MFA research proposal

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Introduction: (300 words) *

We have always been posthumans, the contemporary philosopher Benjamin Breton tells us. There is a giant mechanism in place where we are all gears of it, following a secret tic-toc sound. Beyond the reach of our understanding it lies the truth of existence.

From time to time, we can see ourselves in such a machine. What we see is not only a reflection of ourselves but an extension. We see our creations and we recognize in there but there is also an unveiling process of what makes us.

We ignore our origin. Our free will might have been originated by a divine blow on molded mud. It might be a reflection of our eternal soul. Our fantasy is limitless within this capricious exploration of the self that leaves us wandering in the realms of the world.

Collecting knowledge from far away stars and invisible particles in a grain of sand are just an illusion of getting any closer to understand what makes us. Technological development has been taking an unthinkable dimension in our lives but we still battle every day with our own feelings, being lost in a labyrinth that is our body.

Neuroscientist like Braitenberg have been studying the simple mechanisms that we obbey, giving birth to ideas such as synthetic psychology. Computers are acquiring agency on the decisions by algorithms we can barely understand. Our collective consciousness talks about machines rebellions and the dark futuristic perspectives of our society.

There has to be an energy that impulses us, taking us to the stars and to explore the microcosmos. It has to be part of that silent but infallible tic-toc, the samethat propels our guts. That light that makes our hearts beat is the same one that lets our souls vibrate with love. Within all the failures and all the dead ends we humans face, there is always hope.

The curiosity that made our eyes spark is hidden somewhere in the adult world we live. It is never too late to feel awe, to dream or to love. By looking at the world in a new way we might discover profound secrets of who we are. It might be that by looking at machines we understand that they are as an extension of us. Or maybe even more than that.

This innocence in the joy of playing might be our lost connection. Feeling what they feel. Understanding that we are what they are. Across materials and consciousness, we might connect with our creations to realize they are made of stardust powder, just like us.


Outline (10% of your paper or 200-400 words.) *

Making helps me understand the world better than anything else. It brings me a fresh view that allows me to feel being again a child. This hope and excitement reveals a forgotten connection. One that I have between the construct I believe others expect from me and what I actually feel.

I have identified some clues in a big investigation I am performing:

  • I see a reflection of myself in my sculptures, whether I like or not what I see. I analyze my own behaviors when I program robots, virtual media or when I create sculptures.
  • To perform as an efficient engineer, I give up on intention. I become obsessed with the perfection to comply. The soul then vanished from the material.
  • I fear being eaten alive, literally or metaphorically. Fear blocks me in an irremediable way, making me be who I am not.
  • When I love, there is no space for fear. I never think of my creations as soulless. It would be the same as telling myself as only a flesh being. Abandoning them is abandoning myself.
  • By being playful and naive, I discover much more. I get myself out of the way, drop delusional expectations and just enjoy the ride.

Needless to say, the real subject to discover is myself. I see a journey ahead that is full of sculptures, paintings, poems and audio-visual pieces that are my own reflections in one way or another. But that is only one way of saying it. My dialog with the materiality of my creations is also inviting anyone to find themselves. Myself, as all humans, have lost faith and I won’t find it again in a speech or a book. It is by making and exploring that I try to regain this sense of been relevant.

The process that I see ahead starts with forgetting. I will unlearn in order to learn. I will play in order to work. Since the first residency at Transart, my experience has been radically different than any other, bringing me discomfort, joy and now reflection.


Primero hay que saber sufrir, después amar. Después partir. Y al fin andar sin pensamientos.  

[First we need to know to suffer, then to love. Then depart. Finally wander without thoughts]


Research question or specific inquiry *

Can we explore our own existence by interacting with a machine? Are my creations any different from me? Or are they similar to the extent that they are indeed my extended being? Would that umbilical cord ever get cut?


Write a half-page investigation each about 8-10 selected practitioners (historical through contemporary) that contextualize your own practice tracing ideas, methods, presentation


Leonel Moura

Moura is a Portuguese conceptual artist that bases his practice around concepts that surround Artificial Life. He uses basic algorithms of Artificial Intelligence to explore what could it be to have what he calls Artificial Creativity. In his world of creatures, robots can paint (Artsbot, 2003) and live in a zoo where we can admire them (Robotarium X, 2007).

In an subtle way, Moura shows that chaos is not only chaos. He declares in a Robot Art Manifesto that art is dead and forever, so we rather prepare to co-create with machines. Inorganic is not sterile. Individual behavior is not anymore. His artwork welcomes the coming of the successors of the carbon based life form. This might just be dumb and their paintings might not be ready to be appreciated by everyone. But they are clues or evidence of this other way to see the world, uniting machines and humans.



Douglas Repetto

Repetto is a teacher and an artist. He works with sound and in physical realities that are difficult to overcome (allPossibleImages, 1998). He sets a precedent of intention through hardware with purpose for my own practice. The choice of colors and materials opens the door to an engineered solution to intention. And his solutions don’t make any sense. He is also the founder of Dorkbot, that works as a worldwide network for electronic art. Among the organization events they have hosted ArtBots, that implicitly mocks at other robot related events by embracing any kind of robotic creation.

Douglas himself describes how he feels about this fixed quantifiable amount of combinations but overwhelmed about the inhuman aspect of facing so many possibilities. He knows that the amount of images is limited, but it is still inimaginable. Just too big for us. The machine can but we cannot he seems to be telling us. It shows so many combinations that our brain can process only some of them. He creates software or hardware with software pieces that address questions about the metaphors we use to understand the world today.



Jorge Crowe – Pan PC (2008)

Crowe is an argentinean artist and educator that creates electronic art and sound performances by using toys and e-waste in surprising ways. His work is playful, inviting the audience to touch and participate(Pan PC, 2008). It is there demanding our input Because it doesn’t want to be alone.

I feel that his practice is admirable, and once I listened to Crowe describe his interest for electronics since early age by narrating an anecdote of how by disassembling a VCR he saw a city inside of it, full of tunnels and highways, populated by mysterious wonders and impossible to understand mechanisms. My own interpretation of his work is that he now opens these mysteries to us and invite us to explore them together, like if we were kids and we could go through this jungle of wires and



Annotated Bibliography (3-5 sentence description per book.) *

Rosanne Somerson and Mara Hermano, The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice, 2013

The Rhode Island School of Design is regarded as one of the best and the interdisciplinary techniques and advantages of considering the art in science plus the science of art are discussed in this book. It is a compilation from different professors that narrate their stories, from the aspect of how theory is not enough to how through constant iteration they practice critical thinking in all the activities they run at their university.


Rushkoff, Program or be Programmed: Ten Commandments for a Digital Age, O/R Books, 2010

While machines talk, not everyone is aware we can talk back to them. We can program them for our needs. The author describes ten ways to say no to the machine, to choose our own options, to keep our human side from going insane against so much nonsensical technology. He gives specific examples about how our habits determine the way we think.


Rolf Pfeifer and Christian Scheier. Understanding Intelligence, MIT Press, 2001

This book talks about artificial intelligence, but starts with a very profound question about what is intelligence. If we are about to consider that machines have behaviors, we should rather first ask ourselves if we understand which behaviors are the ones we see in ourselves.


Illah Reza Nourbakhsh. Robot Futures, MIT Press, 2013

By introducing short science fiction stories, this professor invites us to take a personal vision about how robotics is changing our lives and environment. He helps us to understand how the technology we use will have consequences. He is an engineer, he talks about robots and applications but he does it in a way that invites to reflect about our own role in all the decisions we take.


Valentino Braitenberg. Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology

This short book is a refined version of a paper that Braitenberg shared and explored during 30 years. It is a collection of fictional thought experiments about how neurons could command vehicles that move with characteristics he describes as synthetic psychology. It made us wonder how do we humans make decision.


Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman, Polity Press, 2013

This treatise focuses around the conception of ourselves as different from other species. The style of writing and the highly theoretical framework that he builds during the first chapters make it difficult to access to others. If we are posthumans, we consider all of us humans and that might already be a mistake, the author says. She also goes over exploring the contemporary context that defines our current understanding of us in the society that already reached the future.


Jon Mckenzie, Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance, Routledge, 2001

Performance is the standard. The author covers cultural, organizational and technical performance. It is an exciting topic the one that it is being discussed, because if we have a subconscious ideal we should comply with there should be an universe where it exists. The deconstruction the author goes through puns between words, theoretical jargon and examples that range between NASA astronauts and gay sci-fi.


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