I. SOURCE or MAINSTREAM?
If you are looking for something outside of the mainstream
then you may
find it in the work of Batten.
On the other hand -what is mainstream? In fact, Batten
continues the now
forgotten tradition of "artist/programmer" which was mainstream in
the early days before the graphical user interface became master of all.
Since those days the popularization and de-formalization
of the computer
has generated a new "mainstream" of computerized tools for video and
CD production but the revolutionary "essence" of the computer as a
medium may somehow have got lost on the way.
i. So What's a Name?
So how should we categorize this work which is inside
a mainstream which
is not mainstream?
Should we call it a Computer Installation, -Environmental
-Live Computer "Performance", -An audio-machine interpreting its
own self-generated score, -A conceptual sculpture, -An ecological model,
-A social laboratory or An anti-entropic audio-visual automaton?
Is it a work of artistic expression or of scientific
ii. So What are They?
Ecologies of virtual machines moving through (visualized)
both modifying their environment and being modified by it.
Perhaps they are imaginary animals eating their environment
their (recyclable) trails behind them.
Or Goedelian machines, interpreting their space/time
sending us their anti-entropic messages in the form of sound and image!
iii. So What's the Difference?
The integration of necessary difference is the basis
of an ecology.
Co-existing objects may easily be considered different, but if things
change over time -are they the same or are they different?
Change, constancy and identity are fundamental to
the work. Variation
between elements but also variation in time. There is also variation in
the variation (constant or variable?) -determining what, when and how
things may change.
How much variation is needed to avoid simple repetition
and how much
does it need to be restrained to avoid degeneration into chaos?
So most pieces are not a single works but a series
of related works
which are being modified and developed as progress continues.
II. BASIC PRINCIPLES:
The work is an investigation of the aesthetic and
implications of auto-genetic systems and involves the integration
of several principles:
i. Translation (re-interpretation) as a creative principle:
-Development of this aspect is
based on experience with the
"Cross Media Mapping" project carried out at the Institute
for Sonology (then in Utrecht).
-The introspective generation of
visible form from empty
space could be considered to a model of, or a metaphor for,
human creative processes such as science and art.
-The way in which the automata
reinterpret the result of
their actions to generate new variations in behavior
could be considered to be a visual generalization of the
Goedel paradox exhibited by formal systems when interpreted
as statements regarding themselves.
ii. Ecological diversity as necessity in closed systems:
-At present based on non-intelligent
systems (i.e. natural
evolutionary systems, both biological and non-biological).
-Possibly involving potential models
for biological or human
i.e. social/political/economic/knowledge systems of
-Similarity and Diversity as basic
elements in Aesthetic
iii. Auto Modification:
-Essentially the construction of
manifested as structures which modify themselves in response
to their self-created environment.
iv. Minimalisation of a-priori structure:
-This work is the least developed
and should involve self
structuring systems, possibly the development of self
-Basically concerned with ontological
which types of universe are conducive to self structuring
under which conditions -and how they can be realized in
a (computer) programming environment.
-Studies in Complexity and Simplicity.
III. ALTERNATIVE PARADIGMS:
The works may be considered as offering alternative
currently fashionable media hype.
i. User Friendly:
The programs are extremely simple
to operate. There are two
operational procedures i.e. "START" and "STOP". During operation
the programs do not ask to be reconfigured, talked to, played
with, kicked or stroked. They are not User Unfriendly -just a
little bit reserved!
Although not prone to conversing
with humans, the automata
are extremely interactive between themselves. Variation in
behavior (subsequent to the random start configuration)
is exclusively derived from the image and/or the internal
states of the (other) automata. Just because the players
won't play with you doesn't mean there isn't a game going on!
iii. Virtual Reality:
When running, the programs actually
generate a Virtual world
with Real Interactions taking place within it. This is surely
a true "Virtual Reality" in comparison with the illusionary
shadows one is generally asked to fly through in "Virtual Space".
Anyhow, didn't Philosophers tell us that Reality (outside a
computer) is always virtual?
When operating, the programs form
an intersection between visual,
auditory, mathematical, electronic and conceptual (metaphorical)
worlds. Although at present all processing takes place in the
visual/mathematical world the sound could be considered as being
produced by an auditory automat reading a self generated (visual)
score. It is highly probable that interpreting the visual image
generates auditory structures that are more complex than could
be produced without doing so. Maybe media are more interesting as
generators of information than as carriers of information!
The programs do not de-humanize
or de-materialize the human body
or hybridize it into cyber-space. However, if one considers
the introspective operation to be concerned with the functioning
of the computer's own internal states within its own "silicon"
body then the work could be considered to be highly relevant to
a consideration of mind/body interactions. In a mind without
body the mind may need to become the body -a body without mind
is generally considered to be dead!
vi. Creativity and Context:
Possibly, conceptualized mind/body
interactions are more
important than we realize. With the increasing dematerialization
of information by the computer one may easily be tempted to
forget that medium (and context) play an important role in the
creative process. Within the computer the consequence of the
physical medium is virtually reduced to zero. This suggests that
the conceptual medium (language/context) must become more
significant. 'T ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it!
The work consists of computer programs which continually
audio/visual texture. They have no size, and no weight.
Depending on local conditions, a single work or a
series of works
may be presented. Variations can be run simultaneously on different
computers or sequentially on different days.
Each work requires an Amiga computer to run on. The
developed on an Amiga 3000 but should run on any other Amiga.
Because the running speed affects the sound, a fast Amiga (minimal
3000 -preferably 4000) is recommended. If more than one work is
being presented then identical machines should be used for each work
(unless otherwise stated for aesthetic reasons). It is also advisable
to use an external amplifier and speakers (for each work), as monitor
speakers are generally of poor quality.
For presentation a monitor can be used standing on
a computer (with
the speakers on either side) placed on a simple plinth (or table with
a table cloth) which can also be used to hide the rest of the equipment
(i.e. the amplifier plus the mouse and keyboard, which in principle are
not required after start up). Alternatively, if video projectors are
available, the images could be projected onto a flat white screen
(wall, ceiling or floor) with the speakers mounted appropriately.
The images can be recorded on video but then the
performance nature of the work is destroyed (and image quality is less).
In sound saturated environments the work can be presented without sound.
Unfortunately the artist is unable to provide equipment. Presentation
costs are therefore dependant on local conditions.
Because the works are real-time programs (under continuous
which vary each time they are run, any documentation (slides or video)
can only give an indication of the type of image which may be produced.
Amsterdam, March 1998