xCoAx 2019

7th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X

3–5 July Milan Fabbrica del Vapore

Program

Wednesday, July 3
14:30 CareOf

Doctoral Symposium Chairs: Simona Chiodo & Philip Galanter

  • Kim Albrecht Design as Drawing Distinctions
  • Linda Kronman Machine Vision in Digital Art
  • Naja Le Fevre Grundtmann Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas: An Iconology of Difference
  • Paul Dunham The Sounds of Obsolescence in the Age of Digital Re-Production
  • Sabina Hyoju Ahn Multi-Sensory Transformation of Biological Signals
  • Tomasz Hollanek Speculating on Artificial Intelligence from Early Photography to Contemporary Design

Attendance to the Doctoral Symposium is limited to presenters and chairs

18:00 White Cube + Black Box

Exhibition Opening Opening Cocktail & Performance

  • Martin Bricelj BaragaSolocular
  • Martin Rumori & Janhavi Dhamankar Here We Are Now: Explorative, Participatory Text Performance Based on John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing
Thursday, July 4 & Friday 5
10:00 – 19:00 White Cube + Black Box

Exhibition

  • Andrés Villa Torres Signal Polarities
  • André Rangel & Simon Rangel aSail: aSynchronous as in life
  • Andy Simionato & Karen Ann Donnachie The Library of Nonhuman Books
  • Angela Ferraiolo Regeneration of the Earth After Its Destruction by the Capitalist Powers
  • Carl Rethmann Machines Looking at People Looking at Machines
  • Chris Williams Who's the Dummy?
  • Francisca Rocha Gonçalves & Rodrigo Carvalho Luciferina
  • Kim Albrecht Distinction Machine
  • Linda Kronman & Andreas Zingerle Forensic Fantasies: Artistic Remixing of a Global Data Breach
  • Marc Lee Me, Myself & I
  • Martin Bricelj BaragaSolocular
  • Martin Rumori Promenade
  • Paul Heinicker, Lukáš Likavčan & Qiao Lin Alt’AI: Designing Machine-to-machine Interfaces for Automated Landscapes
  • Philip Galanter evoColorBox
  • Philippe Kocher & Daniel Bisig Stripes
  • Tim Shaw Ring Network
Thursday, July 4
9:30 Registration and Accreditation
10:00 CareOf

Paper Session 1 Moderator: Mario Verdicchio

11:15 Coffee Break
11:45 CareOf

Paper Session 2 Moderator: Alessandro Ludovico

13:00 Free Time for Lunch
14:30 CareOf

Paper Session 3 Moderator: Luís Pinto Nunes

15:45 Coffee Break
16:15 CareOf

Paper Session 4 Moderator: Martin Kaltenbrunner

17:30 Coffee Break
18:00 CareOf

Keynote Moderator: Philip Galanter

  • Luciana Parisi
  • Q&A
19:00 Free Time
21:30 Sala delle Colonne

Performances

  • Alberto Novello Laser Drawing
  • Luís Arandas, José Gomes & Rui Penha Never The Less: A Performance on Networked Art
  • Jules Rawlinson SKR1BL
  • Annina Ruest Bad Mother / Good Mother
  • Jingyin He Serrate Nº 2
Friday, July 5
10:00 CareOf

Paper Session 5 Moderator: Boris Debackere

11:15 Coffee Break
11:45 CareOf

Paper Session 6 Moderator: Sophie-Carolin Wagner

13:00 Free Time for Lunch
14:30 CareOf

Artwork Presentations Moderator: Jason Reizner

  • Andrés Villa Torres
  • André Rangel & Simon Rangel
  • Andy Simionato & Karen Ann Donnachie
  • Angela Ferraiolo
  • Carl Rethmann
  • Chris Williams
  • Francisca Rocha Gonçalves & Rodrigo Carvalho
  • Kim Albrecht
  • Linda Kronman & Andreas Zingerle
  • Marc Lee
  • Martin Bricelj Baraga
  • Martin Rumori
  • Paul Heinicker, Lukáš Likavčan & Qiao Lin
  • Philip Galanter
  • Philippe Kocher & Daniel Bisig
  • Tim Shaw
  • Q&A
16:15 Coffee Break
16:45 CareOf

Performance Presentations Moderator: André Rangel

  • Alberto Novello
  • Annina Ruest
  • Jingyin He
  • Jules Rawlinson
  • Luís Arandas, José Gomes & Rui Penha
  • Martin Rumori & Janhavi Dhamankar
  • Q&A
18:00 Coffee Break
18:30 CareOf

Keynote Moderator: Luísa Ribas

  • Domenico Quaranta
  • Q&A
19:30 Break
21:30 Trattoria Il Quadrifoglio

Conference Dinner

Keynote:
Luciana Parisi

Portrait of Luciana Parisi

Luciana Parisi researches the philosophical consequences of technology in culture, aesthetics and politics. She is a Reader in Critical and Cultural Theory at Goldsmiths University of London and co-director of the Digital Culture Unit. She is the author of Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (2004, Continuum Press) and Contagious Architecture. Computation, Aesthetics and Space (2013, MIT Press). She is now writing on the history of automated reason and the transformation of logical thinking in machines.

Keynote:
Domenico Quaranta

Portrait of Domenico Quaranta

Domenico Quaranta is a contemporary art critic and curator. His work focuses on the impact of current means of production and dissemination on the arts, and on the way they respond – syntactically and semantically – to the technological shift. He is the author of Beyond New Media Art (2013) and AFK. Texts on Artists 2011-2016 (2016), and the curator of a number of exhibitions, including Collect the WWWorld (2011-2012) and Cyphoria (2016).

Papers

Tsila Hassine & Ziv Neeman The Spectre of Zombies is Haunting AI Art: How AI Resurrects Dead Masters, and Alternative Suggestions for AI Art and Art History

In the past few years deep-learning AI neural networks have achieved major milestones in artistic image analysis and generation, producing what some refer to as ‘art.’ We reflect critically on some of the artistic shortcomings of a few projects that occupied the spotlight in recent years. We introduce the term ‘Zombie Art’ to describe the generation of new images of dead masters, as well as what we term ‘The AI Reproducibility Test.’ In conclusion, we propose new directions for both AIgenerated art and art history, in the light of these new powerful AI technologies of artistic image analysis and generation.

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Hanna Schraffenberger, Yana van de Sande, Gabi Schaap & Tibor Bosse Can you fool the AI?: Investigating People’s Attitude Towards AI with a Smart Photo Booth

With the increasing impact of AI in people’s everyday lives, multidisciplinary research on the public perception and understanding of AI is more important than ever. Yet, such research is still scarce. In this paper, we present a novel and playful setup for evaluating the impact of actual Human-AI-Interaction on people’s attitudes towards AI. The proposed setup takes the form of an intelligent photo booth capable of identifying humans. We present a first pilot study, illustrating how this AI system could be used in research. During this pilot, visitors of a film festival were challenged to fool the AI and take a selfie on which the intelligent photo booth would not identify them as a human being. Participants’ attitudes towards AI were measured before and after the interaction. Based on exploratory observations, we conclude that multidisciplinary research into AI attitude, Human-AI Interaction and AI literacy is a promising research direction.

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Sarah Ciston Imagining Intersectional AI

Artificial intelligence should be created and used with more critical thought to the biases and ideologies baked in. This paper surveys current research contextualizing the stakes of AI discrimination and looks to intersectionality as a set of overlapping frameworks applicable to AI for both analysis and tactics. It argues that intersectional approaches need to be implemented widely, in community, and throughout the entire AI pipeline—from development and implementation to cultural absorption and material impacts. Although that vision is far from being fully realized, this paper points to examples suggesting how experimental engagements with AI can help imagine its intersectional futures.

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Pedro Costa & Luísa Ribas Some Things You Can Ask Me: About Gender and Digital Assistants

This paper explores the relationship between gender and artificial intelligence, drawing on an analysis of digital assistants that reveals how these entities tend to be feminized through their anthropomorphization, the tasks they perform, and their behavioral traits. Furthering this discussion, it focuses on the main questions raised by researchers and academics when examining the feminization of artificial intelligence. It then confronts these views with current discourses on the phenomenon in the context of online media coverage, while also considering how AI is portrayed in popular culture and bodies of fiction. Finally, it observes current trends of development of digital assistants, such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant or Siri, and their stance towards gender according to the functions or features they prioritize. In this manner, this study seeks to promote discussion and tackle the questions that arise when the relationship between gender and AI is subject to closer inspection.

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Pinelopi Papadimitraki Networked Living

As networked technologies pervade all aspects of daily life, they effectively reconfigure the ways we meet, communicate and act together. On closer inspection, these broader social and cultural shifts manifest themselves in our personal techno-mediated habits. This work uses such tech-based behavioral patterns to assemble a synoptic overview of networked sociability, its repercussions, and socio-spatial potential. The first chapter is concerned with how algorithmically-filtered online places inform the public discourse and urban space. The second chapter centers on the private sphere and the ways in which our increasingly sophisticated tools redefine the concepts of intimacy and solitude. Finally, this work assumes a critical design approach to imagine two speculative devices, Meetspace and Z-Shell – discursive objects that capitalize on our tech-fueled habit formation to suggest better practices for our media-infused future.

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Craig Fahner & Matthew Waddell Deep Solutions: Artistic Interventions in Platform Surveillance

The business model held by platforms like Facebook and Google is dependent on practices of user tracking and data collection. These practices place their users in a highly asymmetrical position in which platforms know significantly more about their users than users are able to know about the tracking strategies of platforms. This paper argues that media artworks are uniquely equipped to level these asymmetries by creating sites that reveal the inner workings of these processes. We present a virtual reality installation called DEEP SOLUTIONS that aims to interpret the data that is collected by Facebook, creating an environment wherein issues of platform surveillance are contended with and experimental alternatives are proposed.

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Rodrigo Hernández-Ramírez Surveillance Capitalism and the Perils of Augmented Agency

Over the last decades, a new form of economic system has emerged: “surveillance capitalism”. Based on the extraction, appropriation, and commercialisation of increasingly detailed behavioural data but cloaked under the guise of personalisation, surveillance capitalism limits our privacy and our freedom of choice. This paper contends Big Tech organisations, the primary beneficiaries of the data-driven economy, are curtailing our capacity to self-transform, all the while promoting and generalising a false sense of augmented agency that perpetuates a lopsided and bureaucratic relationship with the world. This paper shows that a technologically informed philosophical reflection can help counter this state of affairs. It contends that a critical stance can help humans put themselves back on the feedback loop of technological mediation by helping us recognise our “becoming” with technologies as a design process.

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Catarina Sampaio, Luísa Ribas & Pedro Ângelo Data (self) Portraits: An Approach to the Visualization of Personal Data from an Autoethnographic Perspective

This study aims to explore the creative possibilities associated with the concept of data portrait as a means of representing and expressing identity. To this end, it begins by discussing the concept, its emergence, and the functions of data portraits. It then examines its concrete manifestations by analyzing a set of aesthetic artifacts that are, implicitly or explicitly, tied to the notion of data portrait through different creative approaches. This analysis informs the design and development of a Data Self-Portrait, aiming to explore visualization methods for producing a portrait, generated from personal data collected through an autoethnographic approach. In this manner, this study seeks to highlight how personal data become relevant in portraying identity. It seeks to contribute to a discussion about the ways of conceptualizing portraiture, informed by the current proliferation of digital data and the creative possibilities offered by computational media for exploring the portrait as a representation genre.

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Gaia Tedone Human-Algorithmic Curation: Curating with or Against the Algorithm?

Although the cultural and social purpose of algorithms is the object of much public debate and contestation, their function is often compared with that of a renowned figure in the intellectual milieu: the curator. In this article I want to look at the relationship between these two agents – why they are compared and how they influence each other – in order to address the following question: is the curator working with or against the algorithm? Through the analysis of three hybrid artistic and curatorial experiments (including my own curatorial work) I want to problematise the false dichotomy of working either with or against the algorithm. I suggest instead that a critically reflexive approach to both the procedures of technology and art curating, to their biases and gatekeeping mechanisms, is necessary to address the crisis of cultural value brought about by the algorithmic world and for forging strategic alliances between humans and machines that can channel new forms of creativity and cooperation.

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Adriana Sá & Atau Tanaka The Variables of Spatial Presence: A Parametric Model

The term ‘spatial presence’ refers to the feeling of presence in a mediated space. This subjective experience has been discussed in media theory, sound art, film and performance. It depends on multiple variables, or parameters. This paper presents a parametric model that can be used to analyze those variables and their relationships. It exposes methods to assess interaction, characteristics of sound and image, audio-visual relationship and physical setup. It also exposes methods to assess how these variables intertwine in perceptual experience. The model draws from perception science, interaction design, music and audio-visual theory. It is applicable to the broad diversity of aesthetical options and technical platforms, facilitating the analysis of spatial presence in any performance. One can also discard part of the parameters so as to analyze installations, sound art and film.

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Catherine Griffiths Approaches to Visualise and Critique Algorithms in Ethically Sensitive Spaces

This arts research project addresses the domain of obfuscation and ethics in algorithms, including computer vision and machine learning systems. The work presents a series of simulations as visual-critical arguments, proposed as methods to open the algorithmic black box to visualize and think through the meaning created by algorithmic structure and process deployed in ethically sensitive spaces. The project seeks to provide access to and elucidate the abstraction and obfuscation at the heart of algorithmic systems.

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Andreas Zingerle & Linda Kronman Information Diving on an E-waste Dump in West Africa: Artistic Remixing of a Global Data Breach

Consumer electronics such as smartphones and notebooks have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly adding electronic devices onto our shopping list. Devices that are adding up to a 24h surveillance system that is tracking every aspect of our life. Through planned obsolescence the life cycle of many electronic parts that compose a product is significantly shorter than the life cycle of the product. Some obsolete devices end up in regulated e-waste centers in Europe, yet 47% of European e-waste is illegally dumped on electronic-wastelands in developing countries each year. These devices still contain personal data that can be reanimated and abused when falling into wrong hands. A research team recovered data from hard-drives bought on the biggest West African e-waste dump and shared it with a network of international artists. In a research lab, artists and researchers explored what happens to our electronic waste, what kind of data traces are revealed of the hard-drives prior owners, and what environmental and privacy threats do exist. The artistic explorations were documented in form of a publication and presented as an exhibition series that raise concerns on privacy, data security and illegal e-waste trade.

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Jens Vetter Netz 2.0: Towards Site-specific Performative Topologies

The way we perceive music, interact with musical instruments and produce music has changed. Based on new digital technologies and electronic and scientific concepts, musical instruments today differ fundamentally from traditional acoustic instruments. Thanks to micro controllers and a wide variety of sensors, there are no limits to the imagination when it comes to the design of new music instruments and interfaces for musical expression. However, this also raises new questions that go beyond the technical and sound-related evolution of interfaces for musical expression. How do we interact with these new instruments? How are they operated? Are approaches such as the traditional keyboard still a point of reference, or can the numerous possible interactions based on sensor technology and computer programming be formalised within a more contemporary classification? This article proposes a concept for analysing new musical interfaces and their interaction in a new light. It includes the description of the site-specific interactive sound installation Netz 2.0, which introduces a spider web-like instrument topology offering an interaction method based on stretching and pulling elastic strings.

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Andreia Machado Oliveira, Kalinka Mallmann, Joceli Sales, Bruno Gottlieb, Lorenzo Schwertner Kaufmann, Eduardo P. Custodio & Hermes Renato Hildebrand Collaborative Artistic Practices in a Kaingáng Community as a Dispositif for Cultural Development

Our paper offers an account of our experience with a collaborative art and technology project with the Kaingáng indigenous community of the village of Terra do Guarita, in the northwest region of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. We present our reflections on the implementation of collaborative artistic practices looking to indigenous culture as context and not as theme. Our project bears witness as to how artistic practice conducted in a collaborative manner shapes and structures itself through the reality of the Other when art becomes a dispositif for social integration and cultural development based on an ethical-aesthetic paradigm. Based on artistic practices related to indigenous cultures, we set up audiovisual creation workshops and produced an affective mapping of the community with indigenous children, and subsequently, undertook the creation of a digital game for Android devices (in progress) based on Kaingáng culture and language.

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Jingyin He serraE: Re-Visioning the Chinese Yu as Mechatronic Musical Instruments Towards Revitalization and Preservation

The yu is an ancient Chinese scraper-class percussion, used to indicate time (specifically, the end of a piece of music) in court and ritual music. The yu was played by scraping across 27 serrates and striking the body of the percussion, using a bamboo brush mallet. Although the yu had limited musical function, it was included in court and ritual ensembles due to its unique design and distinct playing schema. Despite its cultural significance, the yu is not used today and is only seen in museums. This paper describes an approach to re-vision the yu towards revitalization and preservation through its reconstruction as a mechatronic musical instrument.

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Gordan Kreković & Antonio Pošćić Modalities of Improvisation in Live Coding

Live coding is a practice of computer programming used to create music and digital media that strongly relies on improvisation. While live coding, as a relevant form of contemporary artistic practice, is a lucrative research topic, improvisation in this interdisciplinary setting is scarcely systematically explored. This paper investigates modalities of improvisation and its relation to composition in live coding from multiple viewpoints. First, we provide an overview of improvisation in its historic and contemporary contexts identifying common traits of traditional, live electronics, and computer-aided improvisation. Then, we discuss and categorise modalities specific to live coding based on the nature of prewritten code and the types of real time interventions. Besides theoretical views, we present a case study – our practical experience with one of the improvisational modalities used to create music for a contemporary choreography.

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Tom Mudd Between Chaotic Synthesis and Physical Modelling: Intrumentalizing with Gutter Synthesis

This paper presents the Gutter Synthesis project, a synthesis method that combines chaotic synthesis based on the Duffing Oscillator dynamical system with modal-like resonances. The synthesis process is described and the project is related both to prior work on chaotic synthesis and to relevant perspectives from physical modelling. A range of specific kinds of interactions with the synthesis engine are considered, supported by accompanying videos. These interactions demonstrate the complexity of behaviours that can be encountered when interacting with chaotic systems, particularly in relation to hysteresis. The potential of the system to enter different states, and for unstable boundary points to be explored as creative resources are considered and linked to Andy Keep’s notion of instrumentalizing.

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Fabricio Fava, Camila Mangueira Soares & Miguel Carvalhais Interspecies Playful Interactions: Towards the Expansion of the Interaction Design Field

In this work we explore a change of perspective on interaction design in favour of a nonhuman turn. We highlight animal studies, especially those that extend to them the notion of play, as well as studies on playful design and interspecies playful interaction, conducted in the context of animal-computer interaction. This discipline adopts an animal-centred approach and its research has been showing the benefits of enhancing interspecies relationships driven by the design of interactive technology. In this context, we propose to expand the field of interaction design as an approach to the connection with the nonhuman world by assuming an ecological perspective in which empathy is a key factor.

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Antonio Daniele & Yi-Zhe Song Artistic Assemblage

This paper refers to the theories of Extended Mind (EM) and enactivism as cognitive frameworks to understand contemporary approaches to art practice. The essay is structured in four sections and offers examples from existing works of artists across a range of media, with a focus on the computational arts. Initially, we compare the two models of cognition by highlighting differences and similarities, arguing that the epistemic value of each approach is observer-dependent. Following, we explain why art can be considered as a form of language. Then, we echo from the concept of “assemblage” as a mode of thinking (Dewsbury, 2011) expressed in Deleuze and Guattari (1987) and more recently in Hayles (2017) by proposing the idea of the “artistic assemblage”. In the end, we underline the validity of both cognitive models for understanding the system of relations, which allows the emergence of the “artistic assemblage”.

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Rosemary Lee Aesthetics of Uncertainty

Machine learning has a tendency to reveal inconsistencies which have transversal relevance bridging computer science with art and the humanities. Rather than purely situations of inconsistency, discrepancy, or malfunction, Derrida’s notion of aporia (Derrida 1993) describes uncertainty as a precondition of dialectics. Expanding on Derrida’s line of thinking, this paper speculates that the internal frictions which can be found in artificial intelligence and machine learning systems may be understood in terms of a new kind of aesthetic informed by uncertainty.

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Vladimir Todorović & Dejan Grba Helping Machines (Help Us) Make Mistakes: Narrativity in Generative Art

The development of automatic narrative systems has been largely driven by the engineering tendency to anthropomorphize the machine logic so they can ‘tell stories’ similar to how humans do. From the artists’ perspective, however, the experimentation with their media is often more important than the (plausibility of) storytelling, and it often unfolds in nonverbal events that have a potential to generate diverse narratives through experience of the audience. We discuss the emergence of the creative practices that enrich the poetic repertoire of new media art by playfully utilizing the machine flaws, irregularities, errors and systemic technical imperfections thus revealing the human biases and fallacies entangled with technology. One of the implications of these practices is that if the AI research opens up a broader space in which a machine could achieve its own authorial voice, our concept and understanding of the narrative would need to be reconsidered.

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Kelly van Rijsbergen & Alwin de Rooij Art-Science Collaboration: The Role of Problematization and Artefact use

Collaboration between artists and scientists is often thought to benefit scientific creativity, the production of scientific knowledge that is both novel and of high quality. The added value of artists could be explained by the artist’s skills in problematization, i.e. the skill of criticising theories to find new interesting outcomes; and the tendency to self-create artefacts to find common ground and ease communication to bridge the languages of different disciplines. In the present paper, a first experimental look is taken at the role of problematization and artefact use during art-science collaboration in early stages of the scientific process, in a student sample, where existing knowledge is investigated to develop a research question. The results of the study showed that self-created artefacts are a valuable asset in the communication between artists and scientists, even contributing to the novelty and overall quality of research questions through the process of problematization. As such, the contribution of this paper is preliminary experimental evidence of the added value of artscience collaboration for scientific knowledge production, and the role of problematization and self-created artefacts therein.

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Doctoral Symposium

Doctoral Symposium Chairs

Portrait of Simona Chiodo

Simona Chiodo is Full Professor of Philosophy at the Politecnico di Milano, where she teaches Aesthetics and Epistemology and coordinates the interdoctoral course of Epistemology of Scientific and Technical Research. She was Visiting Professor in Edinburgh, Visiting Scholar in Pittsburgh and spent research stays at Harvard. She is a member of the Research Ethical Committee of Politecnico di Milano. Her research focuses on Epistemology (relationship between aisthesis and episteme, epistemological dualism and relationship between reality and ideality) and Aesthetics (beauty and aesthetics of architecture).

Portrait of Simona Chiodo

Philip Galanter is an artist, theorist, educator, and curator. As an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University he conducts graduate studios in generative art and physical computing. He is an MFA graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

As an artist Philip creates generative hardware systems, light and sound sculptures, video and sound art installations, digital fine art prints, and light-box transparencies. Philip’s published research includes the scientific exploration of complex systems, and the development of art and social theory bridging the cultures of science and the humanities. His writing has appeared in both art and science publications.

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