Archive for January, 2009

Week 3_ Art: Perception Lies in the Eye of the Beholder. By Nicolina Greco

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

When reflecting on this week’s readings by Walter Benjamin and Douglas Davis, it fascinated me to learn  how much changes throughout history have influenced changes in perspectives of art. At the peak of the industrial revolution, new mechanical inventions gave way for new methods of reproducing artwork, such as photography and film making, which began the age of digital artwork and reproduction as we know it today. What was not initially recognized at the time but is now debated about today are the politics involved in reproducing artwork, and the real justification of priding replicas of artwork that are now so easily reproducible. One of Benjamin’s main points in his excerpt was that “works of art are received and valued on different planes; with one, the accent is on the cult value; with the other, on the exhibition value.” Benjamin explains that some believe true value lies in the sole existence of a piece of art and believe it should be hidden to obtain its worth, while others believe artwork is deemed worthy the more it is displayed, acknowledged, and reproduced.

Although I can understand both polar sides of this argument, I must say that I am more pessimistic about this topic and believe that art should be valued based on its sole existence rather than how many times it can be replicated. In my opinion, it is worth so much more to travel to the place where the original art piece was created rather than going to a local museum and seeing a replica of it. For example, I will never forget the special moment when I viewed the original statue of Michelangelo’s The Pieta in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Italy. This beautiful statue of the virgin Mary holding her son Jesus’ body in her arms is a statue I have seen many times, but the moment I got to behold the original piece brought tears to my eyes, and was an experience I will never forget. I believe that art should always hold this type of value and should be appreciated in this sense.

I agree with Benjamin’s analyses of  photography and film and the questions he addresses as to whether they should be considered “art.” It is true that a photograph captures a moment in time and space, but is the existence of the actual photograph itself really that meaningful when one can easily replicate it, or edit the photograph on digital workshops? A similar feeling is addressed with the film making industry. Although acting is an art, how much of  an actor’s artistic talent is really portrayed in movies when the talented producer behind the camera can capture any emotion he needs to? It is hard for me, personally, to fully accept photography and film as art because our society has the ability to give false impressions with how advanced we are today. However, it is truly a matter of opinion as to what people perceive art to be.

The following link is an article that further addresses the real jobs that actors have when filming, and how the camera does most of the work:

When further discussing film in lecture on Thursday, I also found the topic of robotics in cinema to be quite interesting. Throughout history and popular culture, robots have reflected the mood, social and cultural issues, and technology of their times. For example, in the Cold War 1950s, robots were generally viewed as threatening forces, but in later years reflected both the conflict and the continuity between man and machine. Robots have also functioned as both servant-helpers or oppressors of humanity, portraying the good and evil sides. Building off of the idea of a third culture emerging, I think that the idea of robots that are created to resemble human behavior further supports the two cultures of art and science emerging. The first movie that comes to mind when I think of this concept is I-Robot, a 2004 film starring Will Smith, where a robot named Sonny proved himself to be unlike all the other manmade robots because “he” claimed to have feelings, emotions, and dreams. This scientifically created machine was able to express human-like behavior based on observing humans. This movie made me think  about how technologically advanced our world is becoming, and wonder if someday this realm between art and science that has emerged will really be able to create a robot that resembles human beings physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here is an example of a man who is in the process of perfecting the robot he built to do just that:

It amazes me how much art, science, and technology have emerged in today’s society. Although my perception of what I consider art is broadening, I am still trying to rid the stereotypical image of what I believe art should be. The most important lesson I have learned so far is that the perception lies in the eye of the beholder. These past three weeks have really opened my eyes to different perspectives in art and how much science is emerging in the field of art in many ways, and I can’t wait to continue learning more about it.

-Nicolina Greco

Week 3_The industrial age, kinetic art, and robotics_by Nikolaos Mouchtouris

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

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Art always played an important role in every society, either as a pioneer or simply as the expression of the free-spirited. Usually, when we talk about art, we think of fine arts and arbitrary paintings that definitely express the artist who made it, but do not really appeal to the majority of the viewers. However, in my personal opinion, art is not only what is beautiful, but also everything that is creative, innovative; a pioneer in its field. For example, the film industry began over a hundred years ago and there have been many good movies. Typically, they are all considered art, yet there are many that are really identical to previous ones, just repeating something that has been already said. However, every now and then, a new movie comes up that distinguishes for some reason-maybe because of the plot, the action, the scenery, or the acting. These specific movies, which are not forgotten throughout the years and attract the attention of people who are even born years later, are what have made cinema the seventh art. What is imperative to mention is that not everybody likes all these “good” movies, however, everybody agrees on the reason why they are remarkable. I would like to bring up the example of a movie whose trailer we saw on Thursday’s lecture, the Matrix, as it is very original. Even though it may appear to be another mindless action movie, yet it introduced a new visionary style, bullet-time, creating a “new dimension” in the field of filming. An analogy of the Matrix’s contribution to filming could possibly be the advent of perspective in painting.

After the Matrix, there have been many other movies that copied its visionary style. Even though, they may have the exact same style, same way of filming, you cannot really call all these movies groundbreaking, since you have already seen that. According to Walter Benjamin, a perfect reproduction of a piece of art lacks the trait of unique existence, which is what defines art. Authenticity is definitely an important facet of art; unfortunately though what is authentic and what is not may not always be evident. In contrast, art that is commonly seen through the media, posters or in commercials, advertisement, is not true art because it is neither genuine nor expresses somebody’s emotions and beliefs. Even though advertisement is very popular and necessary, nowadays, as it supports the capitalistic economy, still it rather intends to sell merchandise products.

As I was surfing the Internet, I found a little fighting game, imitating the Matrix characters’ skills. The programmer who created this flash game cannot be given credit for creating art, but he managed to entertain many people without a doubt. Personally, I found it a really fun game:

Nick Mouchtouris

Week 3 Machine made instruments by tung dao

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

A number of years ago, I went to the local luthier in search of a violin. Inside the shop were countless numbers of instruments, from cellos displayed on the floor to violins hung up from the wall. The smell of varnish and maple and the sounds of scraping and chatter surrounded every aspect of one’s presence while in the store. It was heaven on earth for me at the time, as I was led into a small room to try out a few violins to see which one will be my life long companion. After trying them all, I settled on one that had a very pronounced bass response. It was a beautiful instrument, a replica of the “Titian” Stradivarius of the year 1715, made by one of the apprentices of the master luthier. A replica. I began to ponder “How does one replicate a violin? Is it even possible to compare two handmade violins separated by 300 years and say that one is a replica of the other? What can be replicated? Is a replica as good as the original?” As it turns out, there are a few ways to replicate an instrument. A luthier can replicate the shape of a violin or imitate superficial qualities such as nicks and scratches. They can also confirm scientifically how similar two violins are through the use of Chladni Patterns.

This is where we enter the realm of the differences between a handmade violin and a machine produced violin. Talking with the people at the shop, they said that a machine made instrument won’t have the precise shaping as a handmade one. Evidently, engineers have only designed wood working machines that are only precise as a ruler, despite being able design machines that mass produces photographic lenses which require precision to the nanometer. So I went on to ask how my instrument was replicated from the original. The clerk responded that the shape of the plates and dimensions of every little aspect of each instrument have been documented and can thus be replicated. The exterior of an instrument can be mimicked through artificial antiquing; the information of which can be obtained from photographic records. It seems as though it is entirely possible to replicate an instrument’s shape and everything about it such that it is difficult to tell the difference between original and replica. Walter Benjamin writes that the imitation, no matter how exact it is, will always be missing one element, “its presence in time and space… [the] unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence”. Certainly, the owner of the original will definitely know the original more intimately than anyone and can distinguish between the two almost by feel.

A vibrating plate with a sprinkle of sand produces Chladni Patterns

Visually an instrument can be identical, and that is of little matter to musicians, whose lives depend on making sounds and performing. The visual identicalness of a replica to its original means almost nothing if the identical sound is sought. Luthiers use a technique devised by Ernest Chladni to determine how a violin will sound. By suspending the violin plates over a speaker, the plates can be vibrated sympathetically, similarly to the soprano breaking a wine glass with her voice. The patterns of vibration can be visualized by sprinkling dark sand on the plate, where it will bounce away from areas that are vibrating and collect on nodes which do not vibrate. All the luthier has to do is shape the replica’s plate such that the Chladni patterns are identical and, voila, identical aural characteristics.

It is worth mentioning here the differences between a handmade instrument and a machine made one through the use of Chladni patterns. Comparing the patterns, the handmade one has more definition to the patterns. And it makes sense since a mass produced instrument will not have the same attention to detail on its workmanship. They are definitely a fascinating way to determine character, nonetheless, for any instrument.

tung dao

Chladni patterns
Mass produced:

Industrialization and Humanities by Oscar Chacon

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Once again the effect of the scientific world on the art world never seizes to amaze me.  There seems to be an endless amount of connections between the two studies.  This week’s topic was especially interesting since I have not even come to consider the potential of industrialization having any sort of joining features with art since it was born of theology that is quite opposite I have learned from my History of Modern Though class that during the time in the Industrial Revolution the people that owned factories and managed them were considered Utilitarian, meaning that the base of all their thinking was on cold hard facts.  They held absolutely no respect towards art, poetry, or novel literature. 

This was something I learned last week in my lectures and from my readings of John Stuart Mill’s variety of work, and Charles Dickens’ Hart Times.  The novel Hard Times was especially interesting to me considering this week’s topic for the class’ lectures.  The novel was a revolt against the theology of the time, and criticized the bad effects of such thinking, which standardized the value of human beings to their labor value and eliminated identity.  This brought to my attention the bad side effects of having of having an extremist point of view from the sciences. 

Thus, from my thoughts on Dickens’ novel I was reminded of the clip we saw of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  What I was able to deduct from the clip of the movie was very similar to the situation of Hart Times where people are treated only as a labor force, and eliminated from any personal identity.  I think I can say that Metropolis was Dickens’ nightmare realized where the world was run systematically with complete elimination of the value of emotions. 

Once again although seemingly impossible I will make another inclusion of a film in relation to this class.  This is mostly in effect to my interest that has developed over Nikola Tesla because of his grand success, and my obsession over his manner of thinking. Recently, I saw the film The Prestige based the rivalry between two magicians who have different points of view on their work.  They eventually part ways and attempt to better than the other.  There is an inclusion of the great pioneer Nikola Tesla who is projected in the movie as a wizard capable of more than just a master of science.  In the movie he creates a machine that creates copies of any object, and so the magicians find a way to integrate the technology into their trickery.  Thus, once more we see a joining between the sciences and humanities, specifically electrical engineering and theater performance. Although the plot is fictional it resonates their relation in reality.

I have always noted to myself in the back of my head that the progression in technology created a point in time where art was changed and the manner in which it was perceived changed.  The article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin really addresses this dispute between the value of photography and painting on chapter VII where he explains it as a symptom of a “historical transformation.” Personally I see value in both modes of expression. I say this because both have their own criteria to define the work as quality or authentic.   The quality of a picture can be defined by many criteria as well as a painting, and much like this dispute of sciences and humanities the criteria guiding each study is to such an extent that there is no denying the other its rightful position as having value.

Oscar Chacon

Week 3_ Social Rights for Robots? by Joseph Duy Nguyen

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

With the advancement of science, artificial intelligence in robots has risen to the point that many people are considering robots a threat to human existence. This idea of the danger of artificial intelligence is portrayed in countless films made by Hollywood, including the bleak future painted for earth in the Terminator trilogy, in which humans are fighting a war against computers with artificial intelligence capabilities. Regardless of the numerous films produced, the field of robotics is currently being studied with greater interests in many countries around the world. This may have to do with the possibility of creating robot soldiers, robot housekeepers, robot workers, etc. Even though some of these ideas are in existence today, humans have yet to develop the perfect robot. Many, including the national government, have delved deep into this topic, even into the political and social rights for such machines.

Oddly enough, a United Kingdom government report showed that robots one day will demand the same human rights as human beings. This is utter nonsense to many scientists. According to the paper released by the British government, robots may be sharing the same neighborhood and citizenship status as anyone. “If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,” as stated in one of the many released reports. Many scientists have discredited these reports due to a lack of evidence that any such things could be possible.

In my opinion, robots and humans are not equal and can never be equal. Human and robot senses are of a completely different nature. Robots do not have the feelings of a living being such as love and pain. Robots do not have the same perspective on time as humans. What would be considered a lifetime sentence for robots? A hundred years? Two hundred years? There are so many complications sure to arise if robots were ever treated as humans.

Speaking of humanly robots, robotic reproduction also surfaced as an interesting topic. In the report by the British government as mentioned above, the idea of mechanical reproduction by robots was mentioned. Robotic mechanical reproduction is a process in which a self-replicating robot obtains construction materials, manufactures new parts, provides a consistent power source for the new robot “baby,” and programs the new member. If robotic mechanical reproduction is possible, then parental robot would be able to engineer their babies, a process that many parents have thought of since the rise of genetically modified organisms. If robots were able to engineer their offspring, there would be a disastrous effect on human society. Resources are already being spent by humans way too rapidly. With the additional resources needed by robots, the earth will not be able to support life. This can result in a competition between robots and humans.

Scientists and futurists have come up with so many ideas and predictions on the fate of robotics, but in the end, many of these ideas are just mere flights of fantasy. Until humans can develop a self-thinking robot, an artificially intelligent robot will not pose any major risks to humans. However, many of the dangerous jobs today in the world are done by robots. Without these robots, many lives would have been lost due to accidents. It is difficult to determine where to draw the line on how much artificial intelligence a robot should have, but with careful study and precaution, such robotic advances should not be a problem.

Robot (left) created to look almost identical as human (right).

Robot (left) created to look almost identical as human (right).

The idea of a robot being the artificial womb of humans

The idea of a robot being the artificial womb of humans

A sexy singing robot produced by China.

A sexy singing robot produced by China.





Joseph Duy Nguyen

Week 3_Reproduction of Art and Translation of Literature by Cheng-Kuang Liu

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Walter Benjamin makes a good point concerning the “aura” of a piece of artwork. The aura encompasses the uniqueness of the work, including its physical existence in time and space, its cultural context, its ownership, and everything it has gone through. Mass mechanical reproduction grants access of artwork to the populace, but at the same time destroys the work’s aura, its uniqueness. I personally do not have a lot of encounter with artworks or their history, so I cannot conjure up grand and lofty examples from my memory. I will just humbly share some experience from my personal venture into literature translation. I found out on the internet about a prose translation contest. Because it was summer time and I had a lot of time on my hand, I decided to give it a shot. It was not until I started did I realized how difficult the task is. Though I did not adequately appreciate the original text initially when I read it, there really is a lot to it. Besides the content of the author’s argument, the outward structure of the text is quite a piece of work in itself. There are sound techniques such as alliteration, some metaphors, some clichés, and even some French quotes. All these are subtle facets that can easily vaporize upon any probing from an imitator, like me. I attempted to transplant these features to a different language, and therefore to a different cultural context. I managed to do it, but much of the flow and the flavor were lost. In a sense, I tried reproducing the artwork, but though I was able to do it, the product simply does not bear the aura of the original, no matter how well I have done my job. Once the artwork is imitated, the aura, which is half its value, is gone.

I find it intriguing that Walter Benjamin should use the word aura. In my mother tongue, there is a phrase, “a craftsman’s aura.” This phrase actually carries a negative connotation, describing a piece of “artwork” that is produced by taught techniques or imitation. It also denotes rigidity and the lack of spontaneity. Ideally, a piece of artwork should be as if it just spontaneously emerges from nature, or from the artist’s realization of nature, not intervened by human exertion. I think this phrase quite fittingly describes all the imitations and counterfeits out there, in forms of posters, toys, front of cereal boxes, or otherwise.

Now, robotic art. Optimus surely is the Prime example!

Ah, wonderful robotic arts. First of all, you absolutely have to see these videos: They are quite short, but intensely entertaining (well, at least if you were a gizmo nut like me). I love these videos because the mechanisms are so intricate and so precise. I am just in awe for the ingenuity for the designers every time I watch them. Yet these devices serve no apparent practical purpose other than begging for a giggle, a gasp, or a “wow” from the viewer. At the same time, who can deny these are works of art, able to stir up an emotional response within?

The videos are somewhat of a side note. Now please look at this picture.

I love this picture as well, because anyone who had been stopped by a traffic light will laugh when they see this picture. The message is so clear: it conveys so directly the frustration with traffic signals. It portrays such an intimate aspect of our daily life, yet often an aspect neglected because it is so ordinary. In this fast-paced urban age, everyone seems cold and distant from one another. Yet this outrageous portrayal of the traffic light finds common ground among all these alienated people and connects them all with a resounding echo: everyone has been stuck at traffic lights; everyone had cursed at the traffic (especially if you’ve driven in Los Angeles). This tree of traffic lights may not make a whole lot of sense 200 years from now or 200 years back, but in today’s culture, it fits perfectly. This is its cultural context. This is its niche.

Week 3_Asimo by Adam Parker

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

As the years go by, scientists and engineers get closer and closer to creating realistic artificial intelligence. I believe that one of the most important projects in development right now is ASIMO created by Honda.

ASIMO home page (United States)

For those of you who do not know, ASIMO is Honda’s “Advanced Step in Innovative MObility”. At this point in time, ASIMO is capable of running, walking, turning, exercising, pushing a cart, walking with a tray, and even getting your coffee.

Basic experimental versions of ASIMO were created beginning in 1986.

The E0 (1986) model was able to walk in a straight line at about 5 seconds per step. E1 (1987), a bit larger, was able to walk at .25 km/h. With the integration of dynamic movement, E2’s (1989) pace quickened to 1.2 km/h. In 1991, E3’s speed reached that of a human’s walk: 3 km/h. By lengthening the knee, E4 (1991) increased to 4.7 km/h. The 1992 E5 model gained the ability to walk by itself while the 1993 E6 model could walk up stairs and walk over objects.

Between 1993 and 1997, ASIMO prototypes greatly improved. Battery life increased, the robot itself continued to look more and more human-like, and capabilities were enhanced.

For a more interactive approach to learning about ASIMO, feel free to check out History of Humanoids.

In 2000, ASIMO was unveiled. By now, Honda had upgraded their little robot quite a bit. ASIMO now had facial recognition, environment recognition, the ability to distinguish between sounds, recognition of moving objects, and recognition of postures and gestures. ASIMO was again enhanced in 2004 and most recently in 2005.

In recent news, ASIMO has accomplished a great deal:

ASIMO conducts an orchestra

ASIMO dances

ASIMO does a bunch of stuff (compilation)

ASIMO is definitely something to keep an eye out for in the news. It won’t be long before we can’t tell the difference between an ASIMO and actual human. (Hooray for the future!)

Week 3 Blog: Reflections of Walter Benjamin’s Essay by Sara Captain

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Reading Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” it was hard not to recognize the significant influence of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto. For example, Bejamin writes, “During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence,” a statement that is strikingly similar to Marx’s assertion that the ruling ideas of each era are derived from the conditions in which people are living.
While Benjamin devotes his essay to developing his definition and criticism of what he calls “aura,” Marx stresses that the only acceptable ideas of each era are those ideas which are beneficial to the ruling class, or “bourgeoisie.” The connection between aura and bourgeosie can be identified in each term’s reference to some kind of set standard by which the masses of society are sheepishly led to follow. To use the example cited above, just as the bourgeosie determine what is acceptable and what is not for 9/10ths of society, called the proletariat, there exists, according to Benjamin, an “aura” that contributes a large part of what reverence and value society pays to artwork.
Why is it that some pieces of art are viewed as more valuable simply because of the time and place in which they were originally created, even though there are millions of identical copies available with not even a fraction of the value? Part of the answer lies in the existence of aura, a kind of ritualistic tradition. As a revolutionary follower of Marx, it is not surprising that Benjamin disdains the special favoring of certain works of art over others that are exactly the same in terms of their artistic value, though distinguished by their origins. It is as if there is some kind of aristocracy, or royalty, among artworks, and that some, the vast majority, are discriminated against and valued less simply because of where they come from. I think it is interesting to view art through this Marxist lens, especially when Benjamin argues that getting rid of aura via mass mechanized reproduction is indicative of a perception of equality among material items. In many ways, he is right; yes, it would be honorably unmaterialistic of me to go to the Luv and look at the Mona Lisa with no more inspiration and no more appreciation than if I were to google the Mona Lisa online. However, I disagree that this is necessarily a progressive quality, though it is revolutionary. This feat would involve the complete and utter detachment and objectivity of my knowledge about the artwork and my perception of the artwork on hand. While Benjamin advocates an equality of all identical artworks because of reproduction and equality of material goods and because art in fact derives from the same word for artifice in Latin, implying a connotation of fakeness and lack of originality in the first place, I believe that artwork cannot be perceived and judged and organized in the same fashion as human society.
While the age of reproduction via mechanization can on one hand eliminate aura since reproductions are so much more readily available, they can on the other hand go the exact other way and bring aura to the forefront of art speculation. Since there are so many reproductions of art nowadays, shouldn’t the aura of the single original piece be elevated? Economically, a resource that requires more labor to produce is by price more valuable, and I believe in the importance of keeping original artwork distinguished from copies of artwork to preserve the higher value of original work. Artwork is not all equal; some took days, even years, of original thought, creativity, and preparation, while others took five minutes on a factory machine. While there is equal opportunity among men, not all men are equal; some have worked for college degrees and have enhanced their skills via years and years of hard labor, while others have taken the easy way by sleeping all day and going out all night. Thus, while I respect Benjamin’s attempts to follow in Marx’s footsteps by taking to heart that any kind of revolution is good revolution, I disagree that a revolution in the perception we have of artwork is fair in any way to the artists who produce original work. If da Vinci knew his Mona Lisa was going to be worth the same as his students’ identical reproductions of her, and he received the same amount of pay and reverence for his work as his pupils, what would encourage him to be creative and original and productive of great art for society to enjoy?

replication in art

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

After reading the Benjamin article, I found myself pondering the concept of originality and whether or not reproduced art truly encompasses the emotional energy expressed through the creation of the original piece. Just as Benjamin said, no matter how precise and similar digitally reproduced art can be, it can never truly represent the artist’s emotions. But does that mean that every time a piece of art is recreated and copied, it takes away from the originality and “aura” of the original piece? I don’t believe so because I think there will always be a unique element to an original piece that sets it apart from all of the replicas.
The idea of replicated art also made me think about copied music and how it differs from replication in visual art. With music, no matter how many times a song is covered, it will never sound the same as the original piece. There is always a different timbre to the instruments and voices used to cover any type of song. But the interesting thing is that some artists that replicate songs can twist the original piece around the give it their own flavor and still make it tasteful. I believe that when bands and artists replicate songs and add their own style into the mix, it gives it a more unique flare that almost makes it a new type of hybrid song. For instance, a rock band named A Day to Remember recreated a song originally performed by Kelly Clarkson called “since you been gone” and they’ve changed a lot of it around and it is even sung by a male vocalist, but their changes make the song so new and original, that some listeners forget that the song is a song written by Kelly Clarkson.
Although they used the same melody and it still has a similar rhythm, they’ve changed the tone of the song and added a unique beat to it that gives it a different feel, but it still has the same essence as the original Kelly Clarkson song. This is an interesting way to look at replication in art.

Week 3 New Age Kinetic Art by Roger Call

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Focus this week centered on the Industrial Age, kinetic art, and robotics.  While searching for interesting material fitting into these categories I stumbled upon some very interesting modern kinetic art.  Kinetic art is art that contains motion of any type.  Various types of kinetic art include art with moving parts powered by sources such as the wind, motors, or spectators.

The founding of kinetic art technically dates back to the 1920’s.  During the early 20th century in Moscow, early kinetic sculptors Nuam Gabo and Antoine Pevsner created this art style and recorded their ideas and works in the Realist Manifesto.  The Realist Manifesto laid out the theories of contructivism, a form of artistic expression.  Marcel Duchamp is said to have created the first kinetic sculpture in 1913, which was the “Bicycle Wheel.”

Replica of Marcel Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel”

Modern kinetic art has long since evolved from the early days of Duchamp and the Realist Manifesto.  Although the definition of kinetic art remains the same, the styles and innovation of artists and engineers of present day have transformed kinetic art into a science.  The most remarkable kinetic art I have ever seen comes from Dutch artist, engineer and kinetic sculptor, Theo Jansen.  Jansen has taken kinetic art to a completely new level, creating massive wind powered robots that mimic the movements of natural creatures.  Jansen’s creations resemble huge skeleton like creatures, and operate on the beaches of the Netherlands, powered by the wind.


The above picture features one of Jansen’s “Beach Beasts.”

These Beasts can be seen in motion at

Theo Jansen utilized “genetic algorithms” to mimic the movement of natural creatures.  These genetic algorithms are defined as “a search technique used in computing to find exact or approximate solutions to optimization and search problems.”  Genetic algorithms are heavily influenced by evolution and are thus linked in evolutionary biology and other evolution and developmental sciences.  As in nature, Jansen seeks to find the optimal design for his kinetic sculptures thus improving and fine tuning their performance to a maximum efficiency.  The environment Jansen operates his “beasts” in is one of wet and dry sands.  The genetic algorithms he utilizes aid him in creating the complex systems necessary to traverse these terrains.  The materials Jansen uses range from light weight plastics to electical conduits and strange plastic bottles that look somewhat like a 2 liter bottle.  After creating these magnifiscient creatures, Jansen lets them roam on the beach, recording their movements and successes, constantly refining and redesigning, always striving for an optimal build.

Jansen, among other kinetic sculptors and artists, draw the line between art and science ever closer, tying in to the theme of the class quite well.  These masterpieces not only exhibit laws of physics and math, but clearly behold a certain beauty in the eye of the beholder. As Jansen said, “The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.”


Week 3

Section C

Roger Call