Research and Development
ANX Gallery, Portland
a culmination of the Form3D + ADX Artist Residency
June 1 , 2018 through June 30, 2018
June 8, 2018, 6:30pm reading and reception
The tools get on without us.
I have been sharing space for three months with machines who work day and night and on the weekends. The Voxel smells sweet in such a way that one can’t help but suspect that its sweetness is somehow toxic as it lays down mm thin layers of white acrylic sand, outlining microlayers of dimensional forms in a kind of super glue. Meanwhile, the CNC twins buzz their oversized golden bits through thick blue foam the color of the mid-summer sky. They are scaling, mostly. Make something you can hold in two hands or embrace in your arms, and the machines—those for capture and those for report—will scale it to human size or better.
The machines translate objects into zeros and ones and back again.
Meanwhile, on the floor above those machines in an empty warehouse space that once housed printing machines, my temporary studio here looks out on an asphalt/concrete recycling pit, where dumptrucks, backhoes, tractors, and an elaborate grinder receive chunks of junk sidewalk and foundation through one gate and crush them into reusable rock and gravel that exits through another. I/O.
Last week at the art school where I work, a beautiful shoe-crocheting robot rolled up in the parking lot for a demo. And as dazzled as I was by its elegant articulating arms—oh I love articulating arms—and the way they rotated the crochet needles, punctured the sole precisely, I could not help but key in on the woman seated at a table off to the side. She sat, working with the cord on a pair of shoes by hand and, I imagined, finishing the work the robot was not able to do.
A couple of years ago, my sons, daughter, and I had a conversation about what makes us human. It didn’t start that way. It was prompted by an article reporting that robots are coming for our jobs: all of them. We wondered what is it that we can do that machines cannot. Machines can make, as my friend Victor says, “things that look like art.” They can make symphonies and pop songs.
A machine can imitate empathy.
But a machine cannot feel empathy, we decided. Yet.
I empathize with the replicants. I empathize with Wall-e.
I admit to a tendency to be seduced by machines. A GTO, a C & P press, an IBM mainframe, a backhoe, any robotic arm from an assembly line. I love my DeWalt cordless drill, and I really love my MacBook Air. I struggle with the contradictions between this susceptibility or predisposition and my critique of the economic system in support of which these machines currently operate. I am sorry. And also, I believe another world is possible.
I am in love with machines, their smooth movements, their flashing LEDs, their efficiencies and the cleverness of their makers they evince in every move.
But I also love error. And what can be found there. And doing it wrong. The individually enacted, if inadvertent, clinamen or Lucretian swerve.
Machines perhaps have taught me to privilege my feelings, my errors, my intuition in ways that they cannot.
Tell me what you think is meant by machines of loving grace.
Tell me how you feel about The Cloud.
Research and Development, a presentation of in-progress research, reflects questions of translation and mistranslation. Machine error. Machine enhancement. The errors in the digital archive of things (what the machine remembers) when the things themselves are no more. And as always, the development of tools in the spiritual or esoteric margins of practical possibility. Prototyping speculative frictions. Protecting the soft inner linings. Undermining the patriarchy.