Ask me anything on the intersections of art, science and technology

Pedro Veneroso
Aug 29, 2018

Hi, I'm Pedro Veneroso, a Brazilian artist, philosopher, researcher and professor dedicated to exploring the intersections of art, science and technology.

Art became a very fluid and mutagenic concept in the 20th century, largely due to the influences of several technological, scientific and philosophical endeavours that date back to the invention of photography, at the beginning of the 19th century, and beyond. In an era when specialization – which has been the norm since the Renaissance – has given place to multi, inter and transdisciplinary approaches, art, science and technology have never been more closely linked together. I find that, nowadays, an artist (as well as a philosopher or a scientist) should always think of the world from a relational and connective point of view.

For that reason, my work is not focused on a particular field of research or a specific medium, but rather on the potential to convey and manipulate meaning by transiting among several different media or disciplines. Drawing, graphic design, photography, video, installations, interactivity, computer arts, web art and several other techniques all play a relevant role in my research, as well as academic fields as different as contemporary art, architecture, philosophy, biology, literary studies, physics and mathematics, among many other. I'm always curious, in a relentless pursuit of knowledge; this is what motivates me, either in my artistic or my academic careers.

In some sense, I feel art can be a way of programming the world: light, sound, matter, colours, the elements or a simple computer program, constantly finding order out of chaos, and chaos out of order, in a permanent flux.

Gogoame, 2016

"Gogoame" is a web art project where visitors can write and read poetry out of raining text:

What color is it? (Que cor é agora?), 2014

"What color is it?" is a chromatic clock that translates time into colours using a set of sine functions:

Those who come with the night (Os que chegam com a noite), 2012

"Those who come with the night" is a public computational installation in which dozens of lampposts in a park blink in different frequencies during the night. I've developed this work with Cinthia Marcelle, a dear friend and incredible artist from Brazil:

Ruins of a city under construction (Ruínas de uma cidade em construção), 2018

"Ruins of a city under construction" is a series of three digital photo-manipulations (which I printed in polychromatic offset lithography) in which I documented the destruction of a house for the construction of a building. I've developed a software to create a sort of sinusoidal glitch, trying to mimic an image being moved while it was scanned.

Binary counting (Contagem binária), 2015

In "Binary counting" I propose a way of finger counting in binary base. This way, one can count from 0 to 31 using only the fingers in one hand.

What is the Vibe of this AMA? What is AMA Vibe?

Conversation (50)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

nice, thank you for sharing 

Last edited @ Sep 21, 3:17AM EDT.
Sep 21, 3:15AM EDT0
How do you define yourself: philosopher, researcher or artist? Are the lines blurring?
Aug 31, 9:22AM EDT1
As a professor, what do you do to motivate students to explore art, science and technology in an unusual and innovative way?
Aug 31, 6:19AM EDT1
What kind of technology and media do you use for your work?
Aug 31, 5:19AM EDT0
What role does system integration play in your art?
Aug 31, 3:06AM EDT0

What are your inspirations on creating those arts?

Aug 31, 12:43AM EDT0
What have been some of the most surprising discoveries you’ve had during your research?
Aug 30, 3:21PM EDT0
How can you explain that the frequency at which the lights blinked (in "Those who come with the night") influence the behavior of the people around a given lamppost? Does it mean that people’s activities are always influenced by external factors that they are unaware of?
Aug 30, 11:52AM EDT0
What was the most challenging technical aspect involved in the production of "Those who come with the night"?
Aug 30, 10:25AM EDT1

The most challenging aspect involved in the production of this installation was the impossibility to prototype and test our circuits in loco, before the event. The park is managed by the state and the electric company responsible for handling the lampposts is also state-owned; both are very bureaucratic organizations and would not allow us to prototype the circuits in the park, install the prototypes for testing and handling the circuits by ourselves (another problem was that they charged handsomely to handle the circuits, so once the circuits were installed, there was nothing more we could do within our budgetary restrictions).

Originally, we wanted to create a network between the circuits: one circuit (or several, depending on how we decided to setup this network) had a radio frequency transmitter and every other circuit in the system had a receiver. This would allow us to create specific animations for the lights which could, then, behave collectively: the central circuit would transmit the states of every lamp at a particular time, and the receiver circuits would behave according to these instructions. We prototyped those circuits in my laboratory and they were working fine. However, when we installed them inside the lampposts, the structures interfered with the signal, rendering it much weaker than we had predicted. The area of the installation was very large (about 160x260 meters), and as the signals got weaker under those circumstances, the network could not be created.

If we had the chance to prototype the installation in the park – where it would be exhibited –, there were several alternatives we could have developed to make our original idea work. We though of creating a mesh network (a network in which each circuit would also transmit to nearby circuits), which could be a way around the weakened signals and the large distances, and of using antennae to increase the signal strength both on the transmitting and on the receiving ends, but once the circuits were installed, there was very little time and resources to make any adjustments to our original circuits. Under these circumstances, we ended up having to program each circuit to operate in a different, preset interval, which prevented the system to display more complex and variable behavior.

The installation could have been very different if we had been able to stick to our original plan, however I think it was very impressive to see how a simpler solution promoted such dynamic interaction between the people who were on the park that night.

Last edited @ Aug 30, 2:16PM EDT.
Aug 30, 11:03AM EDT0
Is it possible to generate new forms of math principles using the arts?
Aug 30, 1:06AM EDT1
In Gogoame, are the traits (size, thickness, speed, etc.) of the letters displayed completely randomized? Or is there some kind of bias?
Aug 29, 7:12PM EDT2

Yes, at this time traits like size, thickness, acceleration and speed are mostly random in Gogoame. However, the individual speeds and accelerations for each character present in a word are used in an equation that calculates the character's initial position in order for a word to be formed in the rain based on those random traits. Which means that, if a character is slower than other, it's initial y position will have to be higher (it will need to start falling from a position closer to the end position) than a faster character in order for them to reach a specific point simultaneously, allowing a word to be formed out of autonomous characters. The initial x position also has to be calculated based on which directions the speed and acceleration of a character are pointing towards. I've developed an algorithm that calculates a character's initial position (an x,y coordinate always starting outside the screen) based on the speed, acceleration and final position it is expected to have (by final position I mean the position where it must intersect to the baseline of a word in order for it to be formed). This logic is what makes it possible for words and texts to be composed in the rain.

Wind, for example, (which influences the characters' accelerations on the x axis) is random, however it is calculated within a range that exists in order to create a sense of coherent behavior for the environment. The position of the cursor also exerts influence on the wind. The sizes for each character are randomized in order to create a sense of depth in a bidimensional and very graphic image. Words written by the user are always stronger (bold) than generic characters and are usually composed of larger characters, in order for it to be highlighted. There is also an adaptive deceleration that is applied once the user's text approaches its final position, which is not random. Acceleration and, therefore, current speed influences the stroke that follows a character, which is a deterministic trait based on random values. Gravity is the only constant in the physics engine, and influences all other forces present in the simulated enviroment. For Gogoame to work, it was therefore necessary to combine random values with deterministic and adaptive behaviors and calculations.

Last edited @ Aug 30, 2:14PM EDT.
Aug 30, 2:12PM EDT0
How would you describe your creative process? How do you come up with the ideas for your art?
Aug 28, 9:38PM EDT1
If you had to place your art under the label of a stereotypical art style, what would it be?
Aug 28, 9:35PM EDT2

In most instances I wouldn't define my art practice and research under a specific style. My approach to art is very heterogeneous: for instance, I think more of languages, codes and media rather than on techniques and technologies. Up until the modernism (including the avantgarde of the early 20th century) the general idea was that an artist was someone who mastered a few techniques which he or she would employ to produce their works. That perspective changed significantly with contemporary art practices: rather than specializing on a specific technique (painting or sculpture, for example) which would be used to convey any message, artists became more interested in navigating among different techniques, languages and media and investigating the outcomes of choosing a particular technique or language (or set of techniques or languages) to develop an artwork and communicate a message. Every subject became relevant to art and every skill could be used to produce art (from woodwork to engineering, drawing to computer programming). Certainly there are still artists concerned with mastering specific techniques and manifesting their personal styles, however this is no longer the norm, but one possible way to think of art (a valid one, nonetheless). In my art practice, I'm usually concerned with understanding how many different languages and codes are organized to produce meaning and knowledge, and this is independent on a specific technique, as it can be explored using different techniques (as well as different areas of knowledge, such as sciences, philosophy or art). It also requires the ability to explore different styles, since they also influence the potential of an artwork (semantic or otherwise).

Even though I don't identify with a specific style or movement, there are several references that pervade my work which are connected to the history of art. Conceptual art (from Duchamp to Kosuth, and beyond) is a lineage I'm directly related to, one which is at the core of how I understand art. Since one of my main interests lies on exploring semantics (and the processes of produing and communicating meanings), I don't think of art exclusively from a visual perspective, but from a conceptual one. Visual languages are surely part of that equation, however there are many other languages (from sound to verbal languages, from programming languages to codes such as genetics and the conventions we use to register time) which are equally important to that endeavor. I have strong ties to concrete and visual poetry, the dadaists, to the history of installation art, to computer arts and several others. The history of art functions as a substrate for my art practice, providing many connections and references (such as nodes would on a rhizome) that I can discuss, manipulate, invert, negate, afirm, investigate (…) in different ways. For me, it is more important to be able to navigate among different media, languages, techniques, codes, styles and areas of knowledge than to identify with only a handful of possibilities. This multiplicity can produce contradictions, paradoxes and logic issues which are very basic to philosophy and, in turn, to my art practice. It is more interesting to be able to explore every possibility of the world and of human knowledge than to restrict this potential.

Aug 30, 10:35AM EDT0

What was the most important moment which defined you as an artist?

Aug 28, 2:19PM EDT1
Do you teach art? What is your approach to teaching? How do you convey your own sense of scientific art to your students?
Aug 28, 11:49AM EDT1
What scientific concepts that are most prevalent through your art?
Aug 28, 11:32AM EDT1
What are the similarities and differences between the creative process in the arts and sciences?
Aug 27, 5:59PM EDT1
In your opinion, the arts and sciences have so much impact on the life of people that they inevitably influence each other?
Aug 27, 11:05AM EDT1
What are the concepts you try to convey in "Those who come with the night"?
Aug 27, 12:21AM EDT2

For me, the key to this installation (it is both a public intervention and an immersive installation) is the social experiences it creates and the changes it promotes on our perception of space, time and social relations. When we set this work up at Belo Horizonte's municipal park, during Noite Branca MG, around 70 lamppost circuits were altered to make them turn on and off at variable intervals. Our intention was for them to behave like fireflies, albeit those were very deconstructive fireflies. Below you can see a synthetic blueprint that shows the disposition of the circuits around a lake in the park (the area shown, which nearly matches the area of the installation, is about 260 x 160 meters); black circles and white circles with a black contour represent the lampposts that were altered for the installation:

Those variable blinking behaviors in turn affected the way people behaved near each lamppost: slowly blinking lights would often attract couples or lonesome individuals, while lights that would blink faster were constantly attracting larger groups; different blinking behaviors would also affect how much time people spent in a particular place, or how fast they would walk by, for example. Some people commented they didn't even notice the installation, thinking all those lights were defective at the same time; but even though they might not have exactly grasped what was happening, they participated in a spacetime experience that the installation was proposing. More than conveying a concept, per se, for me the installation was an intervention that promoted new ways of interaction, experience and perception. It is not a meaning that was conveyed, but rather bodies and communities mediated by a system that was put in place to alter how people sensed things, felt things and behaved in relation to the public space and each other.

The park was really crowded that night (Noite Branca followed the model of Nuit Blanche, a French event in which several artworks, concerts, plays and different cultural activities happen for one single night), with more than 100.000 people attending the venue (Belo Horizonte is a city with around 2.2 million inhabitants, so the turn out was quite impressive). For the sheer size of the installation and the subtle changes it promoted in space, time and the experience of the public space, it was interesting to see how our intervention changed, influenced and took part in the way many of those people perceived and interacted with the space they were attending. Since the work was the result of a collaboration with Cinthia Marcelle, mine is one specific view on our proposal, and also a specific reading of what it achieved. I believe Cinthia will have a unique perspective on the installation and other observations about her impressions on it.

Last edited @ Aug 27, 6:07PM EDT.
Aug 27, 12:53PM EDT1
You show very good examples of the creation of art using science and technology principles and tools. However, what are some instances of scientific concepts being created using the arts as the precursors?
Aug 26, 8:36PM EDT2

This is a really interesting question, one that concerns a research that I'm only beginning to pursue in the context of my PhD thesis on the philosophy of art, science and technology (its working title is “Theory of indetermination: archaeology of the instability of codes”). While we could trace influences of art on the development of scientific concepts and researches, I need further investigation in order to discover if we should treat those influences as if they made a particular art project, movement or field a precursor of a particular scientific concept. Since the concept of art changed many times throughout history, it is also important to understand if our view on the matter is a contemporary one, or if it could be relevant at the time the said influence took place. Many other variables will apply to that analysis.

In a more general notice, one of my hypotheses (backed by McLuhan, Couchot and others) is that the development of new art forms and art works can have a profound impact on society, culture, experience and cognition, in turn influencing sciences and technologies. The reciprocal would also be true. This, related to a connectivity principle by which we recognize that, if we change a particular node (say, art as a general field, or even a specific artwork) of a system, it promotes topological modifications in the system that will affect other nodes (science, technology or society, for example, or particular theories and concepts) and the system itself. This understanding has to do with the theory of the rhizome and also the idea of complex systems and, more specifically, to the sensitive dependence on initial conditions of chaotic systems. It also relates to the behavior of neural networks and even the borgian concept of the Aleph (a literary reference that touches the philosophical and scientific references I speak of).

Let me know if any of you have ideas related to this particular matter or know researches or researchers dealing specifically with this issue.

Aug 26, 9:47PM EDT1
Ask your question
About #ArtistAMA

Welcome to #ArtistAMA, an AMA Event channel for artists and their important work sharing their knowledge and art with others.

The #ArtistAMA channel is owned and operated by AMAfeed, LLC.