MFA Computational Arts Blog Week 12

Before you read this weeks blog, please click this link and play the game I made in collaboration with the wonderful Tabby Griffiths as part of Global Game Jam 2022. More to be found about this at the bottom of the page.

This week’s theory lecture focussed around Critical practice and the text we explored was ‘Disobedient Electronics’ by the studio for critical making, edited by Garnet Hertz.

I.E.D (Improvised Empathetic Device)

In class we discussed mainly two of the examples from the book, namely Improvised Empathetic Device by Matt Kenyon and Doug Easterly, and the Abortion Drone collaboration between Women on Waves; Ciocia Basia, Femi- noteka Foundation, the 8th of March women’s rights informal collective “Porozumienie kobiet 8 marca”, Berlin-Irish Pro Choice Solidarity, Codziennik Feministyczny, and the Political group Twoj Ruch.

Abortion Drone

The two projects contrast rather well in a variety of ways. Firstly, in the way they make their critiques as part of the practice. For Abotion Drone, the critique is held within the act of subverting the border laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of abortion drugs on one side or other of an imaginary political line. The drone, as a vector is used to practically engage with the political structures in place to limit abortion rights for women, resulting in arrests and the drone’s seizure by the police on the polish side of the border in the given case.

By contrast, I.E.D, engages with its topic in an abstract sense, creating a sharp but tolerable pain upon report of an american soldier’s death in Iraq. The device can also be removed at will, contrasting with the rights of the women receiving the abortion drone who can’t simply remove themselves from the situation that they struggle with.

Part of the work that irks me is it’s review of only american deaths, as “the number of Iraqi deaths is unreported and therefore vague”, a sentiment I don’t really enjoy. It shifts the focus of the piece from being generally anti-war or anti-imperialism or anti-occupationist into simply anti-american-death. It changes the perceptive narrative from one of real empathy with the Iraqi people whom have died in numbers orders of magnitude greater than the american fatalities, and ignores them for the fatalities of the occupationary forces. The empathy of Abortion Drone is very direct as it engages with those whom it’s struggles it intends to highlight.

My final point of contrast is in the materiality of the two objects involved in the artmaking. The drone is off the shelf, a toy, repurposed as a fast, stealthy delivery vehicle. And the culture of other kinds of drug smuggling with drones is a large one, bringing with it interesting connotations of illicit drug trafficking and the relation drawn by the police between selling abortion pills and narcotics. I.E.D. on the other hand is an elaborately constructed homemade device, reflecting the Improvised Explosive Devices that commonly have been used against US soldiers, causing many of the deaths the Empathetic device shall detect.

There’s an importance in the difference of these approaches that I haven’t quite solidified. The idea of using a readymade item for a purpose not quite intended in its creation to acheive a goal that is grounded and practical in nature as a way of critiquing the political landscape. Versus a crafted device that abstracts the notion it is attempting to critique.

A postulate given to us was the idea of ‘thinking in the role of the victims’ which the I.E.D appears on first galnce to do ever so literally, yet it really is thinking in the role of the pain of the toe that kicks the dog, rather than the suffering the dog itself experiences.

In Creative Coding we are moving into the realms of building complexity and using object oriented ontology in our work. The expression of this used in the lab activity was to recreate Conway’s Game of Life simulations and then further develop them. Following are my erosion patterns made under the given instructions.

Further to these I then movedd the system into 3 dimensions.

Machine learning started with a more ethical discussion and a smaller lab. Homework involved developing the pre-given model and attempting to come up with something interesting. I made a program that would take in HMW Turner Seascape paintings, pick a number of random points from within and use that to determine a gradient map of the painting, which has yielded pleasing results reminiscent of Olafur Eliasson’s Colour Experiments.

Olafur Eliasson, Colour experiment no. 61
Olafur Eliasson, Colour Experiment no. 61, 2014

The Hacksmith’s society held an event over the weekend as part of the Global Game Jam. I have participated in a game jam before on my own and had a lot of fun and importantly learnt a lot. But that was while participating as an individual. This time I was able to join forces with the mighty Tabby Griffiths who made all of the graphics and music for the game. It is available to play here and it’s game jam page is here. Please give it a go and let me know what you think. As of the moment, the game doesn’t tell you that you must return to your house once you collect a cat and press spacebar to deposit them in your home.

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