Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of 13 November 2018

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
San Francisco, 13 November 2018, 7pm
c/o University of San Francisco
University Center 4th Floor Lounge
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi and Tami Spector

The LASERs are a national program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversation with an audience. See the program for the whole series.

Leonardo ISAST and USF invite you to a meeting of the Leonardo Art/Science community. The event is free and open to everybody. Like previous evenings, the agenda includes some presentations of art/science projects, news from the audience, and time for casual socializing/networking.
See below for location and agenda.
Email me if you want to be added to the mailing list for the LASERs.
See also...

Program (the order of the speakers might change):
  • 7:00-7:25: Ellen Peel (SFSU/ Literature) on "Imagining the Constructed Body: From Statues to Cyborgs" How the constructed body has been imagined—from precursors in classical times to automata, clones, cyborgs... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50: Alex Reben (Inventor & Artist) on "Human-Computer Collaboration" An artificially collaborative future of humans and machines though artwork... Read more
  • 7:50-8:10: BREAK. Before or after the break, anyone in the audience currently working within the intersections of art and science will have 30 seconds to share their work. Please present your work as a teaser so that those who are interested can seek you out during social time following the event.
  • 8:10-8:35: Laura Splan (Media Artist) on "Material Expressions and Embodied Objects" Using biosensors to create forms and patterns for digitally fabricated artworks... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00: Dasha Ortenberg (Designer/Artist) on "Transformative Potentials of Speculative Mapping" The potentials of data visualization to represent and promote a highly-textured interpretation of human existence... Read more
  • Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

  • Dasha Ortenberg believes deeply in design's ability to stimulate critical thought, highlight the weirdness of individuals, and the reveal uncanny overlaps of (sub-)cultures. Her cross-scalar and cross-media approach to space is the result of a perpetual fascination with modes of human communication, collaboration, and cohabitation. Having emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child, she is driven by a deep gratitude to the United States for having provided the opportunity to pursue her passions and understand her heritage, and works to promote and propagate such opportunities for others. Dasha holds degrees in Art History and Linguistics (UC Berkeley), and Architecture (Harvard GSD). Her formal education is supplemented by a variegated work experience, which includes radio, dance, and archival conservation. In her conceptual projects, pedagogical pursuits, and work for art and architectural practices she strives to combine traditional and contemporary technologies to transform individual narratives and historic cross-currents into socially-impactful spatial experiences. She leverages the media of documentation, representation, and fabrication to highlight juxtapositions and create conversations that encourage mutual understanding. Her project, A Franchise of Difference, transformed documentation of interviews and sites from a 7,000-mile road trip into architectural concepts. She works as a designer at Anderson Brule Architects. As an artist with the ZERO1 American Arts Incubator in March 2018, she developed, taught and administrated the "Rhetorical City" program at L'Uzine in Casablanca, Morocco. She is also developing and directing the 2018 events cycle "Structures of Power," -- which explores the structures of traditional power and methods of empowerment -- for the Women in Architecture group of Silicon Valley.
  • Ellen Peel is Professor in the Department of Comparative and World Literature at San Francisco State University. She teaches and conducts research in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction (French, English); twentieth- and twenty-first century fiction (English, U.S.); literary theory and criticism (especially narrative, feminist, psychoanalytic, reader response, rhetorical); women's literature; science fiction and utopian literature; and surveys of Western and world literature. Her publications include Politics, Persuasion, and Pragmatism: A Rhetoric of Feminist Utopian Fiction (Ohio State University Press, 2002). "Imagining the Constructed Body: From Statues to Cyborgs" appeared in the MLA volume Teaching World Literature (2009). Recent publications include "Narrative Causes: Inside and Out" (in Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions) and "The Conundrum of Feminism in Doris Lessing's Fiction" (in Feminine Issues: In the Writing of British Female Authors). She is working on a book about the constructed body in literature and film.
  • Alex Reben is an MIT-trained artist and roboticist who explores humanity through the lens of art and technology. Using “art as experiment” his work allows for the viewer to experience the future within metaphorical contexts. Reben’s artwork and research have been shown and published internationally, and he consults with major companies, guiding innovation for the social machine future. He has exhibited at venues including The Vitra Design Museum, The MAK Museum Vienna, The Design Museum Ghent, The Vienna Biennale, ARS Electronica, VOLTA, TFI Interactive, IDFA, The Tribeca Film Festival, The Camden Film Festival, Doc/Fest, and The Boston Cyberarts Gallery. His work has been covered by NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Filmmaker Magazine, New Scientist, BBC, PBS, Discovery Channel, Cool Hunting and WIRED, among others. He has lectured at TED, SXSW, TTI Vanguard, Google, UC Berkeley, SMFA, CCA, MIT, and other universities. Reben has built robots for NASA, and is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab, where he studied human-robot symbiosis and art. He is a 2016-2017 WIRED innovation fellow, a Stochastic Labs Resident, and a recent visiting scholar in the UC Berkeley psychology department.
  • Piero Scaruffi is a cultural historian who has lectured in three continents and published several books on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, the latest one being "The Nature of Consciousness" (2006). He pioneered Internet applications in the early 1980s and the use of the World-Wide Web for cultural purposes in the mid 1990s. His poetry has been awarded several national prizes in Italy and the USA. His latest book of poems and meditations is "Synthesis" (2009). As a music historian, he has published ten books, the latest ones being "A History of Rock and Dance Music" (2009) and "A History of Jazz Music" (2007). His latest book of history is "A History of Silicon Valley" (2011). The first volume of his free ebook "A Visual History of the Visual Arts" appeared in 2012. His latest book is "Intelligence is not Artificial" (2013). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature. He founded the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) in 2008 and the Life Art Science Tech (LAST) festival in 2014. Since 2015 he has been commuting between California and China, where several of his books have been translated.
  • Laura Splan (Media Artist) is a Brooklyn, NY based artist whose work explores intersections of art, science, technology and craft. Her conceptually based projects examine the material manifestations of our mutable relationship with the human body. She reconsiders perceptions and representations of the corporeal with a range of traditional and new media techniques. She is currently a visiting lecturer at Stanford University where she teaches Experimental Media Arts courses in the Art & Art History Department.

Address and directions:

University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
SF, CA 94117
University Center 4th Floor Lounge
2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117-1080
Fromm Hall is behind the church, best accessed from Parker Ave.

Extended abstracts

Recent projects use biosensors to create forms and patterns for digitally fabricated artworks as well as for movement with biosensor actuated apparatus.

As technology becomes increasingly intelligent, the connection between humans and computers will become ever stronger. In this lecture, Alexander will present works which draw from this idea and attempt to imagine an artificially collaborative future though artwork.

"Frankengenre" is the most significant genre of our time. Yet these narratives, despite their shared focus on the constructed body, have not been recognized as a coherent group, much less as a key concept in aesthetics of visual and verbal media. Exemplified by Frankenstein, such narratives flourished during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have now evolved further. Seemingly disparate texts in fact share not only well-known themes, such as power and ethics, but also less-obvious techniques, such as self-reflexivity. Robots, anorexics, vampire thralls, people with prosthetics, men perceived as women—all can be seen as “constructed bodies.” A number of Western cultures have imagined constructed bodies—both in the sense of a conceptualized body and in the sense of a body created or modified through artificial means (by oneself or another). This talk traces how the constructed body has been imagined—from precursors in classical times (Pygmalion’s statue), through paradigms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (automata, clones, and cyborgs), to recent texts that take constructed bodies for granted. Technological acceleration makes the themes urgent. How does creation relate to power and consent? When do creations escape creators? Might the opposition between self and other, subject and object, or human and machine be deconstructed? Interpretation pervades the genre's themes and techniques. Constructing a body is interpreting ordinary bodies, translating them, creating a metaphor for them (and some constructed bodies themselves are metaphors for, say, the id). Once constructed, the body invites more kinds of interpretation, often highlighting point of view and emphasizing who sees and who speaks. Frankengenre often asks: how might a character pass as ordinary--or constructed? Some constructed characters themselves are unaware they are passing. Passing invites various ironies: dramatic irony on a structural scale and verbal irony more locally. In the many cautionary tales, the ironically unexpected outcome is dire, but elsewhere, as for Pygmalion, it brings joy. The focus on interpretation makes these narratives self-reflexive. The genre asks: how is creating the body of a text like creating a human body?

Borges’s “On Exactitude in Science” at first appears to be a work satirizing a quasi -medieval obedience that drives a given technique to the absurd. Yet, as its title suggests, the passage is also an allegory of the human tendency, across the sciences, to pursue explanations or “truths” through infinitely detailed representations and deconstructions of our perceived environments and experiences. The greater the level of detail, the more convincing the science. Yet, this pursuit of and faith in detail risks both a misperception of “reality” and a myopic focus on the illusion of fact. The two collections of work I will present in this talk, A Franchise of Difference and Rhetorical City, recognize mapping as data visualization and question which data is selected for representation and how. They simultaneously engage in methods of data collection and dissection and react to these by considering individuals and human interactions both as quantifiable parts and as irreducible wholes. With today’s ability to generate a continuous spectrum of scaled mapping from Global Information Systems (GIS) or Google Earth to genetic sequencing, scale is synched and linked and individuality dissolves into a sea of data points. The reconstruction of the individual through socio-spatial data analysis claims a level of objectivity as it embeds assumptions ever-more deeply in an echo-chamber of meta-interpretation of fragmented information. Rhetorical City postulates that psycho-geographies and global information systems should engage with and inform one-another. A Franchise of Difference considers the opportunities for discourse offered by spaces represented and/or perceived as voids and questions visual value-judgements. Both collections speculate on the methods by which culture and power are manifested through drawn, built, and virtual cartographies. They consider some of the potentials of data visualization were it to seek to represent and promote a highly-textured and conflicted interpretation of human existence rather than one that is simplified and transactional. Finally, they propose that speculative ideological and idiosyncratic mapping have the capacity to critique, and thereby transform, the political and fiscal speculation embedded in pseudo-objective standardized systems-mapping.

Photos and videos of this evening