Catalogue Essay: aaajiao – Between the Machine and the Human

[English text below]

机器与人之间 —— aaajiao个展《屏幕一代:前传》

2013.11.02 – 12.01

文:李蔼德

aaajiao "The Screen Generation"

aaajiao在《屏幕一代:前传》中呈现的作品有一种自我展示的特点——就是科技在自我利用,在它自身的存在中呈现自己。“自我展示”这一个词隐喻着一个呈现自己(或其中某些方面)给观看者的机器,虽然对于在aaajiao过往的个展中的作品来说,“自我展示”所代表的正是如此,但是在这一次的呈现中,它并不再是这种从机器向外的、不管观看者在场与不在场的、单方向的操作。这一次的操作在于与人类感官和理解的互相作用。基本来说,这些作品并不存在于它们自身之中,而在一个人接收作品所传达的感觉信息和在他从中理解到一些东西之间的互动之中。这些“东西”并不只是一种对作品的深入认识,而是深入的认知本身。

在《屏幕一代:前传》中使用的显示媒介是平面屏幕。在其中的一些作品中,这些屏幕所显示的似是它们自身的不同方面,而在其他的作品中,它们则运用自身的表示功能, 作出对于科技的文化理解而产生的相关评论。

在后面的一种情况下,《硬》更为突出。这件作品在它对于原来由科学家作家以撒·艾西莫夫开发而在这里的录像资料中阐明的《机器人三定律》的瓦解当中,推翻了艾西莫夫对如何在机器中培养基本伦理理解的想法。 其实艾西莫夫提出的定律是从一种偏执的出发点而成立的。他设想我们发明的机器人必须编有保护人类的程序,因为在这当中他假定了我们有受到这些新生命威胁的可能性。aaajiao 在对电子脉冲的介绍中透露了机器有把它们自身的保护意识“转”成一种正是推翻这种意图的意识的能力。

《硬》是唯一一件在这次展览里不涉及呈示它的屏幕的作品。它利用屏幕传统的表现功能来展示图像在它被传达到屏幕之前的变形状态。回到对aaajiao在展览中使用的屏幕的思考,如果它们的作用(正如我所说的)有更深一层的意义的话,我们也许应该考虑到在涉及到这些屏幕时人扮演的是什么角色,他们之间的关系又是什么,就是说, 我对于《屏幕一代》 提出的那些关联是否在某种意义上,人和屏幕各个方面的总和?它们如何互相影响,互相构成。

也许我们可以首先考虑以下的问题——“在涉及到aaajiao的作品时,人扮演的是什么角色呢?”这些作品隐含着这种问题所涉及的重点,所以它像是能够通过这些作品自我解决,而也许通过解析这些作品的同时,我们能够更明智地探讨这个问题。

《屏幕一代》中的六件作品是“柔软”、“反复”、“坚硬”、“纯粹”、“静止”和“闹”。它们都是以呈示它们的电视屏幕为它们的现实模式。然而,所有作品都存在和源自艺术家开发的电子应用程序。在这个情况之下,屏幕也许会被理解成为这些应用程序的视听组件而存在的、相对来说随意的容器和框架。但要是说这些程序的结果其实存在于这些组件被观看者的接收多于它们所制造的各种图像和声音之中的话, 屏幕在这些作品中扮演的角色其实也可以说是很重要的,而在更深一层来看,其实这些作品是以人为中心的。

在提出:“人与aaajiao的作品之间的关系是什么?”的时候,这些屏幕就会变成他的作品其中一个基本的元素。那在这个情况下,这些屏幕又是代表了什么呢?它们是意义的全部,是屏幕的“里”和“外”进一步确定它们自身的意义之处。意义的范围是应用程序生成的数据通过屏幕变化成图像和声音,从而人类通过感观体验生成意义。在作品《柔软》中两个蓝色屏幕显示的似乎在它们表面上移动的一个物体的影子。这个物体只存在于应用程序的生成程序之中,但同时似是与在屏幕的另一面的物体有关。观看者在两方面“读”这些影子,里和外同时地在进行。

这确定了我提出在应用程序的活动与人的活动之间的比较和关系,但是它们之间的目的并不相同。人解读感官刺激的过程与应用程序生成数据的方式不一,程序只有一部分的数据是给观看者的,也许我们能够把程序的生成能力容纳到人类的解释力当中,从而提出它们之前的关系。但这是一种诗学命题。无论如何,这种说法都会保持一种对状况的人性化解释。我们也可以探讨,我们如何不只从一个人性化的观点去观看,但同时也从机器化的角度去看待这个情况。那会代表什么呢?

在aaajiao的作品中以屏幕为中心的方式(也因此提供与人类中心交流的可能性)的向外性似乎展示在它们的意义被屏幕“论证”当中。这可能是与一种表演性相关,而其中的主体行为并不(只是)关乎它们的目的和终点,而是把重点移到行为本身。作品《纯粹》和《闹》可以说是有一种表演性的。这表演性在于这些作品不只是纯粹的是它们自己,它们同时也在呈现(或进行)它们的存在。因此,表演性作品并不必然地是它们本性的直接反映,因为这个过程并不包含一种临界性,而这种临界性代表着呈现任何主体的本性,同时以某一种方式呈示它,以包含它自身的质问的可能性。

其他作品能够说是通过这表演性而表现这个命题。但严格来说,它们本身是并非表演性的。这样来说,它们是为了艺术家和观看者而并非为了它们自己而表演的。作品《静止》实质上与它表面看来是不一样的——表面来看,它呈示的是从有瑕疵的计算机显示器的边缘渗入的光,但是它其实是一个与它自己相关的计算机生成——电脑显示器。它所呈示的电子脉冲其实是在阐述一个显示器,而不是在屏幕上出现的电子脉冲。它是这些电子脉冲的一个表示。这些被表示的电子脉冲不再是电子脉冲,观看者必须想象它们是电子脉冲。这些作品犹如一种教导性的陈述:“这里是我在陈述的东西的证明。虽然你能够在“外界”见到它,但这其实是它的重新创建。”而重新创建假设效果的传递,而这种传递含有通往作品的决定性。呈现电子脉冲也许能够直接告诉我们一些关于显示器的事实和它的缺点。表现这些电子脉冲能够把它们领进一种理想化的层面,而他们能够变成像诗的是因为艺术家把他自己嵌入了这些电子脉冲之中,因此它们不再是电子脉冲本身而是它们的一种表现。

 

作品《反复》同样地运用一个文件格式——动画图像GIF来欺诈我们的感官,让我们把图像理解成一个三维的空间。GIF的尺寸虽然比较小,但是它在屏幕上无限的重复,覆盖着所有的可用空间。动画中呈示的图像质点像无缝地在屏幕上游走。简约的点和点之间的互相关系形成了一种虚幻的远近深度,然而,它们只是在白色背景上的黑色像素点。人脑只能理解图像成一些黑色的点在不同的速度游走,而它也似乎倾向于解析这些不同的速度为在不同深度游走的,但一致的速度。这里屏幕就变成了一个通往像素点动态构成的空间的框架,最基本的三维正是科技只做暗示的角色,令人脑为自己重造空间。

因此,回到原来的问题:人与aaajiao的作品有什么关联性?我们可以假设人在某一个程度上是由屏幕投射的信息所构成的。它在半途中与人,与观众遭遇。而人站在屏幕的另一面,就像屏幕也在人的另一面。aaajiao 创造了一个在人和屏幕之间,彼此互相构成的生态系统。

The Screen Generation: aaajiao solo show

2 November – 1 December, 2013

aaajiao "The Screen Generation"

There is a certain element in aaajiao’s work’s presented in The Screen Generation that makes a feature of the self-display of technology – technology using itself to represent itself, in a layering of its own existence. But the phrase “self-display” suggests a machine presenting itself (or some aspect of itself) to the viewer, and while this may have been the case in aaajiao’s earlier solo exhibitions, the “self-display” in the works found here is not such a one-way operation – from machine, outwards, without regard to the presence or absence of a receiver. Here this operation exists as interactions with the human senses and understanding. Ultimately the works exist not in themselves, but in these interactions with a human that takes in the sensory information provided by the work and makes something of it. This “something” is not just an expanded understanding of the work, it is that expanded understanding.

The display medium used in The Screen Generation is the flat screen. In a number of the works, these screens appear to display various aspects of themselves. In the other cases they work with the cultural understanding of technology and present certain commentaries on it through their own ability to represent.

In the latter case hard stands out. In its degeneration of the three “Laws of Robotics,” originally developed and here enunciated in archive footage by the scientist and writer Isaac Asimov, this piece subverts his ideas on how to programme a basic ethical understanding into the machine. But Asimov’s Laws are worded from a paranoid point of view, making the assumption that our creations, the robots, must have the protection of the human programmed into them, the unstated assumption being that otherwise we are under threat from these new beings. aaajiao’s introduction of glitches into the exposition reveals the machine’s own possibility to “turn” the meaning that is designed to protect, into that which subverts this intention.

hard is the only work in this exhibition that does not deal with the screen that it is displayed on, but uses the screen’s conventional representational ability to display an image, the distortions of which take place before it reaches the screen. Returning to this consideration of aaajiao’s screens, if (as I have said) there is an expanded understanding of their work, we might ask where the human stands in relation to these screens, or what is the human when stood in front of the screen? What is the relation between the screen and the human, in the sense that the relations I have suggested in The Screen Generation are the sum of various coinciding aspects of human and screen? How does the one inform the other part, and how does each constitute the other.

The question that can perhaps be productively begun with is: “What is ‘human’ in relation to aaajiao’s works?” These works embody the concerns that such a question articulates, so the question can be seen to play itself out through them, and by investigating these artworks perhaps we can make some intelligent statements that approach the question.

The six pieces that make up The Screen Generation are soft, repeatedly, hard, pure, static, and noise all take their real-world format from the dimensions of the TV screens they are presented on. However, the artworks all exist and begin as digital applications developed by the artist. The screen might then be understood as a somewhat arbitrary container and frame for the visible and audible components of these applications. But by suggesting that the results of these applications exist less in the various images and sounds produced by them and more in the reception of these components by the audience, it can be said that the screens play an important role in the work of the pieces, and—taking this further—that these works are then human-oriented.

In asking, “What is ‘human’ in relation to aaajiao’s works?” a fundamental aspect of his work is then seen to be these screens. What is the screen then? The screen is the absolute horizon of meaning, the point at which what is “outside” and what is “inside” the screen negotiate their territory of meaning. The territory of meaning being the application’s generation of data that becomes image and sound through the screen, and subsequently the human’s generation of meaning through sensory experience of these. In soft two bright blue screens appear to show the shadow of an object crossing their surface. This object exists only in the application’s generative programme, yet seems to relate to an object on the other side of the screen casting its shadow on it. The viewer “reads” these shadows in both ways at once, inside and outside.

This positions the comparison and relation I have suggested between the activity of the application and the activity of the human. But their activities do not have the same aim. The human that interprets the sensory stimuli, does not do so in the same way that the application generates data – the application is only partly generating for a human audience. It might be possible to hold the application’s generative capacity up to the human’s interpretative capacity, and suggest relations between them, but this is something of a poetic licence. In any case such statements would retain a human-centric interpretation of the situation. It could be asked how can one see this not just from a human-centric point of view but also from the machine-centric point of view? What would that mean?

In aaajiao’s works the outward-facing aspect of a screen-centric approach (and hence, that which provides the possibility for communication with the human-centric) seems to be demonstrated by this way that the screens might be said to “demonstrate” their meanings. This might be related to a certain performativity, in which the subject’s actions are not (just) about their aims and end points, but shift the focus from these to the act of the action. The works pure and noise can be said to be performative, in the sense that performativity is not simply being what they are, but presenting (or performing) that being. Thus a performative work is not necessarily a direct reflection of its nature, as that would not include an element of criticality in the process, such criticality entails presenting the nature of whatever “thing” is the subject, as well as presenting it in such a way that it can incorporate the possibility of its own questioning.

Other works can be said to represent this questioning by representing the performativity, but are not strictly speaking performative in themselves. By doing so, the works act not for themselves but for the artist or the audience. The work static is not what it appears to be—the imperfections of a computer display which allow light to leak in from the edges—but a computer generation of such a feature that relates to what it is – the computer screen. The glitches that it displays tell us about a computer screen, but are not actually the glitches that occur on that screens, but a representation of such glitches. As such these represented glitches are not glitches anymore, the audience must imagine that they are glitches. These work in the same way as a didactic presentation: “Here is a demonstration of the thing I am talking about. While you can see this ‘in the wild,’ this here is a recreation.” The recreation presupposes a transfer of the effect, and this transfer holds the key to the work. To present the glitches is one thing that perhaps tells us something very direct about the computer screen and its flaws. To represent the glitches takes them into an idealised state; they become something like poetry because the hand of the artist has embedded itself into those glitches, such that it is not a glitch any more but representation of a glitch.

In a similar way, the artwork repeatedly uses a convention of file formats, the animated GIF to trick the senses into interpreting the visual image into a representation of three-dimensional space. The GIF is dimensionally small, but on screen it tiles to fill the available space. The animation is such that the particles that make up the overall image appear to seamlessly travel across the screen. The simple dots move in relation to each other to create the illusion of perspectival depth, yet they are just black pixels against a white background. The mind could see the image as merely a flat expanse over which the black dots travel at varying speeds. But the mind seems inclined to interpret these varying speeds as the same speed at different depths. The screen then becomes a frame into a space created by the movement of the pixels, the simplest form of 3D being one that technology merely suggests and which the mind then recreates for itself.

So, returning to the question: “What is the human in relation to aaajiao’s works?” it might be interesting to think that the human is in some way constituted by the information that the screen projects out, which then meets the human, the audience, half way. The human is the other to the screen, as the screen is to the human. aaajiao is the creator of an ecosystem between the human and the screen, one that constitutes each from the other.

Author: Edward Sanderson

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Catalogue Essay: aaajiao – Between the Machine and the Human by escdotdot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International