematics, philosophy, and a long history with installation art and media technology, and he recently published a book out of MIT Press, called “Poesis and Enchantment in Topological Matter”.