Some Personal Remarks on the Social Context:
Who Am I?
In 1967 a freindly mathematician wrote the programme to produce my
first computer assisted drawing as part of my studies as a
sculptor/printmaker at an art college in England. In 1972 I went to
study in a Dutch Institute for Classical electronic music because it
was the only way to gain access to a computer. I was a visual artist in
a sound environment and I became interested in the relationship between
the creative process in sound and visual media -particularly questions
regarding the role of the medium in representing thoughrts and
structures. I've been around
a long time. In this time I've seen a lot of changes
-and I'm upset, ashamed and even worried by what my generation and its successors
have done and are still doing.
Some Positive Thinking:
i. You Are what You Think?
For better or for worse, people tend to associate themselves with their
ideas and often find it difficult to accept that questioning and
discussing their ideas and beliefs does not directly imply a criticism
of them as a person. Sometimes we can get excited and inspired by our
ideas -so idea, inspiration and emotion all get mixed up together. So
when discussing things, it can sometimes be important to separate the
ideas, feelings and creative ambitions from the knowledge and
information that one has been taught -in order to question the "transmitted
knowledge" without too much complicating emotional
interference because one feels that one is personally under attack. Of course,
sometimes, our ideas are so closely interwoven with what we believe ourselves to be that it
is difficult to separate them. I guess that, on some level, I too am
defined by my experiences and the belief system that has grown out of
ii. Communication and Experience
At first glance, my declaration identifying myself with my work might seem to be a contradiction of
my earlier remarks about separating one's ideas from one's
identity. However, perhaps on reflection it can be seen
that I first started talking about "transmitted knowledge" (which is
what others tell us about the world and how they believe it to be) and
ended up talking about "experience" (which is what happens to us). As
one gets older one often discovers an increasing dissonance between
what people tell you to believe and what one actually experiences to be
true. In fact, accepting this difference and exploiting it to gain more
effective insights into how things actually work is perhaps one of the
key advantages of growing older.
Unfortunately, it also seems that society (and perhaps human nature)
has invented lots of ways of preventing communication between the
The Artist's Life:
Contrary to public opinion -the life of an artist is not always
exciting. True, there may be invitations to exhibition openings,
festivals and other social occasisions -but much of the time is also
spent in the studio, working quietly on whatever projects one may be
involved with. For an artist/programmer, the work is extra hard because
of the technical aspect which also has to be mastered.
Some Important Questions:
If I was asked to interview myself (or perhaps another person in my position) then I think I would ask the following questions:
What changes have taken place in your Lifetime?
How did these affect you professionally?
How did they affect you personally?
To which I might answer:
Some Important Changes
-The rise of "Democracy"
(Everybody's Opinion is of Equal Value)
-Loss of the Tribal Elder
-Loss of Formality
-Loss of Knowledge regarding historical context due to focus on the new
-Loss of understanding of Conceptual Context due to lack of spirit of enquiry outside practical function
-The rise of Commercialism
(Commercial Values have become the only real Values)
-The rise of Digital Technology
(The divide between Computation and ICT)
-Lack of understanding of Representational and Proceedural Systems
How did these changes affect you professionally and personally?
the negative terms in which I've expressed these changes already
suggests that these things have had a powerful and damaging effect on
both my professional and personal life.
Intellectually, I find this isn't such a great problem: There are
positive sides. Indeed this website is a concerted effort to use the
advantages of modern technology to try and unravel the complex threads
that underlie the relationships between society, art and technology.
-Threads that I believe could be both fascinating and extremely
benifical if they could only become more visible within the public
However, emotionally, I find it deeply distressing that so much that I
find has beauty and interest remains ignored -and that almost all
attempts to discuss these things with others have (for various reasons)
apparently failed. Unfortunately, this frustration then leads to anger
which then often makes communication even more difficult.
So could you expand a little on some of these points?
The value of language:
There is a story about an orchestra
practicing for the first time with
a new conductor. After several unsuccessful attempts to explain
in vartious emotional terms how he wants a certain section to be played
the conducter frustratedly shouts: "Oh just play it mezzoforte" -at
the orchestra gives a great sigh of relief and then begin to play the
piece correctly..... Sometimes the pressure to be unique (especially in
a commercial context) can undermine the communicative role of language
by undermining, or disguising, the conventional meanings. In turn, this
undermines social cohesion by undermining the transmission of knowledge
through a degradation of the language.
Our (western) society -for both historial and commercial reasons, focusses on "expression"
but is rather weak on evaluating the expression. It seems to be
becoming increasingly so that what one expresses is less important than
the fact that one is expressing it. In the context of mass media
and the internet, this is dangerous state of affairs because because
powerful belief systems are created (which have huge political,
economic and even national security implications) and yet there is no
way of testing the validity or value of these beliefs.
First and Second-Hand Knowledge:
Imagine a world in which there were no
communication systems -a world
where all we could ever know were our own experiences...... On one
level we would be ignorant of many things -but on another level, we
would at least know from personal experience what we were talking about.
Perhaps in such a world, it would be easier to "respect" the opinions
of others -because one would know that whatever a person believed-it
was based on a genuine experience. Their opionions and thoughts would
therefore be assured of having some value -even if it was not clear
exactly what that value was -or how it might relate to ones own
Indeed, in such a world, there would be little point in simply "expressing"
ones thoughts -because the really intersting work would lie in trying
to uncover the networks of experience that lead to viewpoints opposite
to ones own. In my experience, it is this search for understanding
that underlies the process of creating computer programmes that reflect
and explore artisitic concepts and thoughts. It is this distrust of
(second hand) "information" and the love of exploratory investigation which I find in the often neglected and misunderstood "computational process" that makes me so critical of the ICT paradigm.
Points and Spaces:
(What's the point?)
I'd like to question the transmitted knowledge without damaging the
inspiration and the creative motivation to investigate and create. Such
questioning of one's own belief and value systems is difficult and
often painful. Perhaps this will be less painful if one does not
concentrate on "making and scoring points" or winning arguments (by
hook or by crook) but by questiong accepted values and trying to expand
them into new mental spaces that provide a greater conceptual area in
which to move more freely and find new perspectives. Hopefully the
resulting new insights will eventually provide ample emotional and functional repayment for the
Some Personal Thoughts on Global Systems:
From Utopia to Distopia:
With the fall of the wall dividing Europe (and the world) between
"East" and "West" for many people the world was supposed to enter an
new phase of utopian development.
The end of the communist dictatorship was expected to bring and end to
ideological divisions and false dichotomies. There was no longer to be
a great divide between the free and the rich on one side and the poor
and oppressed on the other side.
If western concepts have gained global dominance -and there are
problems within the resulting global system -then it is perhaps not
unreasonable to assume that these problems might well be the result of
problems within the system that has gained dominance.
Global problems may well be the result of problems inherent within western philosophy
and/or cultuer. If this is true -then if an increasing numbers of
people around the world give up their local cultures in order to join
the global community (as the demands of a single global system would
suggest -if not dictate) then the world may be destroying precisely
the (local) conceptual systems that it needs to survive.
Some Potential Killer concepts:
-Euclidean Space and Aristotolian Logic.
Towards A More Sytematic Approach:
<trevor at tebatt.net>
Manila, July/September 2006