Marco Mancuso
Since 2005
Works in Milan Italy

Marco Mancuso is a critic and curator in the field of digital technologies applied to Arts, Design and Contemporary Culture. Founder and Director at Digicult and Digimag Journal (part of The Leonardo Affiliate Program), he teaches “Multimedia Arts Theory” at MAIND Interaction Design Master at SUPSI in Lugano, "Web 2.0 & Media Art Management" at NABA Academy in Milan, “Digital Publishing for the Arts” at Academy of Fine Art in Bergamo, "Art Industries" at IED Milan and is visiting professor at Transmedia-Postgraduate Program in Arts+Media+Design in Brussels.

With the Digicult Agency he curated and co-curated a number of exhibitions, screenings, lectures, meetings and partnered with most of the main media art festival in Italy and worldwide. Marco Mancuso has been expertising from years on wider subjects like open communication, social networking and digital publishing and is now studying new economical Internet models for art and culture: with the project “Fracty: Trasformazioni Affini”, he theorized an online platform creating open and p2p professional links between investors, public and private, from the scientific-technological field, professionals and students in the field of technologies applied to art, design and contemporary culture. He recently developed the “Digicult Editions” open-publishing online service.

Lecturing internationally and writing critical texts for media art publications and catalogues, articles, interviews and essays for Digicult, Marco Mancuso curated for MCD-Musiques et Cultures Digitales the publication “The Open Future” - Issue 63 in 2012 and the carde-blanche “Art Industries” - Issue 74 in 2014. He was included in the publication Cultural Blogging in Europe by in 2010
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Generative Nature - critical essay

-Critical essay-

Generative Nature
Aesthetics, repetitiveness, selection and adaptation

by Marco Mancuso / critic, curator and Digicult director

for Mr. Bruce Sterling's workshop "Designing Processes Rather Than Art"
November 25-28 2008, Fabrica


In his De Rerum Natura, Lucretius denies any kind of creation, providence
and original bliss and maintains that people freed themselves from their
condition of need thanks to the production of techniques, which are
transpositions of nature. A god and some gods exist, but they did not create
the universe, nor do they deal with people's actions. Lucretius maintains
that the rational knowledge of nature shows us an infinite universe that is
made up of complex forms and constituted by atoms; it follows natural laws,
it is indifferent to people's needs and can be explained without gods.

When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the
planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a
perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. - Sol Le


Modern ecology began with Charles Darwin's studies. In his "theory of
evolution" published in 1859 in On the Origin of Species, he underlined the
adaptation of the different organisms to the various kinds of environment,
which are subjected to the age-long examination of natural selection.
However, the word was coined by Ernst Heinrich Haeckel in 1869 and comes
from the Greek óikos meaning "house" and logos meaning "discourse". It is
therefore a biological science that studies environment and the
relationships that the different living organisms establish between each
other and with the environment itself. For some time, Haeckel was a strong
supporter and popularizer of Darwin's theories, but he soon became one of
his most bitter enemies; he firmly refuted the process of natural selection
as the basis of the evolutionary mechanism, in favor of a thought that was
more focused on the environment as a direct agent on natural organisms,
which is able to produce new species and generate diversity.

Ernst Heinrich Haeckel's thought and work represent the starting point of
this critical reflection. First of all, because it was the theoretical and
practical cue suggested by Bruce Sterling during his workshop for Fabrica,
to which the text refers. Secondly; because it allows me a philosophical and
critical reflection, aspiring to find a possible point of contact between
nature, theories of evolution and programmatic and generative art. Is it
impossible? Well, I would say no, on the contrary. Above all if we try to
compare and amalgamate, like the colors on a canvas, the German biologist's
research on one side with some works of conceptual and minimalist artist Sol
Le Witt and the possible relationship between mathematics and nature on the
other, and what is known today as art and generative design.

Nature as an art

"Kunstformen der Natur" literally means "artistic forms of nature": this is
the title of biologist Ernst Haeckel's 1898 most important text, his most
complex and fascinating research. Moreover, this is the text from which
Bruce Sterling took, for those participating in his workshop, some primary
images that could be the graphic material and starting point for an
aesthetic and methodological reflection on the practices of generative
repetitiveness. By watching the richly decorated plates in Haeckel's text,
it is undeniable that nature is able not only to create spontaneously real
"art forms", but also to produce a direct correspondence between a certain
generative aesthetics, starting from a fundamental unit/nucleus to come to a
complex entity, and a consequent adaptive and evolutionary practice.

In other words, if the stages of the embryological development of a species
actually trace the evolution phases that led it to its position in the
natural order, the survival of each species basically depends on its
interaction with the environment. According to Haeckel, the mechanism thanks
to which new species and a new diversity have origin is that of a gradual
addition of a certain development trajectory starting from an initial unit,
which is determined by imposed external (environmental) parameters, which
are able to influence the gradual direction of the trajectory itself.

At this point, a first important reference to the theoretic and
methodological bases of Generative Art seems evident, as one of the pioneers
of this discipline, Italian architect Celestino Soddu, suggests: "Generative
Art is the idea realized as genetic code of artificial events, as
construction of dynamic complex systems able to generate endless variations.
Each Generative Project is a concept-software that works producing unique
and non-repeatable events, as possible and manifold expressions of the
generating idea strongly recognizable as a vision belonging to an
artist/designer/musician/architect/mathematician. This generative
Idea/human-creative-act makes an unpredictable, amazing and endless
expansion of human creativity. Computers are simply the tools for its
storage in memory and execution. This approach opens a new era in Art,
Design and Communication: the challenge of a new naturalness of the
artificial event as a mirror of Nature. Once more man emulates Nature, as in
the act of making Art [.]."

Although, over the centuries, biologists and morphologists have widely
denied a so close correspondence between ontogenesis and phylogeny, and so
between unity and complexity, the germ of thought is interesting and I think
it is worth continuing to nourish it.

Forms, colors, lines and instructions

As everybody knows, US conceptual and minimalist artist Sol Le Witt, who
died not long ago, is one of the spiritual fathers of modern artists and
generative designers. By reducing art to a series of instructions thanks to
which everybody is able to draw forms, colors and lines in the
two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, creating geometric elements
that are repeated and modulated according to standard space proportions, Le
Witt loved reminding that "all the people are able to participate in the
creative process, to become artists themselves". It is well-known that the
artist tended to separate the planning stage from the realization of the
work; he devoted himself to the former, whereas his assistants devoted
themselves to the latter: if the artistic process thus lies in the
conceptual planning of the work, the (basic, elementary and geometric)
execution can be carried out by everybody, thanks to a series of detailed
instructions that are suggested by a thinking unit with a procedural
approach. He also claimed: "There are several ways of constructing a work of
art. One is by making decisions at each step, another by making a system to
make decisions."

In this kind of approach the work of the last years of some of the most
important generative artists and designers in the world (Casey Reas, Ben
Fry, Jared Tarbell, Theodore Watson, Lia, Toxi, Andreas Schlegel, Marius
Watz, Robert Hodgin, to mention only some of them) is reflected: if the
human being identifies himself/herself with the author of a series of
mathematical instructions that can be suggested to a computer, the resulting
work of art will be the sum of the operations that the computer has carried
out autonomously. Therefore, as for Sol Le Witt the emotional elements of
the authors, their joy at a moment, their frustration, their apathy were
constituent elements of a free interpretation of the instructions that had
been suggested to them and so of the resulting work of art, in the universe
of digital software as well (from Processing to VVVV to Open Frameworks, to
mention the most widespread) we can hazard the thought that the instructions
given by the artist/designer can be freely interpreted by a kind of
"emotiveness" of the "thinking" computer.

Le Witt's conceptual indifference to any kind of aesthetic judgement, the
aversion to prearranged aesthetic conventions that are assimilated by the
public, a general indifference to any kind of distinction between old and
new are perfectly reflected in the words of one of the most important
generative artists in Italy, Fabio Franchino: "In the evening I give some
instructions to the computer, which processes data and autonomously
generates lines, forms and colours during the night; in the morning, when I
wake up, I judge the results. If I like the product I will keep it, if it is
not satisfying I will throw it."

Well, I do not know what these things suggest to you: I think that also in
this case we can make a comparison with the natural universe. If we
assimilate the environment, nature in its widest meaning, as the entity that
is able to cause a series of changes, evolutions and dynamics, then the
organisms living in contact with it (again, the concept of "ecology") are
able to interpret these vital codes, to assimilate them, in order to react
to them and autonomously generate a series of forms, colors and systems that
can be seen as the result of their evolutionary process, which comes to a
complex final system from a starting unit. The difference maybe lies in the
"spontaneity" with which this process begins: if an artist/designer decides,
in advance, a series of instructions that will be given to the computer, it
is difficult not to think that nature operates by following only its
evolutionary spontaneity. At the same time, it is fascinating even to think
that as the artist/designer does not know the final effects of the
instructions, giving the computer the freedom to interpret them, similarly
nature does not care about the effects it produces on the organisms living
in it, giving them evolutionary freedom of forms and elements that we, human
beings, only afterwards could maybe consider as "works of art".

Numbers in evolution

Today, one of the most fascinating mathematical theories is undoubtedly that
of fractals: according to the definition of their discoverer, Polish
mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot, they are geometric shapes, characterized by
the endless repetition of the same pattern at ever smaller scales. This is
the most intuitive definition that can be given to shapes that exist in
nature in an impressive number but do not still have a precise mathematical
definition. The natural universe is rich in forms that are very similar to
fractals, forms that do not follow the norms of the Euclidean geometry: a
stretch of coast, the branches or the roots of a tree, a cloud, the
snowflakes, the ramifications of a lightning and the dentation of a leaf are
example of fractal forms originating spontaneously in nature. Among these,
the fractal form par excellence is the spiral, the constituent element of
the shell of many annelids and conches, which is one of the main objects of
study of Ernst Heinrich Haeckel's theories and one of the most beautiful and
fascinating geometric forms.

If we shift the field of analysis to mathematics, to numbers, to equations
and algorithms, the level of intersection between science, technology, art
and nature does not change. And if the procedural and generative method is
what we have chosen as the guiding element of this treatise, it is not
surprising to think that the construction of fractals follows a reiterated
process, that is, the repetition of a starting element for a theoretically
infinite number of times until, after a while, the human eye cannot
distinguish the changes in the starting element any longer. We must not
forget the fact that, as it is acknowledged, fractals are influenced by
certain controlled casualness. There is thus again the element of
casualness, of spontaneity, as the distinctive (or unifying) element between
computer and nature, according to which evolutionary mechanisms cannot be
predicted from their constituent elements and it is often impossible to
reconstruct them, starting from their visible manifestations.

At this point of the text, the procedural, generative, iterative and
evolutionary element may be considered as the pillar of the thought
underpinning a modern "computational ecology": between Turing's
revolutionary theories on "morphogenesis" (every living organism is able to
develop complex bodies, starting from extremely simple elements and basing
on processes of self-assembly, without the aid of a guide following a
prearranged plan) and the most recent studies that have been carried out on
"genetic algorithms" (a particular class of evolutionary algorithms using
techniques of mutation, selection and recombination, so that a certain
population of abstract representations of possible solutions to an
optimization problem evolves into better solutions) almost 50 years of
studies, analyses and research passed; they aimed at underlining the nearly
computational properties of Mother Nature on one side, and the ability of
digital machines to simulate and repeat complex natural phenomena. Frankly,
I do not wonder any longer what is the most fascinating form of art or the
most difficult process.

Moreover, I think that the most interesting answers to these themes can be
found in the studies and theories of Karl Sims, the famous artist and
researcher from Mit Media Lab; in particular, we can find them in his 1993
work, Genetic Images, which drew inspiration from his paper Artificial
Evolution of Computer Graphics, where he described the application of the
"genetic algorithms" for the generation of 2D abstract images, starting from
complex mathematical formulas. Therefore according to Sims, Darwin's
evolutionary theories can be simulated by means of a generative software or
appropriate mathematical algorithms; in this way, "populations of virtual
entities specified by coded descriptions in the computer can be evolved by
applying these same natural rules of variation and selection. The definition
of fitness can even be altered as the programmer desires." I think that what
is interesting in Genetic Images is the fact that this work was presented as
an interactive installation: in other words, it was the public who could
choose and select the most interesting images and forms from an aesthetic
point of view, among those generated by a computer simulating a process of
artificial evolution. The selected images were then recombined by the
computer to create new ones, basing on alteration and mutation methods,
similar to those of natural species during their evolutionary process. Karl
Sims thus wonders whether these interactive evolutions can be considered a
creative process. If yes, is it the public who develop an independent
creative attitude or is the presence of a designer making the computer
follow precise creative paths necessary? Or is it maybe the computer that
develops autonomous creative tendencies?

In his treatise, Sims duly mentions biologist Richard Dawkins who, in his
book The Blind Watchmaker, talks about the ability of natural evolutionary
processes to create complex forms without the external presence of any
designer or programmer: "It is thus possible that these generative
techniques challenge an important aspect of our anthropocentric tendencies,
according to which it is difficult for us to believe that we are planned not
by a God but by casualness showing through the codes of a natural
evolution", concludes Sims. Maybe true art lies exactly in all these things. /sets/72157601323433758/ît_Mandelbrot


Digimag 37 Interview_Julien Maire, Leonardo and the visual anatomy

Sorry for any crosspostings

Digicult presents:
Digimag 37 - September 2008

Txt: Claudia D'Alonzo & Marco Mancuso

The bewilderment between reality and illusion, between perceptive habits and a new way of watching through the video camera. A false step that interrupts the normal rhythm of perception and let us perceive other possible re-constructions of what we see. A jocose swing between these two levels is the trace that links the work of Julien Maire, a French artist living now in Berlin who, through performances and installations, apparently very different from each other, creates moments and spaces of compression, overlap and perceptive illusion.

Small space-time sections, in which he decomposes the optical vision and its interpretation. Small, because the reduced size, both temporal and spatial, is useful to the artist to isolate the created play and to generate, in the spectator, an inner enjoyment, an observation that eliminates the distance between the artistic event and inserts it as much as possible in the usual perception, in order to disassemble it from the interior.

In some performances, surprise and tampering with reality are direct, simple, and for this reason even more astonishing. Like in the “Digit” performance, present also in the last Transmediale and Sonic Acts festivals, spare in showing a too much banal situation, a man, the artist, that writes, sitting at his little desk, among the public, but magic in hiding the trick thanks to which the naked finger flows across the sheet of paper, leaving ink trails with a simple touch. In other works of his, it is illusion itself that is deconstructed, that illusion created by the medium, which is intended as a structure and mechanism of construction of reality, now unconsciously assimilated in our usual mechanisms of vision, one of the realities that we experiment every day.

Julien Maire looks at the medium with the same Dada approach with which he sees reality, he disassembles, deconstructs the functioning of perception like that of the camera. In the case of the medium he looks for machines, almost always analogue, because they enable him to act in an artisan way on their functioning.
Like in the live cinema of the beautiful “Demi-Pas”, a reconstruction of the narrative flow of a short film, built through the sequence of mechanical slides, created by the artist like small transparent overlapped theatres. The illusion of the cinema motion is not generated by the flowing of horizontal fixed modules, like it happens in the film, but by single modules hiding, in themselves, the motion that is put into action, in real time, by the artist. Whereas the spatial plan creates another illusion, that of the depth of field, a fictitious tridimensionality, produced by the overlap of compressed and two-dimensional levels.

Finally, in installations like “Exploding Camera” and “Low Resolution Cinema”, Julien Maire does not only disassemble and reconstruct, but he literally dissects and amputates instruments that we generally use, and he offers to the spectator this anatomy of the camera, in order to encourage him/her to look for a new functioning, he does not create the medium, but puts into action that process that Rosalind Krauss (theoretician and author of “Reinventing the Medium”, edited in Italy by Bruno Mondadori, co-founder and co-editor of “October” magazine, a veteran of “Artforum” in the Sixties and Seventies) defines as the “re-invention” of the medium.

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: Julien, what is your artistic and cultural background? And what is the artistic tradition to what you refer?

Julien Maire: I started my studies by attending a classic art school, ended in 1995, which was not linked to the environment of the new media, but more connected to disciplines like painting, sculpture, and so on…a small school, in Metz, where we were free to develop our ideas and projects. I was initially focused on the concept and idea of perception, that is, how to represent the world in 3 dimensions, by using modes in 2 dimensions. A simple but very important idea to me: how to compress and reproduce the real world in another way, with another two-dimensional system. I thus began my research with drawing and sculpture, and then moving quickly to mechanics and its integration with computers.

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: How do you work on your machines? Both in “Low Resolution Cinema” and “Exploding Camera”, but also in “Demi-Pas” there is a manic attention to the construction of your apparatuses. Where have you learnt this and how do you have new ideas, how do you work on them?

Julien Maire: I've learnt everything I know by simply breaking the machines and the mechanical instruments I then use. I started to work with mechanisms and electronics about 10 years ago and I've learnt everything by looking into the machines and the different spare parts, and by trying mainly to understand their functioning. Modern technologies are very complex and difficult to understand, unlike the mechanical ones, which can be more easily understood, reproduced and modified. I work in a similar way to Leonardo Da Vinci's one, when, to draw in the best possible way the interior of a human body, he simply needed to look into it to understand what it was like. I have many ideas on how to work exactly when I understand the deep functioning of a machine

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: When do you understand that a certain mechanism is important to you? Or rather, do you first have an idea and then you try to realize it, or do you understand the potentiality of a system and at that moment you have the idea of how to use it?

Julien Maire: It depends. Sometimes, I have new ideas completely by chance and therefore I look for a way of realizing them, sometimes in an efficient way and sometimes not. Somehow, it is the same approach of the experimental cinema, although I'm much more interested in producing a real film, maybe with experimental techniques, rather than experimenting with different techniques to see, later, whether the final effect is interesting or not. I like controlling things, being sure that something happens because I want it, working, obviously, in an experimental way: it is a process that demands much work and it can also be rather frustrating. I constantly look for new ways to do things, different techniques with which I like experimenting. If you look at the daily life with the Internet, many artists share, today, information, increase their competences and skills on a certain software: it is a different way of relating to technologies. I love the mechanical elements, the dynamism of the approach they demand

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: Therefore, why do you think some artists that are completely analogue and mechanical like you are invited more and more often to take part in festivals dealing with media art in general or specifically with digital art?

Julien Maire: Mainly because they come from the world of classical art. In the media art, many protagonists are former programmers or technicians that have now to deal with the world of art. I think this could be sometimes a problem, you can hear it often in the presentation of many installations, technically perfect, complex, that are cool, but not really works of art. They don't communicate this.

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: The idea of “magic” seems to be very important in your works. I think, for example, that “Digit” is one of the simplest but, at the same time, most surprising performances I saw in the last few years. In your opinion, what is the relationship between “magic” and the theories of Increased Reality, and those of experimental cinema or the tricks of the pre-cinema age?

Julien Maire: When you watch a film, this is actually a sort of illusion, something magic: it consists of many moving images producing an overall effect. Cinema is illusion in itself, and it's interesting wondering why spectators in a cinema are so deeply involved in this two-dimensional process that isn't, after all, reality, but its often unreal representation. Cinema is a magic process, in my opinion, and the magic on which illusion is based is what I've always drawn inspiration from. I'm sometimes afraid of the word “magic”, I prefer the word “prestige”, which refers to something more mechanical, optical, almost manual. In “Demi-Pas”, everything is, at the same time, very clear, there isn't any illusion, trick, everything works as you can see. In “Digit” (or also in “Pieces de Monnaie”), instead, magic is created only if the spectator is physically present in the performance, because it's necessary to create a relationship between the public and me. I aim at creating a play with the spectator, who has to look at me not so much as a performer but as an image, as a film, immersed in reality. In “Digit”, I use a tracking camera and the effect is very simple, but I manage to bring a certain quality of the image into reality: this is the illusion I create

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: The surprise factor in the spectator is thus very important to you, and also the relationship with the public, with the space surrounding you. You provoke the public by changing what they normally perceive as reality

Julien Maire: Behind your question, there is the idea of interaction, but the only interaction characterising me is that between my machines and me. But I think that I love, at the same time, in “Digit”, that the public is so close to me, I like arousing the spectators' curiosity to understand a rather simple and keen, precise, certainly not impressive mechanism. I think I'll work again in this course, in the future. It's, for me, a sort of aesthetic research, I love this kind of approach.

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: This tension can be found also in your installations, which seem alive and allow the public to look into the mechanism, to understand their functioning, the way in which they manage to represent reality. We're thinking about works like “Exploding Camera” or “Low Resolution Cinema”, for example

Julien Maire: As a matter of fact, this is the reason why I don't like recordings, but everything is live, it happens in front of the present public, both with an installation and a live event. In “Exploding Camera”, the room is completely dark, and the public is curious and encouraged to move around the installation to understand its mechanism

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: You've been defined as an archaeologist of media, but we think it has to be specified that you're special. That is, you're that kind of artists who are not only able to reproduce an analogue media, but literally to re-invent it, finding new ways of using it. According to Krauss' theories, you create a new use of a certain medium, by representing reality through the deconstruction of a well-known mechanism. How do you relate to these theories, which often remain only words, but in your case find a practical application?

Julien Maire: I'm personally very interested in showing a new reality through an alternative use of a certain medium. If you want to make a film on a certain topic, you have to develop your own medium that has to be the most suitable for that topic. In “Demi-Pas”, for example, to tell the story I tell, I use a specific medium in a particular and certainly deconstructed way, in order to develop that precise idea and story. “Exploding Camera” is a perfect work in this sense, it's the ideal example of this matter: in this case, the film is made thanks to the explosion of lights and an alternative and deconstructed use of a well-known medium such as the video camera

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: “Exploding Camera” has a rather strong political concept, since it reproduces the real atrocities of war through an absolutely alternative and deconstructed use of the traditional medium of the video camera. We think this is a very interesting short circuit…

Julien Maire: I had the idea of “Exploding Camera” almost 2 years after the events of 11 September. I was rather shocked by the fact that the video camera had begun to be a primary instrument to record criminal and deathly events, a real transformation for an object I love very much and that is generally used in an artistic and interesting way. I was very surprised by the fact that few people talked about this topic. It is thus very important to me that the public understand the idea that is behind “Exploding Camera” and for this reason I'm usually very careful to explain the installation, to give information, although I don't like talking about my works very much. At the same time, I like that the public see the work and maybe understand the supporting idea even long time afterwards, maybe by looking for information on the Internet or through other sources

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: Do you consider the concept of illusionism as a real form of art and not as a mere form of entertainment?

Julien Maire: I've partly answered before. I love working on a small scale, in a performative way, creating a relationship also with a small audience, in a special atmosphere. I love working on a small scale, in small places, which contrast with the phantasmagoric atmospheres, typical of the shows of illusionism. In this sense, yes, I think illusionism can be considered as a form of art

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: How do you work on the story of your works, for example “Demi-Pas”? That is, do you create a story basing on the optical mechanisms you have at your disposal or do you build, every time, a specific system for a special passage of your storyboard?

Julien Maire: In general, I like creating a series of mechanical processes I use when I need them, although I can obviously develop specific objects that are used in precise moments of the story I tell. Each of the modules you see in “Demi-Pas” demanded a very long time to be realised, but in the end I used a much more little part of those I had actually created. Some of them are also used in another film (a work that has not been finished yet, with a real storyboard, dialogues and a script), which is entitled “The Empty”, where many ideas of “Demi-Pas” are used but in a simpler way…I'm moving a lot in this course, that is, in being more and more focused on precise mechanisms, to be more and more precise, with more and more simplicity

Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: Does this attention to the story occur also in your installations?

Julien Maire: Yes, in “Low Resolution Cinema”, for example, the story is developed on the idea of the city of Berlin . The project came into life after a stay here in Berlin some years ago, for a representation of the city in contrast with the images that tourist normally capture of it. Therefore, I spent a year in gathering photographs and images: I love old photographs, I collect them and some cost me a lot, I like that they have a very low resolution. The screen, in the installation, is divided into two parts, there is a horizon that divides the framing into two parts: to do this, the video projector was deconstructed as it happens in other works of mine. I worked, therefore, almost like a photographer, a painter: by deconstructing the potentiality of the system at the moment at which I cut the lens of the LCD, I operated similarly to the way in which photographers work carefully on their negatives. The line on the LCD is physically present, like in the painting, allowing the final image to have an abstract and minimal geometry, facilitated also by the use of a very low resolution that allows me to increase the perspective of the projection.
Marco Mancuso and Claudia D'Alonzo: How do you relate to the sound and music that are present in your works? In some of them, they seem to be of minor importance. In others, they are almost a presence of comment. Have you ever thought of developing a real audiovisual project with a musician, such as, for example, Pierre Bastien, who has an approach to music that is very similar to the approach you have to images?

Julien Maire: I think I have serious problems with sound, I don't know very much of it. At the same time, for “Demi-Pas” I asked another director to deal with the sound: I like that sound doesn't prevail over the image on which spectators have to concentrate, it has to be, therefore, a comment on images. In “Demi-Pas”, there are, therefore, traces of Pierre Chaffer, Pierre Bastien and many others. In “Low Resolution Cinema”, instead, music was composed by a Japanese musician, who developed an interface with Max/MSP that generates the sound connected with the movement of the projector. Anyway, for some time I've been thinking about a performance linked with “Low Resolution Cinema”, and about some ideas with musician Pierre Bastien, who is a dear friend of mine, whom I feel very close to me and with whom I share an approach that is certainly similar to audiovisual experience. Up to now, we've performed together only once in London , when we met, by improvising: he played the trumpet on a projection of mine, but it's clear we could certainly develop something much more complex. We'll see in the future


DIGICULT is a cultural project involved in digital culture and electronic arts. The DIGICULT project is directed by curator, critic and teacher Marco
Mancuso and based on the active participation of 40 professional people about, who represent a wide Italian network of journalists, curators, artists and critics working in the field of electronic culture and digital art. Translated in english, DIGICULT is today a web portal updated daily with news but it's also the editor of the monthly magazine DIGIMAG, discussing with a critic and journalistic approach, about net art, hacktivism, video art, electronica, audio video, interaction design, artificial intelligence, new media, software art, performing art. DIGICULT produce the electronic music and audiovisual podcast DIGIPOD and the newsletter international service DIGINEWS. DIGICULT in finally involved in side activities like media partnership and special journalistic/critic reports for festivals and
exhibitions, consultancy and curatorial activities and is now working for Italian artists international promotion with its new born art agency DIGIMADE, presenting their works to main international festivals, cultural events, platforms and centers working with digital and electronics


DigiMag 37 Interview_Geoff Cox: Social Networking is notWorking

Digicult presents:
Digimag 37 - September 2008

Txt: Clemente Pestelli

Geoff Cox is an artist, teacher and organiser of events connected with
digital experimentation in the United Kingdom. Within his curatorial route
for Arnolfini, an organisation dealing with contemporary art, he developed
an interesting project whose topic is the intersections between critical
theory of social networks and critical practice of the world of art.
Already from its name, "AntiSocial NotWorking", we can understand that the
project aims at questioning two of the founding terms of the Web 2.0:
"social" and "networking". Within the very rich portal, there are some of
the most interesting Internet projects of the last few years: from
<$BlogTitle$> by Jodi to "Amazon Noir" and "Google Will Eat Itself" by
Ubermorgen-Cirio-Ludovico, from "logo_wiki" by Wayne Clements to "Blue Tube"
and "Friendster Suicide" by Cory Arcangel, from "web2dizzaster" by
sumoto.iki to "Fake is a Fake" by Les Liens Invisibles.

With Geoff Cox, we talked about how, beyond the quick enthusiasm and the
rhetoric of social networks, it is urgent and necessary to develop a
critical theory of social networks, and about how contemporary artistic
practice could be essential for the exploration of new forms of
participation, activism and democracy on the Internet.

Clemente Pestelli: The title of the project is controversial and, at the
same time, fascinating. Can you explain, in a few words, what "AntiSocial
NotWorking" wants to suggest?

Geoff Cox: I'm glad you find it a fascinating title. It's deliberately
playful, a "hack" if you like, and one where it seems to contradict itself
with a double negative. The first point is simple: that by saying
"antisocial", the pervasive use of the term "social" is thrown into
question. I write about this in the accompanying notes to develop a critique
of the apparent
friendliness of social interactions through web 2.0 platforms, but at the
same time to strike a distinction from antisocial networking sites such
as"Hatebook" that are not dialectical enough in my view.

The crucial point is that by stressing friendliness and avoiding antagonism,
politics is avoided. What is also evoked is the critical tradition of
negation associated with dialectics. For instance, "negative dialectics"
would suggest a number of things but perhaps most importantly for this
context more of a focus on subjectivity and structures of communication.

The influence of communication in contemporary characterizations of labour
find their way into the second term "notworking". This is a common enough
joke - "notworking" as opposed to "networking" - and a good way into various
discussions about free labour and how labour time is less and less distinct
from time outside work - as 'nonwork'. Work on the Net is a clear example of
this tendency and one of the significant aspects of social network sites is
the way in which users volunteer their labour time - and their subjectivity.

I like the way when you put all this together -"antisocial" and
"notworking" - the meanings become multiple and contradictory. There is a
further aspect of contradiction and negation at work here too perhaps, in
evoking the concept of "negation of negation" to understand the title not as
a double negative or a simple reversal of one thing with another but an
ongoing deeper engagement.

Clemente Pestelli: In your "Notes in support of antisocial notworking", you
writes about how, during the ascent of social networks, social relationships
were emptied of every form of antagonism and so, in short, of every form of
politics. I think the analysis is right. But if we think about the first
period of the World Wide Web, we cannot but be impressed by the fact that
exactly the Internet was the privileged ground of political experimentation,
exploited by movements and activists from all over the world: an example is
the " Battle in Seattle " of 1999 and the role of Indymedia. Today,
corporate communication platforms such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo allow
to share and spread even more information than before, but although this
fact, I can't see any conflictual approach that is as much efficient. What
do you think has happened? Is it something depending on a precise strategy
of the global corporations or is it something that has to do with the health
of movements?

Geoff Cox: Both I suppose. I would stress how the production of
non-antagonistic social relations has become absolutely central to social
control. In the notes I cite Rossiter who argues that without identifying
the antagonisms that politics simply cannot exist. As far as network
cultures are concerned this is a technical and social truism. Of course
there is nothing new in this, and earlier iterations of the net are full of
examples of antagonistic tactics.

As for your main question about what has happened more recently, I'm not
sure I'm qualified to answer this. However I suppose the issue for me is how
contradictions are evident in new ways, and that organisational forms are
more networked in character. There are a number of examples of
network-organized forms of political organization, enhancing the open
sharing of ideas - such as Indymedia, as you mention, and what is referred
to as the "multitude" more generally. Contemporary forms of protest tend to
reject centralized forms for more distributed and collective forms, but the
tendency has both positive and negative consequences, both releasing and
limiting future possibilities.

The example of Facebook exemplifies the point in that it both demonstrates
the potential for self-organisation and at the same time the drive to
commodify collective exchanges. Capital recuperates emergent tendencies
really well, as we know. The autonomists refer to the "cycle of struggle" to
emphasize that resistance needs to transform itself in parallel to
recuperative processes. In a really nice description, Tronti says the
restructuring of capital and the recomposition of resistance "chase each
others tails". More tactical and strategic alternatives need to be developed
all the time and I don't think there's a way out of this recursive loop.
Antagonism is a necessary part of this but I'm not sure where to look for
specific examples on the web, better to look elsewhere I think, to peer
production more broadly.

Clemente Pestelli: NotWorking, antithetic to networking, is the other key
word of the project. In particular, in the introductory notes to the
project, you refer to Tronti's essay "The Strategy of the Refusal" (1965).
What relationship is there, today, between job and social networks, when the
time you spend at work can be less and less distinguished from the time you
don't spend at work? How do you think it's possible to combine the idea of
"refusal of work" with the completely absorbing dimension of the Web 2.0?

Geoff Cox: As you say, the confusion over what constitutes work and non-work
turns attention to what constitutes effective action. Refusal to work is one
established oppositional tactic in recognition of exploitation in the
workplace. But it's harder to see how exploitation takes place in relation
to nonwork, or how notworking in itself might be productive. To simply
refuse to take part in social networking platforms or refuse to submit
personal information is not particularly effective in itself. The point, as
I tried to say in the notes, is how to think about "well-assembled
collectives" that can be involved in production that is not an exploitative
situation. As well as Tronti, I refer to Paolo Virno's "Grammar of the
Multitude" for this reason.

What is required are strategies and techniques of better organization
founded on different principles. Peer production offers one example of the
opportunity to explore the limits of democracy and rethink politics. I think
this is a really interesting area of activity that seems to be gathering
momentum - as both an expression of"non-representational democracy" and as
an alternative economic system altogether. Social networks hold the
potential to transform social relations for the common good but only if held
within the public realm and outside of private ownership.

Clemente Pestelli: "AntiSocial NotWorking" is a rich repository of projects
showing a critical point of view towards the different platforms of social
networks and the symbols of the Web 2.0. What can we expect from the works
that are contained in the database? A simple point of view or maybe some
useful techniques for a new creative resistance?

Geoff Cox: The project is modest in itself, hoping to draw together some
existing and new critical works, in a body of practices that take issue with
web 2.0 as an attack on peer production in the sense described earlier.
There are some well known projects and some not so well known but together
they demonstrate the usefulness of creative (art) practice to question
popular forms - or I might even want to make a distinction here between
popular and populism. Arts organizations have enthusiastically adopted the
rhetoric of social networking but the critique is less well developed, at
least in the UK.

The project has tried to draw in practices from software culture more
broadly and bring them to the attention of the contemporary art world -
remember I have produced this project as part of my curatorial remit at
Arnolfini which is a contemporary art organization that is only just
beginning to engage with the internet. But, as for more than this, your
question is spot on I think - whether oppositional strategies are merely
oppositional rather than transformative. This is one of the crucial
questions for anyone working in the area of critical practice.

Otherwise politics might simply be cast as a trendy theme as we see all the
time in contemporary arts practice. The challenge remains as how to make
this transformative or whether art can have a role at all in this. I think
the potential to transform social relations is demonstrated in the dynamics
of social networking technologies but as I said only if certain principles
are maintained. In addition, I think that the current struggles over sharing
digital content, such as those over peer to peer file-sharing, are crucially
important and this is where creative resistance is well-placed. Further
projects that I am involved in will continue to explore this issue in the
spirit of antisocial notworking.


DIGICULT is a cultural project involved in digital culture and electronic
arts. The DIGICULT project is directed by curator, critic and teacher Marco
Mancuso and based on the active participation of 40 professional people
about, who represent a wide Italian network of journalists, curators,
artists and critics working in the field of electronic culture and digital
art. And on a multitude of updated strategies around new media
communication, web 2.0 and networking activities. Translated in english,
DIGICULT is today a web portal updated daily with news but it's also the
editor of the monthly magazine DIGIMAG, discussing with a critic and
journalistic approach, about net art, hacktivism, video art, electronica,
audio video, interaction design, artificial intelligence, new media,
software art, performing art. DIGICULT produce the electronic music and
audiovisual podcast DIGIPOD and the newsletter international service
DIGINEWS. DIGICULT in finally involved in side activities like media
partnership and special journalistic/critic reports for festivals and
exhibitions, consultancy and curatorial activities and is now working for
Italian artists international promotion with its new born art agency
DIGIMADE, presenting their works to main international festivals, cultural
events, platforms and centers working with digital and electronics


Open Source Meeting

Fri Oct 10, 2008 00:00 - Fri Sep 26, 2008


Fondazione Accademia di Belle Arti Pietro Vannucci - Perugia
October 10, 2008
10am-1pm / 4pm-7pm
Le Arti in Città festival

Promoted by: Umane Energie e sezione “Flussi” of festival Le Arti in Città
Curated by: Moreno Barboni e Marco Mancuso (Digicult)
Moderated by: Marco Mancuso (Digicult)
With: Graffiti Research Lab, Pier Luigi Capucci, Laura Colini, Umane Energie, Confinidigitali

On October 10, the group ‘Umane Energie’ and the ‘Flussi’ section of “Le Arti in Città” festival are promoting a seminar called Open Source Meeting at the ‘Fondazione Accademia di Belle Arti Pietro Vannucci’ in the city of Perugia. This is curated by Moreno Barboni and by Marco Mancuso, critic, curator and director of Digicult ((, and will be participated by Graffiti Research Lab, Pier Luigi Capucci, Laura Colini, Umane Energie and Confinidigitali.

The Open Source Meeting is dedicated to the ever-expanding circulation of ‘open’ computer resources and is meant to get territorial subjects, such as Confinidigitali and Umane Energie, to meet. Their Beduino open-source platform, derived from the international Arduino project, will be the base of a ‘multimedia park’ featuring national and international guests, so as to elaborate on and divulge the possibilities of open-source in the domain of digital arts and multimedia communication, both from an artistic and planning perspective.

Marco Mancuso and Moreno Barboni have therefore imagined a day of lectures and seminars, a round table of experts, researchers, curators and artists all with different but complementary expertises. This will offer the opportunity to reflect over the enormous potential, however mostly unsaid, of open digital technologies, their impact on the social, operational and political context in which we live, on their interaction with architecture and the social spaces in our urban areas and on comprehending their emotional impact on our perception of new art forms and creative languages.

Evan Roth and James Powderly are the Meeting’s international guests, founders of Graffiti Research Lab, for the second time in Italy after their first public performance ‘Laser Tag’, curated by Marco Mancuso in December 2007 in Rome and projected on the façades of the ‘Colosseo’ and the ‘Cestia’ pyramid. Graffiti Research Lab is wholly dedicated to developing technologies and experimental media to enhance public resources for urban communication. GRL have therefore been invited to explain their artistic/activist project, to describe their performances in cities round the world, to talk about the possible risks and the enormous potential for communication that lies behind applying open source technologies to graffiti and media art.

Pier Luigi Capucci, critic and professor, deals with communication systems and languages and, since the early Eighties, has been investigating the relationship between technologies, culture and society and between art forms, science and technologies. His task in the Meeting will be to trigger the debate around the collective and social impact of open-source technologies. The opportunities of choosing and accessing information and new tools have, in fact, enabled new possibilities for communicating and sharing knowledge extending the awareness of the cognitive, operative, social, and political uses of these same tools.

Marco Mancuso is the chairman of the Meeting. Critic, curator and founder of Digicult he deals with Digital Creative Media and the relationship between images, sound and space within contemporary Audiovisual Art. Focusing on how open-source technologies have affected the digital Audiovisual domain by showing an overview on the most interesting artistic and creative international projects, he will suggest some critical thought around how these tools are used, around shared creativity dynamics on the Web, free code, and around how ever more intertwined art, design and hyper architecture are.
Laura Colini, researcher at the Bauhaus University in Weimar in the department of Architecture, Media and Urban Sociology, will focus on technologies and participated city-making projects. She will describe the concept of participation in urban planning confronting it with the participation to the city entailed by ITC practices. A sort of shared-practices taxonomy to city-making, called ICT spatial practices, that allows to build up critical thinking and awareness around the urban theme of collective planning.

Lastly, the collaboration between Confini Digitali and Umane Energie that has lead to ‘Beduino’, an open-source electronic device meant to develop interactive, artistic installations. It features audio controls, sensor interfaces, led and motor controls. Slightly bigger than a packet of cigarettes Beduino, based on the more famous ‘Arduino’ hardware/software, can be used without having to write any code by those who are not necessarily computer geeks. It can be used as a real-time audio and video controller, as a MIDI control, it is useful for interactive installations, to control led lights, robotic controls and much more.


10:00 Moreno Barboni: introduction and greetings
10:15 Marco Mancuso: opening and lecture
10:45 Pier Luigi Capucci: lecture


11:30 Umane Energie: lecture
12:00 discussion
13:00 closing


16:00 Marco Mancuso: introduction
16:15 Laura Colini: lecture
16:45 Confini Digitali: lecture


17:30 Graffiti Research Lab: lecture
18:00 discussion
19:00 closing


:::Graffiti Research Lab:::
:::The L.A.S.E.R. Tag payload:::

The New York artists and media activists GRL, will introduce their tool for digital urban graffiti: the L.A.S.E.R. Tag. The Mobile Broadcast Unit (MBU) with L.A.S.E.R. Tag payload is an open-source Weapon of Mass Defacement (WMD) designed to enable graffiti writers, artists, activists and citizens to communicate in the urban environment on the same scale as advertisers, corporations and governments. MBUs provide 1200 watts of audio and 5000 lumens of video projection capability mounted on an industrial work tricycle. The L.A.S.E.R. Tag payload allows individuals to write their own personal communications and expressions with a 60 milliwatt green laser on industrial facilities, monuments, towers, bridges, city skylines and other hard and soft targets of interest. The design and custom software for the MBU and L.A.S.E.R. Tag payload has been released open source, without copyright or patent, into the public domain. Hobbyists, hackers and other private citizens are encouraged to freely use, modify and release their own MBU/L.A.S.E.R. Tag designs. Units currently exist in NYC, Mexico City, Barcelona, Austria and Taipei. In NYC the MBU can be “checked-out” for free from the G.R.L. resource library and arsenal for use by interested parties. Advertisers need not apply.

:::Marco Mancuso:::
:::Audiovideodrome: on the open source contemporary audiovisual art, design & hyper architecture:::

Audiovisual Art, the ability to create works of art - may they be narrative or abstract - by using sounds and images, has undergone a strong innovative phase in the last years. Within the larger context of ‘new media art’ it has found for itself an all-purpose role which is certainly more complex and multi-faceted, going beyond performances and installations. Progress in technology, open-source hardware and software, have eased the management of real-time audiovisual flows. Thus, contemporary Audiovisual Art seems to be today some sort of borderline area which includes pure creative and artistic expression, but also experimentation and design. A critical attitude towards this phenomenon in analyzing online shared creativity, free code and an ever more intertwined relationship between art, design and hyper architecture allows to observe how the concept of space reflects the existence of a fluid place/non-place to be explored, an element for design, a material and immaterial universe to be confronted with as it redefines the relationship of modern man and the new multimedia scapes surrounding him.

:::Pier Luigi Capucci:::
:::Open Cultures:::

The Opens Source diffusion opened up new options and chances to access the information and new devices. It activated new opportunities in knowledge’s communication and sharing and it expanded the awareness of the cognitive, operative, social and politic use of these instruments. Open Source also imposed a reflection on the software in general as a tool which, although immaterial, has a real, economic value which can’t be ignored in the information age. In the arts, in several realms and disciplines, many artists embraced the Open Source philosophy and practice, creating artworks which expand their power both at the poetics level and increasing the artworks’ flexibility and sharing, hence enlarging the extent of the artistic discourse

:::Laura Colini:::
:::Reflecting on ICT participated spatial practices and city making:::

Given the breakdown of defences against information glut, an awareness of how we use, act and interact through modern digital technology is becoming critical. Global trends and symbolic economy shape the production and distribution of a large variety of modern tools that use similar ways to communicate via text, audio, video. As a result, the creative digital communicative syndrome tends to sedate the question of “how and why” we act together and represent and shape our cities and lived space through digital media. Beyond the many definition of cities, I assume that cities are site of collective spatial practices and discursive processes, procedures and codified protocols leading to social, economic, material and cultural transformations. The purpose of this intervention, is to engage in reflecting on the processes of city-making analysing the benefits, pitfalls, and trade-offs of the combination of spatial practices with ICT. In particular, the parameters adopted to discern and categorize such practices is their capacity to empower local communities and to engender citizens participatory. I argue that the variety of social media, PPGIS, participatory video making and the latest resource on the web, -which have a strong emphasis on spatial related practices- could be analyzed according to their capacity to stimulate directly or indirectly socially and politically transformative approaches to city making. In order to validate the importance of studying the interdependency of ICT, social interaction and urban planning, I will refer to the selected research and case studies looking at their capacity of engendering truly participative processes, trying to unveil their limits, rhetoric, and visible/invisible power interests.

:::Umane Energie e Confinidigitali:::
:::Beduino presentation:::

Confini Digitali e Umane Energie present Beduino, an open source instrument, designed to simplify the process of creating electronic based art projects. It can be used for music controllers, VJ controllers, MIDI instruments, dance triggers and body suits, interactive installations, driving LEDs, motor and robotic controls and much more... It is based on the well-known Arduino platform, and 100% compatible with it, but intended to be used even without writing a single line of code. Beduino comes with a MaxMsp patch, possible and free to use with all major operating systems


Digicult: Digimag 37/September 08_English Version Online

Wed Sep 24, 2008 00:00 - Wed Sep 24, 2008


Sorry for any crossposting

Digicult presents:


The english version of Digimag, Digicult monthly e-magazine of digital culture and electronic arts, is available online

You can read all the past articles and issues in the Archive section here:



- JULIENE MAIRE - by Claudia D'Alonzo and Marco Mancuso
- MASSIMO BANZI - by Marco Mancuso
- BRUCE MC CLURE - by Bertram Niessen and Marco Mancuso
- GEOFF COX - by Clemente Pestelli
- PAUL AMLEHN/ROBERT FRIPP - by Giuseppe Cordaro
- SILVIA BOTTIROLI/ZAPRUDER - by Silvia Scaravaggi


- ISEA 2008 by Annette Wolfsberger
- EVA LONDON - by Donata Marletta
- SANTARCANGELO - by Annamaria Monteverdi
- MAQUINAS Y ALMAS - by Barbara Sansone
- CRACK! - by Annamaria Monteverdi
- PANORAMI PARALLELI - by Massimo Schiavoni


- SOUNDMUSEUM.FM - by Marco Mancuso
- NETSUKUKU - by Davide Anni
- MAURIZIO BOLOGNINI - by Lucrezia Cippitelli


- THE ARTIST AS ARTWORK - PARTE 2 - by Domenico Quaranta


- Marco Mancuso - Barcelona Parc Guell - Gaudì's house


- Virginia Cavalletti, Francesca Magnaghi, Ornella Pesenti, Chiara Resmini


DIGICULT is a cultural project involved in digital culture and electronic arts. The DIGICULT project is directed by Marco Mancuso and based on the
active participation of 40 professional people about, who represent a wide Italian network of journalists, curators, artists and critics working in the field of electronic culture and digital art. And on a multitude of updated strategies around new media communication, web 2.0 and networking activities. Translated in english, DIGICULT is today a web portal updated daily with news and, but it's also the editor of the monthly magazine DIGIMAG, discussing with a critic and journalistic approach, about net art, hacktivism, video art, electronica, audio video, interaction design, artificial intelligence, new media, software art, performing art.
DIGICULT produce the electronic music and audiovisual podcast DIGIPOD and the newsletter international service DIGINEWS. DIGICULT in finally involved
in side activities like media partnership and special journalistic/critic reports for festivals and exhibitions, consultancy and curatorial activities and is now working for Italian artists international promotion with its new born art agency DIGIMADE, presenting their works to main international festivals, cultural events, platforms and centers working with digital and electronics



- Marco Mancuso - director

- Luca Restifo - technical consulting

- Silvia Scaravaggi - editing

- Claudia D'Alonzo - press office

- Riccardo Vescovo and Gianluca Ferrari - graphic design

- Giuseppe Cordaro - podcast

- Giulia Simi - cultural ass. and fundraising


Luigi Pagliarini, Tatiana Bazzichelli, Bertram Niessen, Teresa De Feo, Luigi Ghezzi, Giulia Baldi, Domenico Quaranta, Lorenzo Tripodi, Massimo Schiavoni, Monica Ponzini, Domenico Sciajno, Valentina Tanni, Annamaria Monteverdi, Motor, Isabella Depanis, Tiziana Gemin, Fabio Franchino, Lucrezia Cippitelli, Silvia Bianchi, Francesca Valsecchi, Claudia D'Alonzo, Barbara Sansone, Sara Tirelli, Laura Colini, Alessandro Massobrio, Eleonora Oreggia, Giulia Simi, Silvia Scaravaggi, Maresa Lippolis, Francesco d'Orazio, Alessio Galbiati, Claudia Moriniello, Giuseppe Cordaro, Antonio Caronia, Clemente Pestelli, Davide Anni, Donata Marletta, Valeria Merlini


- Virginia Cavalletti, Francesca Magnaghi, Ornella Pesenti, Chiara Resmini