Sex Robots, an African Heroine, and the Uncanny Valley (Part 1)

May 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

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When I first came across African artist Milumbe Haimbe a couple years ago, thanks to introduction by Cissie Swig, beloved San Francisco art benefactor, her graphic novel “The Revolutionist” was clearly a science fiction. The story is set in the near future on a satellite colony off the orbit of mainland Earth, dominated by a corporation. Social conformity is subliminally reinforced, the economy is purely corporate-driven, exploitation of human by human thrives and the insatiable appetite for sex robots threatens to tip the already delicate social balance. This gives rise to the resistance called Army for the Restoration of Womanhood. The protagonist Ananiya is a special agent in its Covert Operations Division when news spreads that the Corporation is developing a prototype robot that is sophisticated and sexually attractive enough to replace human women altogether. Before long the resistance galvanizes into a full-blown revolution, and Ananiya thrives to become the most unlikely hero on a mission to destruct the prototype before it enters the mass market.

If the story of robots replacing real women sounds far-fetched, I am here to report that Abyss Creations, manufacturer of RealDoll, life-size sex dolls designed to recreate the appearance, texture, and weight of the human form, has launched Harmony AI, bringing artificial intelligence to the dolls the company has been making for 20+ years.  “Harmony smiles, blinks and frowns. She can hold a conversation, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. She’ll remember your birthday, […], what you like to eat, and the names of your brothers and sisters. She can hold a conversation about music, movies and books. And of course, Harmony will have sex with you whenever you want”, as Jenny Kleeman reports for The Guardian after visiting the factory and interacting with the prototype.   « Read the rest of this entry »

Weaving New Webs of Art, Science and Innovation: Inaugural Essinova Salon Explores Neural Insights in Multiple Dimensions

October 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Written by: Timothy McCormick

Essinova’s inaugural salon and popup gallery on Sept 29 was a great success! A capacity crowd of over 100 guests from widely varied backgrounds gathered at SAP’s AppHaus in Palo Alto, to see the groundbreaking work of neuroscientist/artist Greg Dunn, and to hear talks by Dunn and by Janaki Mythily Kumar, SAP’s VP and Head of Design & Co-Innovation Center.

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Greg Dunn’s original artworks on display at Essinova Salon and Popup Gallery at SAP Labs. Click to view event photo album.

We were honored to share with new audiences the extraordinary work of Greg Dunn, PhD, Philadelphia-based neuroscientist and leading art+science pioneer, who explores novel and visually stunning methods to depict and explain brain structure and functioning. The salon featured a variety of original works and prints by Dunn, including his latest and perhaps most ambitious work to date, “Self Reflected,” which the artist describes as the most detailed and complex artistic depiction of the brain ever been created .”Self Reflected” was funded by National Science Foundation and is on permanent display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

BeiBei Song introducing Essinova Salon and the evening’s program

The event program was led of with an introduction by BeiBei Song, Founder of Essinova interdisciplinary creativity agency, in which she described a recent serendipitous encounter in Finland with “lights hunters” who travel to view and record Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) displays. Describing a scientist, adventurer, executive coach, artist and photographer she befriended there, Song suggested how science, art, design and innovation are driven by related mixtures of passion, curiosity, delight, and a determination to question, understand and explain. Understanding these diverse and mingled drives and roles can open us to richer discoveries across all fields, personally and as a society; and give us the more holistic understandings needed for both business and society to evolve sustainably and creatively, she suggested. « Read the rest of this entry »

Essinova首届“创意沙龙暨快闪画廊”在SAP Labs举行:以神经学洞见艺术、科技与创新之跨界探索

October 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Essinova的首场跨界沙龙暨快闪画廊在硅谷SAP实验室的AppHaus成功举办

撰文:李汭璇 Ruixuan Li 

9月29日晚,Essinova创灵升畅创意经纪公司主办、SAP Labs 承办的一场跨界活动 “艺术、科技与创新:神经连接 (Art, Science and Innovation:a Neural Connection)” 在位于帕罗奥图市的SAP AppHaus举行,为硅谷的人们带来了一个趣味无穷的艺术与创意的夜晚邀请工程师、科学家、艺术家、设计师、和创业家齐聚一堂。活动中最大亮点来自神经学家、艺术家格雷格·邓恩(Greg Dunn)博士在现场展示的他最新的微蚀创作。Essinova创始人宋贝贝、邓恩博士以及SAP Labs副总裁贾纳基·库马尔分别在活动中做了精彩的演讲。湾区本土的科技初创公司Spire为当晚的抽奖活动赞助了可穿戴的冥想装置作为奖品。此外,当晚的来宾还参与了SAP Labs精心策划的互动游戏。

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邓恩的原创镀金微蚀作品在Essinova沙龙和快闪画廊展览。点击观看艺术家的更多作品。

邓恩是Essinova旗下的一位签约艺术家。他以神经科学的博士学位毕业于宾夕法尼亚大学,现居费城,全职进行艺术创作。在读研究生的时候, 邓恩就从自己的艺术实验里发现了神经形态与亚洲极简美学(尤其是水墨画与金箔画的表现形式)的惊人相似性。邓恩和另一位同为科学博士的布莱恩·爱德华合作, 发明出了一种叫作“反射微蚀法 (Reflective Microetching)”的革命性技术, 并运用该技术在金箔表面进行动态图像的创作。当晚,邓恩带来的作品都是基于这一项曾经获得过美国国家科学基金会奖金的技术。 « Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Picture, V – China’s Creative Economy, Beijing’s Creative Spaces and a Robot Monk

August 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

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China’s Creative Economy, through the lens of creative spaces, is the subject of the last installment of our Big Picture series.

It was a few days before New Year 2016 when I first heard the word 融合业态 (Rong He Ye Tai)- fusion or convergence of industries – as a latest trend in China. The son of my father’s friend visited San Francisco with his newly-wed wife during the holidays, and I entertained them. I was trying to explain what kind of work I do (or am doing in recent years), and instead of an awkward silence which I thought would ensue, he was unexpectedly turned on by my “explorations between art and science, culture and technology, nature and lifestyle”, a concept I had thought would be too esoteric, convoluted or impractical for anyone in China to care. “融合业态!” He declared, “It’s the ‘in’ thing now!” He went on to tell me how high tech parks are passé now, replaced by creativity and design parks, and cultural incubators; how a real estate or tourist project would get funding more easily, if it had a cultural theme. He urged me to collaborate with the association he was working for, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture.

Sensing my skepticism, he handed me a document a few days later, on red letterhead. It is the State Council 2014 [10] Gazette, on promoting “the integration of cultural creativity and design services with the development of industries”.

I was blown away.  The central government is recognizing that the culture industry has the desirable attributes of “high knowledge intensity, high value-add, low energy consumption, and low pollution”, as the country’s economy goes through much-needed transformation.  It is encouraging the “deep integration” of culture industries with ‘real’ economy industries such as technology, manufacturing, real estate and retail, as new sources of growth, competitiveness, employment, consumption diversity and higher standard of living. It knows that without culture leading the way, there would be no “Created in China”.

A couple of trips to China in the ensuing months gave me the opportunity to investigate and see with my own eyes. Below I share with you several creative spaces I visited as part of this reconnaissance. It is not a conclusive report on whether the government’s policy is working – much more time and resources would be needed for that – but rather an observation of the physical (and in some cases, business and cultural) environments that creativity is being pursued, along with anecdotal stories. They are not necessarily born out of the Directive – some of these places predated the Gazette by a decade; and the people I spoke to at these places did not necessarily know anything about the policy; but in a uniquely characteristic Chinese way, the Visible Hand of the Government and the Invisible Hand of the Market are certainly at interplay, with the former sometimes directing the latter, while other times shrewdly taking clues and multiplying the latter.
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The Big Picture, III – Venture Capitalist Steps in on San Francisco’s Art exodus; Big Art Meets Big Tech in Silicon Valley’s First Serious Gallery

May 7, 2016 § 4 Comments

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This installment of our Big Picture series zooms in on Silicon Valley.

As the 2010’s enters its second half, something curious is going on between tech and art, in the oft-proclaimed “innovation capital”.

On the one hand, angry protests from San Francisco’s art community, against the new monied tech elites driving up real estate prices and edging out artists and other creatives, are still ringing in the ear. A personal anecdote (other than the fact that non-artist regular people like myself can hardly afford housing here too): just yesterday I was calling a string of art supply stores for a gift I’m planning on buying for a friend in China, only to find out that half of them have moved from their previously listed locations – the one in downtown Palo Alto has moved to Redwood City, after losing its lease to a “social networking company”; the one in San Francisco is in the process of moving to Oakland, vacating space for a condo development (perhaps  targeting employees of that social networking company). All-too-familiar stories, about the exodus of art. « Read the rest of this entry »

LAST Festival Art Expo Highlights

October 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

The 3rd installation of the L.A.S.T. Festival, organized by Thymos Foundation and originally conceived by Piero Scaruffi, took place over the weekend of October 16 to 18, at Stanford University.  The L.A.S.T. Festival celebrates the confluence of art with the multiplicity of new media technologies and nascent sciences that are transforming sociality and experience in the 21st century.

The Festival featured four programs:

  • Interactive multimedia art installations that break the “Do not touch!” taboo of the traditional museum and are meant to let people experience something they never experienced before
  • Inspirational talks by luminaries on cutting-edge technology and science, including Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Biology, Nanotech, Space Exploration, and Neuroscience
  • Live performances
  • Interactive workshops or talks by artists

Click to watch video recordings of the talks.

And here are some photos of the art installations.  Click on the images to learn more about each installation. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Birthday Dreamscape | Act III: The Hybrid Here and Now

July 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

Act I –  Voyage to the edge of the universe

Act II – Quantified-self, lifelogs and someone else’ mindscape

Epilogue – The comfort of my cake


Act III – The hybrid Here and Now

The birthday came and went, but the angst have not subsided.

Stop thinking so much about the future.  Worry not about your place in the universe.  Quit the futile attempt of analyzing yourself.  “Here and now” I remind myself.  Live the moment as it is!

But where is Here and what is in the Now?  And how best to capture the moment?  Suddenly I am so disoriented that even the zen attitude is challenged on the most fundamental levels.

The lifelogging exhibition still open for a few more days, my mind revisits the Science Gallery to take a look at another installation, which could be a superior method of capturing the “now”.  Compared to some of the other works, it also emphasizes “caring for oneself” more than “knowing oneself”.  Since the 24th September 2003, Alberto Frigo, an Italian media artist currently living in Sweden, has been photographing objects he has used with his right hand, as one of eighteen different aspects of reality he is collecting.

It has been 31 years since I inked the very first word in my journal, but my teenage self at the time gave it no forethought whatsoever about this number. Three decades in the future would have felt like the next life to her, too distant to be bothered with.   Frigo’s project, on the other hand, is well planned out – it will be 36-years-long, from 2004 to 2040 when he turns 60.

Alberto Frigo’s exhibition at Dapiran Art Project Space, Utrecht, Netherland, April 2015

Alberto Frigo’s exhibition at Dapiran Art Project Space, Utrecht, Netherland, April 2015

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My journal since July 1984

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