Computational Arts Blog


Mechanical bodies and duplication in Leo Carax’s Holy Motors (2014) / Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013).

Cinematic duplication of the image is according to Benjamin, founded in mechanical reproduction. Extending this notion of mechanisation to look at the system of acting, Both Glazer’s and Carax’s films, with its wandering structure makes visible acting as performance to vision machine. There is a technology in the video-game like assembly of identities in H.M. which on one level could allude to action of ‘me-making’ in online spaces but furthe rto the mechanics of acting. The process of acting itself - reliant on reshoots and making deliberate small gestures - performing to the camera creates a sense of deliberateness, gestures carrying a symbolic weight of some kind - picking up a lighter becomes more than that -- the perception, implication of watching changes motion, mechanises it.

“An age that has lost its gestures is, for this reason, obsessed by them. For human beings who have lost every sense of naturalness, each single gesture becomes a destiny. And the more gestures lose their ease under the action of invisible powers, the more life becomes indecipherable”. (Agamben 2000)

This is complicated in Glazer’s film which works in part with non-actors; in short - their gestures do not presuppose an audience, they undergo a kind of becoming mechanic as a result of our gaze, mutated into these determined performers in a weird time delineation

We however codify their performance, our perception is the mechanising agent - as a viewer we enforce a ‘becoming image’. 

There disembodying that occurs in the separation of the actor and their image - it loses its sense of corporeality through the process of transmission - it evaporates, disintegrates as Johansson's alien at the end of the film.This is further amplified in Under the Skin through the use of score: atonal, inhabiting only the top and lower frequencies -- empty mid range creates a hollow effect. Comparatively, the main body of communication occurs in 

To be continued...


Idea’s around ‘aliveness’, datasets and algorithms

Both Tallerton Gillepse and Matteo Pasquinelli’s emphasis on the human involvement in shaping algorithms propose an idea of collective labour, be that in the realm of engineering or of magic - a kind of swarm. I want to extend this fleshy energy exchange to think also around the emotional life of datasets. The Enron Corpus  - a database of 600,000 emails generated by 158 employees in the years leading up to the collapse of the energy giant in 2001, released and sold for $10,000 to Andrew McCallum who released this dataset for training machine learning, natural language processing research as well as linguistic analysis etc. Among the more expected communication related to work was more personal, erotic, emotional exhanges between employees. Stories of office romances, divorce, longing and sadness often reminiscent of reality TV.

This disembodied corpus can be considered to have an aliveness of its own - see Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain’s ‘Good Life: Enron Simulator’ - further reanimated in its passage into many technologies which mediate our communication systems: in the genesis of Siri, spam fishing, auto complete etc.

Despite being, up until WikiLeaks, the largest publicly available dataset of real emails sent between a large group of people, the limitations of this dataset is obvious, however. What does it mean when emails released from 158 largely white, male, high earning, Huston based employees for an oil company which went under because of fraudulent activity, forms the basis for a body of data used for machine learning. What kind of dataset is this?

As the emotional life of data shapes our tools, these tools change the way we communicate - our interactions becoming increasingly disembodied and acousmatic. This Enron Corpus - the body of data which proxies interactions - is a direct example of our embodied relationship to the algorithm.



Thinking about software as an invisible technology with a relationship to ideas of choreography as a negotiation of space.

Can this prescription of use be likened to an idea of rhythm? Modes of response directly related to the relationship between the body and how it interprets / feels sound. You could consider the bodily cues given by the regularity of a 4 to the floor beat in techno etc. as activating the torso versus the more spasmodic (nomadic?) proposition of breakbeat. The hyper-syncopated rhythm activates a more fractured and en-garde negotiation of space. Is this software? An interlinking idea is developed by Pauline Oliveros in her collection of writings (1963-80) entitled ‘Software for People’ where she repurposes her thinking around ‘Sonic Meditations’ and other deep listening practices as body software.

Software “produces culture” -  also extending the parameters both conceptually and in practical terms of the ‘break’ in music. Moving into the realm of software assisted midi controllers, the endless reconstruction of the Winston Brothers’ ‘Amen’ break has led to the production of a whole genre (drum and bass) through the ability to reconstruct individual rhythm notations of a ‘moment’ in the break by teenagers in their bedrooms. Fundamental in this rearrangement is the loop, copy/paste practices, and time stretching capabilities of software to allow for an acceleration of the beat that surpasses the human heartbeat while maintaining the pitch.

This act of sampling can relate to the conceptual framework of ‘Open Source’, the evolution of an ecosystem shaped by collaboration, exchange and creative mutations discussed in the latter part of the article.


Contractual relationship of paid digital software or of the digital space in general. How do we enter into / exit this relationship?