SOME GENERAL REMARKS ON THE COMPUTER (SOUND) INSTALLATIONS:
 
 

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 Video,
    -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 research?
 

 ii. So What are They?

    Ecologies of virtual machines moving through (visualized) space,
    both modifying their environment and being modified by it.

    Perhaps they are imaginary animals eating their environment and leaving
    their (recyclable) trails behind them.

    Or Goedelian machines, interpreting their space/time environment and
    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 practical
    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
        organization.

       -Similarity and Diversity as basic elements in Aesthetic
        systems.
 

iii.  Auto Modification:

       -Essentially the construction of time/space interactions
        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
        programming programs.

       -Basically concerned with ontological questions regarding
        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 paradigms for
    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!
 

 ii.  Interactivity:

       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?
 

 iv.  Multimedia:

       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!
 

  v.  Cyborgs:

       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!
 
 
 

VI.   PRESENTATION:
 

    The work consists of computer programs which continually weave an
    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 programs are
    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 real-time (continuous)
    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 development)
    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.
 

                                                      Trevor Batten
                                                  Amsterdam, March 1998