A to Z of Art & Technology
#photography & visual arts
small, A to Z of Art & Technology, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Personal Instrument, 1969-1972, photo courtesy of Łódź Art Museum, 01_instrument_osobisty_1969-1972.jpg
From Algorithmic art to Wetware – we hereby present a glossary of key terms related to the technological arts.
An artform which makes use of the algorithmic recurrence of a given structure, e.g. of a visual pattern in painting, composition in music, or spacial construction in sculpture or installation. Algorithmic art is grounded in a mathematically predictable structure referring to a mechanical or digital process of image, sound, or object generation. Even though in many of its incarnations algorithmic art is analogue, its approach to a creative matter demonstrates and foregrounds a relationship towards products that is typical of post-technological culture.
Ambient intelligence / Environmental intelligence
An ambient or environmental intelligence is a form of intelligence that is distributed in space and does not have a central and permanent core. Whereas ambient intelligence refers mainly to electronic environments, environmental intelligence can describe the natural environment's capacity to behave in an intelligent manner (e.g. a specific natural ecosystem). Environments demonstrating the characteristics of ambient and environmental intelligence are responsive (they are capable of actively reacting, for instance, to the presence of humans) as well as self-organising and self-regulating. In contemporary post-technological culture, ambient intelligence is most commonly associated with intelligent technologies, which might be best exemplified by so-called smart cities, powered predominantly by computer technologies. On the other hand, in the natural sciences and in the post-humanistic and environmentalist perspectives which draw from them, environmental intelligence is connected to redefining the levels of intelligence and consciousness in natural live systems (of both plants and animals) and to their forms of communication in specific situations.
Both forms of the described spatial intelligence are resonated 20th century electronic art and in art&science works, especially in the concepts or interactive and responsive environments, developed by many creators of interactive art, new media art, software art, generative art, bio art, and art&science.
Contemporary art&science practices are transdisciplinary in nature, as they combine the skillsets typical for the fields of arts, science, and engineering. The aim of this kind of activity, often realised in creative teams that can demonstrate a variety of competences, is the expansion of artistic boundaries and tools, based on scientific concepts or procedures. Art and science are treated as mutually complementary perspectives which enter a creative interaction. Thus created artworks are hybrid in their nature, as they refer to scientific cognition as well as artistic experience. Creators employ the strategies of art&science with a few main goals in mind: in order to explore, comprehend, and visualise the complex issues of contemporary science and post-technological culture in the artistic process; in order to use art as a mediator and initiator of a social debate concerning the relationship between the advanced science and technology and the contemporary culture and civilisation (e.g. from the perspective of transhumanism, posthumanism, or environmentalism); in order to generate and carry out new integrated art and research practices, exploring new creative strategies in contemporary post-technological culture; and also in order to develop a critical view of the methods and procedures employed by science and engineering in the light of the challenges and needs of a modern society.
A potential intelligence allowed to attain a certain level of self-awareness, available to machines, robots, artificial life, computers, or even software. As a research discipline, artificial intelligence seeks solutions leading to creation of a self-standing and intelligent form that is autonomous and independent from human influence. From the cultural and philosophical perspective, artificial intelligence is a significant feature of post-technological culture and transhumanism. As a scientific and technological device, it is described as one of the key projects of the 21st century, one that is entirely transformative for the contemporary cultural and civilisational landscape. The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was coined by the American computer scientist and cognitive scientist John McCarthy in 1955.
Contemporary popular culture offers two approaches towards artificial intelligence as a project of the future. One of them is related to post-apocalyptic visions, in which artificial intelligence, having achieved greater mental capability and a higher level of development than humans, provokes a civilisational war between human beings and intelligent machines (this is the so-called artilect war concept, conceived by the Australian scientist Hugo de Garis). The second approach envisions a symbiotic path of the human civilisation and the AI, and in some versions and posthumanist concepts even imagines an equity of human beings and artificial intelligence (this approach, referred to as Friendly AI, or FAI, is credited to the American journalist Eliezer Yudowsky).
Contemporary art often employs various artificial intelligence concepts as themes, areas of exploration, and references – in, for instance, interactive art, generative art, tactical media, net art, software art, bio art, algorithmic art, and art&science.
Artificial life is a form of life that arises not just as a result of a natural process, but also effecting from scientific and technological calculations and projects. As a research discipline and an artistic practice, it is interested in existing life forms (i.e. the so-called life-as-we-know-it), but also in potential forms that could be living (so-called life-as-it-could-be). The name artificial life was used for the first time in late 1980s by the American computer scientist Christopher Langton, when he organized the Workshop on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems at the National Laboratory in Los Alamos.
Contemporary experiments with artificial life could generally be split into three main categories. The first is related to attempts at creating an artificial mechanical organism based on hardware; the second employs computer simulations and life models created with the use of software; while the third is associated with biotechnological operations which use wetware. Contemporary artificial life prototypes are constructed not only as biochemical organisms, but also as robotic, mechanical or living software systems existing within computers. The issues relating to artificial life are obviously related to the concepts of artificial intelligence, transhumanism, posthumanism, environmentalism, and ambient intelligence. Artificial life theories feed directly into the work of bio artists, biohackers, and art&science creators.
Bio art is a contemporary art genre which uses various biological forms as its fundamental medium (see wetware). Bio artists employ, among others, methods developed by contemporary biological, biotechnological, bioinformatic, or genetic practices, while designing various transformations of organisms, by interfering in their genetic structures (see biohacking, art&science). Activities that fall under bio art often demonstrate a critical approach towards scientific lab research – they are concerned with the ethical, social, and philosophical problems related to the changes in definitions of life and evolution caused by technological tools. Many bio art works also touch on the topics associated with the contemporary concepts of transhumanism, posthumanism, and environmentalism.
Bioarchitecture is an interdisciplinary area of contemporary science and architecture that consists in exploiting biomimetic strategies in design process. On one hand, there is an ecological dimension to biomimetic design – the designed systems are environmentally friendly; on the other hand, those architectural structures incorporate solutions based on organic systems. Bioarchitecture has a special effect on contemporary environmentalist and posthumanistic concepts, and on the understanding and development of ambient intelligence, as well as such art forms as bio art or art&science.
Biohacking consists in hacking living biological networks, intervening in biological systems, and modifying them. This term is often used by bio artists and creators surrounding the DIY Biology movement, whose members organise in independent groups in the spirit of the makers movement, realising projects from the intersection of biology, genetics, and biotechnology. Wetware becomes the object of biohacking.
Biomimetics is an interdisciplinary subsection of contemporary science, focusing on designing modern technological solutions that emulate the functions and behaviours observed in nature. One could thus say that the main goal of biomimetics is, on one hand, designing new technologies that mimic nature, and on the other, a thorough observation and analysis of mechanisms encountered in nature, enabling for instance algorithmic simulations of new forms of artificial life. Bionic engineering is of particular importance to contemporary science and art, especially to such fields as environmentalism, artificial intelligence, artificial life, transhumanism, posthumanism, biohacking, bio art, art&science, and bioarchitecture.
Circuit bending is one of the methods of hacking physical devices, consisting in altering and customising their original electronic circuits. By means of a creative interference and initiation of short circuits in default electronic systems, of, for instance, toys, sound effects, synthesizers, the artists invent, for example, musical instruments that make unusual and surprising sounds. Circuit bending is one of the basic techniques of contemporary electronic music, noise, and sound art.
Creative coding consists in writing a programming code with an emphasis on its expressive, aesthetic, or meta-linguistic functions, rather than just its functionality and effectiveness. It is thus a creative way of obtaining unique software features of new media art, software art, generative art, or net art.
The notion of culture 2.0 refers to a new reality, whose cultural layer is formed not just by the traditional strategies and cultural activities, but also, to a large extent, by such spheres as the Internet, telecommunications networks, technologies, science, software, hardware, and so on (see post-technological culture). Within this reality, the traditional communication mechanisms enter the framework of democratised networks and free access to information in contemporary society. As Edwin Bendyk writes in the report Kultura 2.0. Wyzwana cyfrowej przyszłości (Culture 2.0: The Challenges of the Digital Future – editor's translation):
The term culture 2.0 does not refer to the Internet culture, cyberspace culture, or other forms of cultural life that are typical for new media. Culture 2.0 stands for the body of phenomena taking place within the cultural space of contemporary society, described by in such terms as: information society, network society, and knowledge society.1
Keen analysts of culture 2.0, besides highlighting its positive democratising aspects, also point out the negative mechanisms of technological exclusion, which harm everyone without the means or skills allowing them to participate in the new cultural model.
Thanks to the communication mechanisms of culture 2.0, new forms and artistic strategies have been developed, such as: new media art, interactive media, net art, software art, hacktivism, or postinternet endeavours.
Cybernetics is a meta-science concerned with control, communication, and data management systems in given circuits. Cybernetics was founded by the American mathematician and philosopher Norbert Weiner, who published his work Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine in 1948. Cybernetic theories have had great impact on new art forms and practices, such as Nam June Paik's cybernetic art manifestos or Roy Ascott's telematic art manifestos.
In Poland, cybernetic concepts were also influential and have become the methodological basis of, among others, new art theories developed by Mieczysław Porębski since 1960s, later included in the book Art and Information (1986). They also formed the ontological and epistemological basis of many novels and philosophical treaties by Stanisław Lem.
As a research discipline, cybernetics had a constructive impact on shaping the artistic forms that incorporated mathematical operations and were based on algorithmic and IT processes: electronic, interactive, and new media art practices. Later cybernetic concepts, for instance second-order cybernetics, have facilitated new research in environmentalism, artificial intelligence, ambient intelligence, as well as led to the first critical perspectives on humanism and anthropocentric subject. By the same token, they inaugurated the posthumanist discourse and philosophical theories grounded in the concepts of relational condition of the human and non-human subjects as the ontological and epistemological foundation of the post-technological world.
Darknet (also referred to as Deep Web) is a hidden online network that cannot be accessed via a standard web browser. Darknet is accessible through a special software or a specific web browser configuration, while surfing, downloading, and developing content is much more anonymous on darknet than in it is on surface web. Tor (The Onion Router) is one of the most popular hidden networks, which restricts web traffic analysis by means of multiple online encryption and data transmission. Darknet is increasingly popular not just among hackers (see hacking), but also among hacktivists (see hacktivism), and artists engaged in net art, software art, and tactical media. Thanks to the anonymity and protection from user tracking, darknet has become an arena for free discussion and expression of beliefs, as well as for publishing all kinds of illegal content. For this reason, it is often the site of illegal black markets for products and services.
Electronic art is a form of artistic practice that employs electronic media, or, broadly speaking, technological media. Electronic art encompasses a majority of artistic phenomena since the mid-1960s, incorporating analogue and digital technologies (including video art, installation art, interactive art, new media art, electronic music, and so on). The origins of electronic art coincide with the media revolution of the 1960s, when the first cybernetic, telematic, computer, and interactive art manifestos were written. Electronic art has largely contributed to an increased interest in interaction with users as well as new strategies of image and sound representation. It also initiated a debate on the democratisation of technology (see maker culture), social participation in the transformations of technological communication systems (see hacktivism), or the new subjectivity in the context of post-technological culture (see also transhumanism and posthumanism).
Environmentalism is a contemporary comprehensive research perspective applied in philosophy, humanities, social and natural sciences. It demonstrates an interdisciplinary approach to the issues of ecology, often combining theory and practice. As a trans-discipline, environmentalism does not only deal with ecological issues, but also with the relationship between contemporary culture and natural systems. It therefore offers new areas and methodologies for anthropology and culture studies. From the point of view of post-technological culture, environmentalism has a pluralistic impact – besides the rules governing the social, political and economic systems, it also incorporates the rules behind energy economics, systems ecology, and biotechnology into the sphere of social critique. At the same time, environmentalist studies seek new models of describing the relationship between human beings and their natural surroundings in a contemporary reality (see posthumanism).
The first environmentalist analyses appeared already in 18th-century treaties on the relationship between humans, nature, and the consequences of the emerging industrial revolution. The discipline started properly developing in the mid-20th century, simultaneously with the growth of social and natural sciences, ecology, and cybernetics. The latter enabled the perception of the cultural, scientific, ecological, technological, economical, and natural systems not as separate, but as correlated and mutually responsive. Hence, environmentalism proposes a holistic perspective on the post-technological, economical, cultural, and natural reality. It points to the fact that an imbalanced growth of one of the elements of this global ecosystem leads to negative consequences in others.
From a philosophical perspective, environmentalism has also largely contributed to the changes in the discourse on the contemporary subject. On one hand, it redefined the concept of natural environment (see environmental intelligence), while on the other, it created emancipatory processes in culture (see posthumanism). From the outset, it was strongly connected to social movement and many artistic practices, especially land art, ecological art, arte povera, bio art, and art&science.
The notion of generative art refers to all artistic practices incorporating systems of, for instance, natural language, computer programs (software), machine procedures, or others, where those systems become somewhat autonomous in the artistic process. In some cases, the concept of generative art may be synonymous with algorithmic art, however one of the main features of generative art is the focus on the creation of an artwork which is a result of computer or machine operations. We are thus dealing with a work initiated by a human, however co-created by a machine. In most cases, a human being plays the role of a designer of a system or algorithm which constitutes the basis of the final piece. Generative art is often connected to such techniques as live coding or creative coding. It may be presented in many different forms – from music, sound, graphic, or space compositions to dance and architectural forms.
The idea of hacking refers to modifying software or hardware in a way that changes their function or original purpose. Hacking can be performed on IT networks, but also physical and technological objects (e.g. by means of circuit bending), as well as biological systems (see bio art and biohacking). The aim of hacking is not only to transform the existing technological system, but also to penetrate it thoroughly. The hacked equipment thus becomes an object with specific functions, imposed by the hacker. From the perspective of artistic practices, hacking could be compared to art interventions in public space.
The origins of hacking culture are associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its students first used the terms hack and hacker in the 1960s, in reference to humorous interventions based on expert technological knowledge, and their creators, respectively. Later on, this term was appropriated by software engineers and began to describe the techniques as well as the experts with exceptional programming skills.
Hacktivism is a form of social and political activism, carried out via internet network and hacking tools (see hacking). This term first emerged in the first half of 1990s, and was used by the members of the hacking movement. It was reportedly coined by a member of the hacker organisation Cult of the Dead Cow who worked under the nickname Omega. However, it is the initiatives organised in the late 1980s by the Australian hacker and political activist, Julian Assange (at the time operating under the online handle Mendax) that are most frequently quoted as the first hacktivist operations. Mendax teamed up with other hackers and established the group International Subversives, which has for instance hacked into IT systems, retrieved classified data from many military, state, and bank organisations, among others.
Hacktivists mainly focus on promoting freedom of speech and free access to information and software, which is also connected to the struggle for human rights in a global reality. As a rule, this digital form of activism employs technological tools, pairing programming skills with forms of social critique, with the aim to organise virtual protests, manifestations, collect and publish classified information, block websites, hack internet accounts, and encourage various forms of civil disobedience. Some of the recognised international hacktivist groups include: Anonymous, Cult of the Dead Cow, EDT (Electronic Disturbance Theatre), Chaos Computer Group. Sometimes, due to its radical approach, hacktivism tends to be likened to cyberterrorism, which consists in performing terrorist acts in virtual reality. However, these two forms of social web activities do not always overlap.
Hardware / Software
Hardware refers to the material computer equipment and all its peripheral devices (controllers, webcams, printers, etc.).
Software is the name for computer programs which have no physical representation and are installed on a computer or data carriers as a programming code (see software art).
Interactive art is an art genre that places special emphasis on the form of interaction with audience members. This interaction may be carried out through a technological interface based on special hardware or software. It may also be constructed in an entirely different way, which does not incorporate technology at all.
The paradigm of interactive art was formed as early as in the 1960s, in reaction to the new concepts of social and cognitive psychology, as well as cybernetics, and on the occasion of the first art experiments that employed new analogue technologies and first computer systems (see electronic art). In this sense, some forms of interactive art also served as the backbone of post-technological culture and culture 2.0.
The aesthetics of interactive art is predominantly based on the quality and strategy of interaction, making other elements of an artwork secondary or subordinated to the interaction itself. In this way, the interaction between a viewer and a technical system, or between the audience members, as performed through a specially designed interface, becomes the central focus for the artists. From today's perspective, interactive art may be perceived in much broader terms, as it may form an element of new media art, net art, or software art.
Internet of Things
A concept claiming that the Internet is not just created by interconnected computer devices, but also by other technical equipment, as well as physical objects. The Internet of Things is thus a project which adds a physical dimension to the standard online network, connecting it with all the elements that create it (things, devices, objects), and which previously did not have these functions. Broadly speaking, the Internet of Things (in this context also referred to as the Internet of Everything), enables not only devices and objects, but also human subjects and living organisms to be connected to the network.
As much as Internet of Things is a futurological project, its first applications shape the reality of the post-technological culture. Internet of Things is a natural environment for interactive and electronic art, as well as all kinds of DIY electronics devices, emerging within the maker movement. The relationships between the Internet of Things and the concepts of ambient intelligence, environmentalism, artificial intelligence, and transhumanism represent a whole separate issue.
Live coding consists in writing in programming code in front of a live audience, e.g. as part of a performance or a concert. The code may be largely improvised here, and it is supposed to result in algorithmic (see algorithmic art) or generative structures. Live coding is often used in improvised electronic music or in generative art.
Maker culture / Maker movement
An international, unofficial movement adhering to the DIY philosophy, which is fundamentally based on learning through independent design and production of objects and tools. Originally stemming from pastime activities, the maker movement brings together people interested in expanding their technical skills in the fields of contemporary engineering, design, programming, and so on. A lot of the makers gathers in groups which organize their meeting hubs and workshops (makerspaces, hackerspaces, fab labs).
From the perspective of cultural studies, maker movement may be perceived as a form of critique of the consumer culture. It is related to the ideas behind the grassroots exchange of objects and technological devices among users which shies away from commercial market, as well as mending and improving already owned objects, creating self-designed tools and objects, and making them available to other users. Maker culture is very diversified: its forms of activity span from hobby ventures, through professional production of auteur devices, artistic practices, all the way to social activism and hacking.
Genealogically, maker culture is strongly tied to the hacking movement that reaches back to 1960s, and whose representatives have explored technology in an effort to reclaim technological culture for the sake of alternative culture and its community building potential.
In one of contemporary maker movement manifestos (The Maker Movement Manifesto. Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers, 2014), Mark Hatch writes:
Make. Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create, and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. These things are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our souls.
Share. Sharing what you have made and what you know about making with others is the method by which a maker’s feeling of wholeness is achieved. You cannot make and not share.
Participate. Join the Maker Movement and reach out to those around you who are discovering the joy of making. Hold seminars, parties, events, maker days, fairs, expos, classes, and dinners with and for the other makers in your community.
Support. This is a movement, and it requires emotional, intellectual, financial, political, and institutional support. The best hope for improving the world is us, and we are responsible for making a better future.2
Contemporary art genre fundamentally based on the Internet. Net art works have a digital form and are distributed via the Internet, thus proposing a new sort of contact with audiences, distinct from the traditional exhibiting functions that are typical for art galleries and museums. Net artists might thus create art websites, e-mails, video works for online streaming, internet software, or web viruses. Net art works are usually interactive (see interactive art), offering all kinds of forms of interactions between humans and computers through special art interfaces designed for the user. Hence, an aesthetic experience is not only apparent in the media used in an interaction with the computer, but also in the structure and aesthetic qualities of a given interaction. In many cases, net art pieces may also be associated with such forms of contemporary media art and digital culture phenomena as: tactical media, liberature, software art, hacktivism, or artificial intelligence.
New media art
New media essentially denotes media incorporating computer and digital technologies, such as computer graphics, digital animation, interactive media, virtual art, video games, and 3D printing. New media art is generally a digitalised version of the more semantically- and genre-inclusive electronic art.
In many cases, new media art is interactive (see interactive art), generative (see generative art), and programmed (see software art) in its nature. In his book The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich notes that new media are in fact a remediation of the analogue media, which in contemporary world have assumed a digital form. We can therefore identify five basic characteristics of new media: numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding.
Numerical representation makes it possible to record each piece of content, every object and form in a numeric form, i.e. a digital code, thanks to which given data may be read on a computer. In this case, we are dealing with a discontinuity of new media (i.e. they are put together from fragments which can be modified without interfering in the whole). Old, analogue media, which are continuous in nature, stand in the opposition to these operations.
Modularity describes the structure of new media, revealing their hybrid character. Internet may serve as an example of modularity, as it is a conglomerate of many autonomous media – such as for instance graphics, video, text, and so on. This multi-mediality is assembled into a single message by means of a programming code.
Automation refers to processes which occur immediately within new media, often eliminating a conscious user participation (e.g. automatic operations performed by software, taking place without the knowledge of the programme's user).
Variability is related to the infinite possibilities of generating the same object inscribed in a digital code, its possible transformations, as well as digital and physical representations.
The last feature – transcoding – is a global consequence of the existence of new media in contemporary culture, which becomes dependent on the programming and technological sphere, thanks to which, for instance, one piece of data recorded in the binary code may be transcoded to various media formats (see post-technological culture).
Art genre, and at the same time an aesthetic form employed by media artists. Noise refers to forms of contemporary industrial electronic music, sound art, generative art, as well as various visual and performative arts strategies, based on various forms of noise (they can be aural or visual).
Luigi Russolo, Edgar Varèse, John Cage, and Karlheinz Stockhausen are most often quoted as the pioneers of noise music.
A contemporary philosophical concept which decentralises the human subject and presents it within a network of many different organisms and beings. Posthumanism (as opposed to transhumanism) breaks with the anthropocentric humanist perspective, in a pursuit of a new understanding of contemporary humankind, as seen through its relationships with other, so-called non-human beings, rather than through reasserting the importance of the agency of humans as the superior species. Posthumanism, then, extends the processes of liberation and emancipation to many different species that inhabit the Earth.
The notion of postinternet mainly denotes a critical and artistic discourse, which aims to analyse the relations and changes that emerge as a result of a very broad application of network strategies in contemporary post-technological culture. The postinternet movement is one of the consequences of the discussion on culture 2.0 and 3.0, along with its strategy of convergence (transformations of a system of passive communication into an active and advocated democratised information exchange network). The idea of postinternet is not limited to activities in cyberspace, but also refers to the changes in more immediate social and cultural relations which result from an intensified use of the Internet in contemporary societies. Therefore, postinternet art does not have to exist only in the online dimension (see net art, software art), but can also focus on actions in material reality, highlighting the real-life consequences of online network usage.
Contemporary post-technological culture is characterised by the integral involvement of science and technology in cultural processes and by the disappearance of clear qualifiers that allow to view techniques and technologies as external to the contemporary civilisation. Hence, we are able to observe a transition from the definition of technological society (as described, for instance, by Jacques Ellul in the 1950s), within which technology is perceived as ‘something external’ to culture, to technological systems that have become the object of post-technological approaches, where technology turned out to be an integral part of social, political, and economic processes. In thusly understood post-technological culture, the classic categories of body, subjectivity, space, but also of emotions, interactions, or communications, begin to be redefined. Human experience is more and more visibly expanded by newly discovered, technologically generated and scientifically formulated sensual, perceptive, and cognitive aspects. At the same time, it is graspable only on the intersection of very different practices and research disciplines.
This process also includes latest contemporary art, which is more and more tightly connected to scientific research, at the same time mediating and translating between laboratory experiments and their possible social applications. The artistic activities, often carried out in teams, which include, besides artists, also engineers, scientists, as well as social science and humanities specialists, simultaneously becomes one of the major fields of forming a critical thought for the social debate on the real influence of science on various areas of life. One of the crucial cultural effects of the post-technological turn is the development of the art&science paradigm, but also of such forms as interactive art, generative art, net art, or software art, and their impact on the artistic practices. These very diverse forms of art treat technology as a system that is integrated with the aesthetic and conceptual level, sometimes even presenting scientific and technological solutions and experiments alone as artworks.
Software art is an artform which relies on computer software and programming code as a medium. Artists engaged in software art either create their own computer programmes or interfere in the existing systems. Through its activities, which concentrate on programmer's circles, internet, and video games, this type of art offers a critical analysis of the functions and impact of programming languages on contemporary culture. Software is connected to other digital art genres, such as generative art, code art, and net art. The origins of this kind of artistic practice can be traced back to the 1960s, when the hacker culture emerged in the United States. The crucial period of software art's growth fell mainly in the 1990s and was related to the spread of internet use and wide availability of programming tools.
Sound art is a contemporary art genre, primarily based on sound and its various spatial and instrumental representations. Sound art is a very broad term, encompassing all sorts of artistic activities found on the intersection of contemporary music, noise, installation art, sculpture, or new media. Sound art activities are predominantly characterised by an unusual approach to sound and to the methods of sourcing, producing, and presenting sound as an art form.
The first sound art activities could be identified as early as in the experiments with sound performed by the pre-war avant-garde artists, active in early 20th century (e.g. Luigi Russolo), however it was not until the second half of the 20th century that the mature sound art practices begin to surface, in the circles of artists interested in the latest experimental music.
new media art
This term describes the phenomenon of media activism aimed at introducing and inaugurating social and political interventions which employ media systems in alternative ways. There are many different forms of intervention which could be described as tactical media, for instance seeking independent content distribution channels, designing alternative forms of communication and interaction with the audience, or provoking crises of existing structures of media communication. The term tactical media was popularised in the mid-1990s by David Garcia and Geert Lovink. It currently encompasses most socially critical art practices that make use of media technology. Tactical media is directly related to the phenomena of hacking, hacktivism, darknet, and net art.
A contemporary philosophical concept, and also to some extent a social and political doctrine, which advocates the application of modern science and technology in modifications of a human being that will eliminate all of its imperfections and expand its natural cognitive and physical capabilities. Transhumanism encompasses many concepts of mediatisation and technologisation of humans – from so-called minduploading (i.e. transporting the consciousness of a given individual to the sphere of ICT network), through robotisation and prosthetisation of a human body (in order to maximize its natural motoric and cognitive capacities), to the concepts of immortality (i.e. various types of visions of transplanting human mind into the structure of an artificial, bionic body). From the humanist perspective, unlike posthumanism, transhumanism is a philosophy which confirms the significance of a human being in a post-technological reality, protecting it from degradation as a species and from threats that result from the intensive technological progress as well as from the works on artificial intelligence (AI, artificial intelligence) that have intensified in the 20th and 21st centuries. In dystopian transhumanist visions, in the future a human being may, as a species, become subordinate to the more intelligent machines. This is why it is presently crucial to expand its capacities to survive in new conditions.
Wetware refers to the terms software and hardware, standing for an analogous description of living biological systems. Wetware may include single body cells, simple somatic systems, or entire organs. This term is most frequently used by bio art authors and theoreticians. Just like software and hardware, wetware can be hacked – such activity is called biohacking.
Author: Michał Krawczak, transl. AM, March 2016
1 Edwin Bendyk, Kultura 2.0. Wyzwania cyfrowej przyszłości, http://kpbc.umk.pl/Content/45368/Raport_Kultura_2.0.pdf
2 The Maker Movement Manifesto. Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers, New York 2014, electronic edition, 11-13.