|Baltrušaitis, Jurgis. Anamorphic Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977.|
Alan Resnick and Lesser Gonzalez are both Baltimore-based artists. Their show Base Period recently opened at Springsteen Gallery in Baltimore.
PC: You were working with Koons’ Rabbit from 1986 in your piece with the Oculus Rift, did his recent work with the gazing ball lead you to investigate this kind of distortion?
AR: No, it comes out of Hollywood special effects. There is a technique that’s popular in Hollywood for movies with a lot of computer generated imagery for capturing real world lighting situations. So if they are filming a scene in a field and someone’s being chased by a dragon, they’ll take a gazing globe, a reflective sphere, and they’ll photograph it three times. They photograph it perfectly exposed, overexposed, and underexposed. They combine these images, and by using the bracketed exposures, they can see how bright something is. In a properly exposed image of a room, the sun and a television look like they have the same brightness, but you know that the sun coming through the window is significantly brighter than the television.
When you do a bracketed exposure, and you go to the underexposed, you can really see that the sun is much brighter, and when you go to the overexposed you can see all these areas that are getting light that maybe you couldn’t see in the normal exposure. They combine them, all the exposures are aligned. The sphere also captures a 360 panorama of the space that it’s taken in. So basically they take a picture of the sphere in the spot where they shot the scene. Then in a computer they put it back around… they undistort that image and then put it on another sphere in a 3-D program, and they put the dragon in. And they can render knowing that the sun is here, it’s sending out this many photons, and there is a bright fire over here and that is sending this many photons. It simulates light and it will light the 3-D object exactly the way it would be on the day, on that location that they originally shot the scene. That was what was fascinating to me, what got me interested in reflections. I wasn’t really interested in Jeff Koons, that came later. Koons was clearly working with reflections, and there are so many photos of Jeff Koons pieces that have reflections in them. I don’t have a real interest in Jeff Koons and I don’t really have many thoughts on his work except that he’s clearly interested in reflection. He works with gazing globes and there are a lot of photos of them. Those photos capture the lighting unintentionally. I’m sure he’s aware of it. The thing that you look at when you’re looking at one of his pieces are the reflections of the gallery space that it’s in. The photographs capture the people taking the photograph and the gallery, and it’s… I think that’s interesting. My interest in it is more that it’s an image of an art gallery and that to many people Jeff Koons is the most recognizable Art artist. People who don’t look at fine art in galleries, like my parents, they might know who Jeff Koons is.
PC: His brand is recognizable.
AR: Yeah it’s very recognizable and it’s also one of those things like, it’s baffling to people. “That’s art?” It’s something very silly, like a giant dog or something. That’s the only conceptual interest that I have in Jeff Koons.
PC: The recognition factor.
AR: Yeah, and that he represents high art.
PC: Would it be fair to say that you are interested in those anamorphic effects in the way that they are used to recreate the past?
AR: Absolutely, yeah. That’s what’s interesting to me about photographs and gazing globes, that they capture lighting conditions on a specific day, in a specific location unintentionally. At least all the ones that are included in the show are ones that I found on Ebay, people selling them on the internet. They’re just trying to sell them, to sell this object, but they’re really showing us a panorama of that day, and we can simulate that… we can take the lighting. Being hit by light is one of the primary ways that humans experience reality. Obviously, it’s one of the major senses, and it’s how our brain perceives time and where we are. Vision is such an important sense, and it is just photons. A simulation of those photons is not that different from actually being outside on a sunny day, except you don’t feel the heat.
PC: So, reconstruction of the past, that seems like something that ties into Lesser’s work, it references archaeology.
LG: That was the binder in both of our work…
AR: Yeah, absolutely.
LG:…reconstructing the past. I was seeing these opportunities to distort it based on our own aesthetic ideas. I’ve been really excited by the idea that you can reach back now and get precious artifacts, and you can have them remade in any color, any material, have it made in any flavor. So that’s made me think about that impulse to shape things to our liking throughout time and the role that tools play in that. It’s made me think of what tools are essentially all about, which is this imposition of our concepts, of cataloging, classification, power, and control, attempting to understand our environment by dissection, manipulation, etc..
PC: Is that what the red and white photographic scale represents in the work?
LG: To me, yeah, that was a nice way to represent that sort of digitization or cataloging or classification that essentially breaks down things that are chaotic, disordered, or mysterious into bite-size pieces that are easier to understand. Basically like what binary does. If I wanted to reference a specific piece in the show I would talk about how the blender represents that idea, that in order to understand something we tend to break it down and destroy it, break it down into its constituent parts. In trying to understand and maybe even reproduce something, there’s a disruption of the whole. To try to understand, you have to kill it, basically. That sort of mentality, I started to see it as a sort of calcification of everything. In trying to reproduce real life digitally, there’s a removal of that sort of mystery. Trying to understand it we break it down into binary, or we break it down into parts and therefore destroy it or in a sense calcify it. So I started to think about literal calcification in the archaeological sense, so that lead to the show’s sculptural pieces. I like using cement because there is a lot about class in the material. It also connects to the themes of geologic time and calcification. These are also very cheap materials that I can use and store easily. Wood and cement are materials that reach way back in history, and which we still use regularly, which I love. When you think about Ray Kurzweil’s ideas about self-preservation… he’s basically pointing us in the direction of making it a commodity to just be alive, so there’s an inherent issue of class associated with self preservation through technology, or simply reproducing reality. I feel like when Alan and I decided to work together on the show, it was just a matter of finding that reconstruction was one of the themes tying everything together.
PC: I have a quote here about reconstructing the past that maybe is relevant. It’s from Ella Freeman Sharpe’s 1930 paper “Certain Aspects of Sublimation and Delusion.” It’s psychoanalytic, so it’s open to all the critiques that that’s open to. She was writing about the discovery of the cave paintings at Altamira. The land owner was there looking for flints and artifacts on the ground, but his daughter was in the cave with him. She was looking up at the wall, and she was the one who actually discovered the cave paintings. He would have missed them because he was looking at the ground. She writes, “the Spaniard is driven to the far recesses of the caves by the same inner necessity that sent the hunter artist there. The hunter-artist goes to make life-like representations. The Spaniard goes to find flints and carved bones, in order to piece together evidence of the life of primitive peoples. In other words to reconstruct, to make a representation of, life that has passed away.”
She goes on to say that historical research, art, and science all come from the same root of sublimation.
LG: It’s been interesting to see all these archaeological tools and techniques as aesthetic and formal opportunities, to see it all tied together in that quote is pretty great. Time hasn’t really stopped in contemporary experience. Everything that has impacted all of those ancient artifacts, that decay hasn’t somehow been arrested. It’s happening now. If we wanted to go back to the class, marketing, and desirability. None of those things are going to last forever. None of those things are exempt from that decay. It’s interesting to me, to compress time, so that it’s visually evident that those things are currently under the same type of flux, whether its cultural or material. That sense of transience is an elephant in the room. We like to make it seem as if death isn’t real. Things are more marketable that way. I like to reintroduce that awareness of transience, while maintaining the desirability.
PC: Or uncover it.
LG: Or uncover it, maybe. A lot of the demographic stuff is really interesting. When you’re in the 18-29 year old demographic, anything you’re exposed to then makes it seem like you’re going to be eternally that age. Eternally viable. Then, boom, 29 hits and the bracket moves, they’re no longer speaking to you. If people base their own personalities and character around these things which are so prevalent and deal so intensely with their psyche, because it’s all about tactics, marketing is all psychological. We are in real danger of generating our personas based on it. So what happens when you’re left out? The bracket has moved and you’re left with a schism. To think of it in the context of paradigms or dynasties, that’s interesting to me.
AR: All of that reminds me of how a record can be a luxury, or has been a luxury in certain time-periods. When if you didn’t have any documentation of your being, or your self, when you died that was the end of it. No one would ever talk about you again. If you were rich in certain time periods and you could afford to have a painting made of you or a sculpture made of you that will outlive you a little bit. And then there are the unintentional records, like the Pompeii casts. When they died they all got preserved in their last moment without…
LG: Through a geological process…
AR: Yeah, through a natural event. And that’s what actual calcification is, that’s what actual fossilization is, things that get left behind through natural events. That’s related to the Big Gulp in the show. It’s a mundane object, to get made immortal in this way is really interesting.
PC: Filling in the negative space.
LG: Think about how mundane that loaf of bread from Pompeii was to them. And that’s preserved now as this black ash sculpture of a loaf of bread from Pompeii. It’s marvelous. It’s completely unreal looking.
AR: And I think there are so many tools… let’s hypothetically say that the only tool to preserve something in a certain time period was painting, a translation through someone’s eyes and hands, and then sculpting. And then photography was invented and that became a way of recording your history and your family and objects. I feel like with the internet and cameras everywhere and 3-D scanning, 3-D sensors and things that are becoming more and more prevalent, it’s easy to imagine that everything is recorded. Google Streetview has recorded all these streets, even now some interiors are recorded without anyone really intending for that to happen. It’s interesting that it’s all such mundane activity. If someone chooses to look into it and find it, it exists. That goes back to the gazing globes, and what I find interesting about them is that they’re such mundane spaces. Someone’s garden, someone’s house on some boring day, some guy on a motorcycle. And that’s not even the intention. It’s unintentional.
LG: But they could become celebrities through time, and I mean celebrity like a cast of someone in Pompeii, preserved.
AR: People putting all their images on Facebook, that’s data, it’s all data. That goes back to what you’re saying about ones and zeros, there is an idea that with data you could recreate the thing. Which has to do with the 3-D scanning in your pieces…
PC: You could recreate The Thing?
AR: Well, like the Blender, that’s made through taking photographs. If you don’t have an actual 3-D scanner you’re not shooting it with a laser, but if you have enough photographs, you can digitally analyze it and bring it back. So if you took photos of a blender from different angles, a computer—
LG: Did its best to put it back together.
AR:---the computer said “Oh, this angle looks like this angle, but it’s a little, it’s 45 degrees off or blah, blah, blah.” And it reconstructs it. And there’s this idea that if you have enough data about how your face looked at a certain age or something, a computer could put it back almost believably. And then you can light it with that same day, and you’re there and all that’s missing is the things you said. But you know Roger Ebert had enough recording of him saying almost every word, and he lost the ability to speak but he still had his voice because it was archived, every single word.
LG: Did they put that together into some sort of speech thing?
AR: I believe he was able to type, and it would sound like he was talking. And that’s obviously like, a thing. And then there’s the idea of archiving the personality. It’s interesting to think, what would be lost between the reality of a person or an object vs. the digital version?
LG: And is that loss perceivable? Like the difference between analog recording and digital recording. If you take an analog recording you’re getting sound in full fluid motion with the wave progressing smoothly from crest to trough. To digitize it you’re basically taking stock of points at certain intervals, and you’re breaking it down into a grid. At this point, the sound did this, boom, and it marks it. And at this point sound did this, boom, it marks it. So the digitization pinpoints certain areas, but the grid is clunky. It’s not as fluid as the natural sound is. Technology has made it so those points keep getting closer and closer together, resulting in higher fidelity. But for example, with mp3’s, they chop the low and the high frequencies that are ‘imperceptible’ out to make the file that much easier to deliver online. Those are things that are considered unperceivable, but that affect the overall experience of listening. That imperceptible thing is actually way more obvious in its absence. I feel like that’s happening with objectivity now. In trying to recreate a reality more to our liking, we’re removing certain valuable elements of experience.
AR: There’s a direct loss in resolution in all forms. There’s this idea that you won’t have a factory in China making shoes. You’ll have a designer somewhere sending a file to a local factory. There won’t be big trucks driving objects all over the world, there will be local factories that get digital files and then they 3-D print the files there and that’s how you get something. And it’s going to unify how all objects are in a way where it’s like… you’re losing resolution. And it’s the same in light and in sound. The way you were talking about sound reminded me of frame-rates and television, like televisions are making up content. As a marketing scheme, they say this a better TV because it has 120 hertz, or it has 500 hertz, and that means that the refresh-rate on the TV is 500 times a second rather than 30 times a second like on a standard TV or 24 times a second in a movie. This is kind of like the opposite of what you were saying about sound. If someone shoots a movie at 24 images per second, and then it’s delivered to a suburban home where they have a big flat-screen, and the television is adding content in. It’s taking those 24 frames and putting content in between them to make it a higher frame-rate, as a way to sell the TV.
LG: It’s synthesized.
AR: It’s synthesized, it’s not real, and it completely changes the feel of the movie. It doesn’t look like a movie anymore, it looks like a video-game or a soap opera. It’s making up these frames. And it’s a computer, so it’s not doing a good job. It might be doing a good job for a pan, but if someone’s moving their hand wildly, it can’t tell the difference between a raised hand and a lowered hand, so it makes something up that looks like a complete weird distortion. That’s content that wasn’t there, it’s supposed to be a representation of light that was recorded on film. Those artifacts are interesting.
LG: It comes down to a dissatisfaction with reality. Reality is not enough anymore. It’s just a dissatisfaction.
AR: I heard a very little kid walking with his mom in New York past a video-screen of a waterfall, projected somehow. The kid asked his mom, “Is this waterfall real?” I love the idea that if you start now as person, you don’t necessarily know what’s real. There’s so many ways things can be unreal and look real. If you watch Planet of the Apes, the new one, some of the graphics are so good that it’s like...
LG: Their sense of reality is totally different.
AR: You can’t assume the things you’re seeing exist.
PC: You guys keep talking about how in these kind of forms of reproduction there is something missing. Like the 500 hertz TV is kind of covering this natural gap that’s in the film. Masking it, the blank space.
LG: Maybe that’s what it comes down to. Now we need to fill that void of the imperceptible which has been removed, with a synthesized placeholder.
LG: I feel like it is that “isness”, that mystery, that acceptance that the thing is what it is, and not the symbolic representation of the thing. What I feel that all of these technologies are doing is giving more credence to the symbolism of what a thing is, rather than to the thing itself.
PC: Have you guys ever heard of the Freudian concept of das Ding? It’s just “the Thing” in German. It’s something that Lacan talks about a lot, this is a quote: “The reason is that das Ding is at the center only in the sense that it is excluded. That is to say, in reality das Ding has to be posited as exterior, as the prehistoric Other that is impossible to forget--the Other whose primacy of position Freud affirms in the form of something entfremdet, something strange to me, although its at the heart of me, something that on the level of the unconscious only a representation can represent.” (The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, pg. 71)
LG: Yeah, something strange to me that is also a part of me. (laughs)
PC: Well, Lacan has this concept called the torus...
LG: Yeah, and that’s one of the basic prefab shapes on most 3-D programs.
"Mug and Torus morph". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
PC: It’s like a donut, basically. We talked before about the joke about how the topologist can’t tell the difference between the donut and the coffee mug, right? That’s why Lacan is into cylindrical anamorphoses. The actual painting is what Freud calls the Vorstellung, the frontal appearance, or maybe even the Vorstellungrepresentazionen. This central space, this void, is das Ding. This is kind of what gives order to the whole representation. The mirror is not really das Ding, it’s just kind of encircling it, making it visible.
*At this point we set a reflective cylinder on an anamorphic painting of Charles I, c. 1660, to reveal his corrected image. In order to do this, the cylinder needs to sit over a skull which is depicted normally.
LG: X-marks-the-spot, it’s memento mori.
AR: It is the skull.
PC: That’s part of what das Ding is, the death drive. That’s why you circle around it in the work of art. Lacan says that “a work of art always involves encircling the Thing.” (Ethics, pg. 141) That’s why the cave paintings are in the cave, to mark the negative space of the cave.
LG: I feel like we’re recreating a reality where death doesn’t exist. A reality where death doesn’t exist is not a full reality. It’s the understanding that it’s all going to come to an end that gives it value. That’s what’s getting pulled out of it, the value.
PC: Covering it up?
LG: It’s being filled in by economic value. (laughs)
AR: The cylinder reminds me of the brain, and how we only know how things are to us, to our brain. The human brain is the only way we experience reality.
PC: Totally subjective.
AR: It’s completely our reality, and it’s completely dependent on the way our brains are formed. The way our brains interpret photons, and we only see this limited spectrum of light, whereas other animals can see other spectra of light. How we feel mass, how we feel air. Air doesn’t feel very thick to us. It’s all just the way our brain reconstructs it. When you look at the distorted painting, it could be closer to reality, and the mirror is our brain, and it reconstructs in a way that we understand, but it certainly wouldn’t make sense to a dog, or some other creature. Like if there’s aliens, who knows if they would even see us. It’s interesting to think about we are trying to reconstruct our reality, but our reality is already a construction of…
PC: It’s already a representation
AR: It’s input. A reconstruction based on that input. And that’s good enough for us as a species. We kind of agree that we all see things the same way, so that reconstruction is just for humans. Well, obviously.
PC: Would it be fair to say that you’re skeptical of projects of reconstruction?
AR: I think there are some people who are trying to preserve humanity as a whole, for something greater than humanity. For religious reasons… or the idea that we’ll send something into outer space that will make contact with another being that will be able to perceive us and understand us.
PC: Is that intersubjectivity?
PC: Are you skeptical of intersubjectivity as well?
AR: I don’t know if I’m skeptical of it. It’s interesting that when we try to make digital representations or perfect archives, a replica, replications of things that exist to live on past us… it’s like a compression. Like what Lesser was saying about compressing audio files. Or when you uncompress a video file, you get another version that looks similar, but you might notice all these other things that weren’t there. You need to acknowledge how, you’ll never be able to perfectly duplicate an object.
PC: There’s always going to be something missing?
AR: It’s always going to be a different object.
PC: In terms of intersubjectivity, when you’re trying to relate to another person you have to do this same kind of reconstruction to understand their point of view. Do you feel like there’s always going an inherent missing piece in that kind of reconstruction as well?
AR: Yeah. It’s good. You know when people converse (laughs) there’s so many miscommunications happening and you think we have shared. Our brains work in similar ways, on the surface. We also have shared cultural inputs. So, we can have a conversation about that, hopefully we’ll be actually communicating. But you see miscommunications happening constantly. It’s interesting to talk to someone with whom you have no shared references. I get along really well with people who watched a lot of TV in the 90’s. If someone didn’t watch any TV, what are we going to talk about?
LG: To me, coming from Cuba in 1990, that was a huge cultural shock. I was used to a neighborhood that would shut down at 6:00 in the afternoon. We had to conserve energy, so the lights would go out every night, and the whole block would go dark. There would be people joking around in the street, yelling jokes. People halfway down the block would laugh really loudly at the joke they heard a few blocks up the street. It was just this joyous moment where people were held together in this absence of glitz and glamour. Everything was old and decrepit. Fridges were ancient, cars were ancient. In 1990 my family had the opportunity to leave on a noisy, smoky Soviet plane. Then, in the Dominican Republic, we boarded a 3 aisle American Airlines jet. To me, that was the moment where something just clicked in my mind. I was basically in the USS Enterprise. I was put in the USS Enterprise and my thoughts were: “Has this been going on the whole time?” When I got to Miami, it was immediate overload. It was all color, all flash, all light, all synthesized smells like mountain breeze air fresheners and butter in spray bottles, MTV, VH-1, McDonald’s. That became my life. Because it was so shocking, it had a certain impact. It was spectacular. I gobbled it up. Immediately I gained so much weight. I took it on completely willingly.
PC: Internalized it.
LG: Internalized it. My parents didn’t really hold back from it, because it was something that had been absent in our lives. I would eat entire bags of Doritos. I internalized it completely. Then you grow up and you’re like, “Whoa, that’s not really the culture, that’s just the demographic.” Then that changes. But those things are these point of reference. Like how Alan was saying that he can’t really talk to anyone unless they’ve seen the same movies from the 90’s. These points of reference start becoming you, and that’s really upsetting. It’s all transient, but they don’t tell you it’s transient. It’s not built into it that it’s transient. It creates huge schisms between demographics, and even within people themselves.
PC: A splitting?
LG: Yeah and it’s all financially driven. It’s not culturally driven. It is to a certain degree, but it starts out financially and then we build our cultural references based on these things.
AR: I want to go back to the tools. How the tools of archiving influences how we think about the object, about how the time in which the thing was preserved. So we have all these black-and-white photographs of the past, and people are wearing silly clothes and that becomes… You can’t imagine that the past looked like the way it is now when you walk outside. You see a picture of people on the beach, and they have umbrellas and striped-outfits and big stupid mustaches and little dogs…
AR: When you picture the past…
LG: It’s in sepia.
AR: Yeah, it’s in sepia, and that influences our vision of it. But it didn’t look like that. It looked exactly the same, light worked exactly the same way. It’s just that people were dressed like idiots. It’s interesting how now when you see a period piece, they take on that nostalgia, they take on that impression, and they stylize the past, even now.
LG: It's symbolic representation.
AR: You should film a period piece with the modern tools. You should film it with digital movie cameras, and you shouldn’t stylize the color. Because it looked like reality. I saw something where they took old black-and-white photos, and they colored them in a way that looked odd?
LG: The World War II photos?
AR: Something like that. And of course it looked just normal, not like what we thought.
LG: It’s interesting that you say that. I recently saw color photos of the set that the original Addams Family TV show was recorded on. The whole house is bright pink. And it’s always been bright pink. It’s not black-and-white.
AR: Why would they do that, though? For the actors, you’d think you should make it kind of dingy.
LG: It’s interesting to think that when you’re watching the original Addams Family series, they’re in a bright pink room.
Dina Kelberman: What? That’s what you’re talking about, the Addams Family?
LG: Yeah, we’re talking about representations of different time periods, and the reality vs. the representation.
Dina Kelberman: That’s crazy.
LG: In my half of the work in the show, the Blender piece represents that break-down of objectivity into bite-size pieces in order to understand. It refers back to the archaeological scale, and binary, and digitization. It breaks it down into pieces that we can understand one-by-one. But it also destroys the thing we’re trying to understand, because you have to take it apart. So, in that blender piece, there are areas that are bumpy and treated as stone Those areas were represented that way by the 3-D scanning process because they were shadowed, and it represents shadow as form and light as absence of form. I think that’s an interesting thing, because if you look at the clear glass in the blender, the really bright areas in the center of the glass, where it had a lot of light pumping through it, it didn’t know what to do with that, so it removed it.
PC: Is that why it has holes in it?
LG: That’s why it has holes in it.
PC: Oh wow.
LG: Light that was coming through the glass was confusing the 3-D scanning process, so it rendered it as absence of form.
AR: It’s an approximation.
LG: It’s an approximation of it. So the shadows, where objects were close to the table, those areas were represented as knobby forms. It’s interesting that it treats shadow as form, and light as absence of form.
PC: Do you think maybe that’s related to that torus form? Those holes in it.
LG: Maybe, yeah. It doesn’t know what to do with them. The VH-1 piece goes back to associating yourself with these sort of cultural elements. The idea for the logo came instinctually. For a long time I didn’t know what to put on that slab, on the concrete slab. I racked my brain, and then one day it just dawned on me to use the VH-1 logo, I didn’t know exactly why at first. The process of digitizing the logo was interesting, because in tweaking it you either gained more made up vector information or you lost information from the original forms in the logo.
AR: It’s another approximation.
LG: It’s another approximation. So the logo looks the way it does because of the digital process that it went through to get to the vectored image. There’s a loss of information that mirrors the deterioration of artifacts over time.
PC: And those are holes as well…
LG: Those are holes as well. Then there’s the question of the brand itself, and why VH-1. When I was growing up, VH-1 always felt a little outdated, because it wasn’t part of my demographic. It was always geared towards a different demographic. That’s what locked it in for me later. When I analyzed why it felt important to choose that logo for the piece. It’s an example of something that was made outside of the demographic that I was in. It already inherently had this sort of sense of decay built into it from the perspective of my demographic.
AR: This is reminding me of when you were talking about how the computer analyzed the shadow and the light, had to guess what was going on, is on some level what I find so exciting about computer graphics, or what the potential of computer graphics is. I find that you have a sort of sense… a similar kind of excitement towards it. In my mind, it’s like the computer is new brain, a new sort of brain that can function differently from a human brain. The human brain with the exception of taking drugs or brain injury functions in one pretty specific way for most people. The computer can experience reality differently through the input you give it. So we can see… you know we see movement as one object moving from point A to point B, but a computer can see movement as color. We can see the angle of view as sound… it can translate different inputs into impossible ways of perceiving it. We still have to perceive it, the output, in a certain way, but we can get… it can make some completely new experience.
PC: Do you think that offers the potential for achieving some kind of intersubjectivity? Breaking out of the narrow subjectivity that people are locked into?
AR: Yeah, absolutely. You could see a computer output of movement that is completely different from a straightforward visual output of movement. It could be just color, but you still will get some sense, you’ll still be perceiving something. Maybe you’ll be seeing a color shift as movement in a way that you wouldn’t normally, unless you were on drugs. And it’s the same with brain injury, there are parts of the eye-brain system that responsible for different things, so there are people who can’t perceive movement. They’ve had a brain injury, to that part of the brain that connects the dots. They can see static objects, but they can’t connect the dots. You could use a computer to simulate someone else’s experience, that’s kind of interesting.
LG: Yeah, like face blindness [Prosopagnosia]. It’s all just a process in the brain that’s absent. Because they are seeing your face, but the recognition process isn’t there. You don’t know who you’re looking at.
PC: But a computer could do that.
LG: To me, that approximated perception became analogous to an instant calcification.
The translation of reality to digital was almost a process of sending it through time.
AR: It also makes you... just through working with that tool, that is a brain that works differently from your brain, it forces your brain to… Once you’ve done it a few times, you understand. You start thinking like the computer. You know this cup is too shiny, it’s going to reflect too much light. Maybe that’s going to distort it. Or this thing is matte and it has a high contrast pattern on it, and you know that’s what the computer is looking for…
LG: You start seeing the world in the computer’s way, which is what’s interesting about the whole situation we’re in now, and in my work too, where when I see things in the real world I sometimes look at them as if I’m a computer.
AR: Right, right.
LG: Like there’s an Instagram photo I posted recently of a log where the contours of it were being described by a fence projecting it’s shadow over the log, and to me it became the wire-frame lines. I started seeing the real world in the digital sense, and that’s really strange. To be finding cue-points in real life based on digital moments.
AR: Yeah, and I think when you start thinking that way, you understand how a computer does have perception similar to the way we have perception. The only thing that’s missing is the idea of an emotional response. Surely, even if it’s not simulating a human emotional response, it could be some emotional response that a computer can have, artificial intelligence similar to how it can perceive light and other inputs. That’s people’s concern, when do you start having a moral… what’s the word?
AR: Yeah, when do you have to worry about what you’re doing to a computer? If it can see and it can hear, and it can talk…
PC: It can be hurt.
AR: When does it start actually perceiving emotion and when do you have a right to protect it. It’s probably a long way off, but you know that a lot of people are trying to do that.
PC: Or would it protect itself?
AR: That makes me think of the faces in my video work. They’re not real. They are not real humans. It’s an image of real human, based off of an actual person’s face. In all the videos it’s like just suffering. It’s going through certain expressions, like muscle spasms, trying to breath. That’s all it’s doing. It’s not quite alive.
LG: It’s almost like stimulus on a frog leg.
AR: Right, that’s exactly it. Especially with the computer, you can do things you couldn’t normally do. Like cut a person’s face in half and still have it move around, and have it react to physics. It’s like a mask. Like a latex mask, but it’s moving like a human face. There’s something really uncomfortable there.
PC: Uncanny is the word that’s used, right?
AR: Yeah, uncanny valleys.
LG: That goes back to idea that in trying to understand something, you also have to kill it.
AR: Right. (laughs)
LG: In the early days of anatomy, in order to understand a cat you had take it apart through autopsy, you kill it and take it apart. In taking it apart you’re no longer getting the full picture, because it’s dead.
LG: That mentality, that stimulus on the frog leg. To understand something bit by bit, binary. To understand what happens to a digitally preserved human face cut in half. It has that emotional response of having gone through an autopsy.
AR: There’s some guy who’s like…
LG: Yeah, he’s fine, but that destruction is emotionally there.
AR: I don’t know why, but I keep thinking about this. I just saw the new Planet of the Apes movie, and I found it really fascinating, like I was completely captivated by it. Not because of any narrative. It’s too realistic, in a certain way. Some of the faces are photorealistic, and the hair is moving in a photorealistic way, and they collect dirt. The movements are very real, but they are not ape movements. They are human movements. They come out of human movements, and then they are placed on this very detailed simulation of an ape. I don’t think the filmmakers were… They’re trying to make a blockbuster that’s entertaining and action-packed, they’re not trying to make something that is Surreal. But in my mind it was just such a Surreal experience. Because you could never do that before, just see this animal that doesn’t exist, which is half human and half ape, and it’s talking in this horrible way, and it’s holding a gun. And it’s simulated through this crazy amount of math, simulating light and movement. It’s also simulating the way the camera is capturing it, capturing that light and movement, and it looks real. I don’t know what I’m trying to say…
PC: In the Ella Freeman Sharpe paper she says, “...the figure of man appearing in these paleolithic drawings often wears an animal mask. Behind the animal we have the man. So I see in the drawings of primitive man, in the animals, and men with animal masks, they first attempt in art to resolve a conflict raging around the problem of food and death.” It seems like what you’re talking about. That digital simulation of the apes is related to the animal mask.
LG: The thing is now we don’t have to have limitations. So that dealing with what you’ve got, which creates this kind of value to your existence, isn’t there anymore. You don’t have to have those limitations because you can do anything. Where is the value in that? And I think death is a limitation.
PC: Death is that limitation that we have to work with?
LG: You look at a dog with three legs joyfully hopping around in the park. It’s dealing with its limitation, it’s not dwelling on it and inventing a fourth leg for itself, not spending its life working on a fourth leg.
AR: People do.
PC: People work on fourth legs.
AR: That’s what people really do. They try to…
PC: Fill that gap? That’s like the hole in the torus, too. But it can still be a coffee cup. And that’s kind of how it works, it needs to have that handle.