Spencer Roberts / Representation, Abstraction and Definition VS Kinetic Surplus

October 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Spencer Roberts will be teaching part of the design practice in context module, aiming to introduce us to research processes within the context of art and design, focusing specifically at the culture of image and temporality that conditions the discourse of design. The aim for this module is to introduce us to the process of preparing papers, posters and presentations for a conference in my particular field, as well as to look at how we might incorporate research in the context of art and design. We will be looking at the persuasive power of images and arguments, and implement my interest in my subject as a mode of research. We will be introduced to key theorists, practitioners, and theoretical positions within my chosen field. This year’s design practice in context module will help prepare me for my final year dissertation and technical study.

Judging from the first lecture’s overview and content, this is going to be a very insightful module, where much new knowledge will learned and applied to my design work. I have a passion this year to fully absorb the information we are given, where as last year I couldn’t fully appreciate it, as a result I’m looking forward to these lectures. I did however find in the first lecture that Spencer seems to waffle a little bit, making it a little bit harder to fully understand what he is talking about, and when students began talking, he would fail to quiet everyone down, making it much harder to hear him from the back of the lecture.

Every 2 weeks we will be introduced to a new theme looking at theory, the structure for term 1 & 2 is as follows:

Term 1

  1. Representation, abstraction and definition VS kinetic surplus
  2. Modernity / anti-modernity / post modernity
  3. Image as argument / image as rhetoric
  4. Creative & artistic research paradigms
  5. Objects, processes, and relations
  6. The production of the new

Term 2

  1. Semiotics and the image
  2. Psychosomatic and the image
  3. Phenomenology and the image
  4. Relational aestheitcs
  5. Notions of the diagramatic
  6. The new affective materialism

The hyper linked text below shows the mind map that we are currently working through in Spencer’s lectures:

Representation_mind map


– Polarities of research and how we have to figure out the context of things > contextual thinking.

– Ontology: the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such.

– Histology: the branch of biology dealing with the study of tissues.  The structure, especially the microscopic structure, of organic tissues.

– Epistemology: a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

– Functional design for human nature

– Activist, radical approaches – change in times, in all forms, but looking at art you can evidently see the stages of change. The animation world thrives off this change because it allows for development.

– Most of the arts lead to ontological (innovation) research > development/transgression

– By forging relations and connections with different areas, it allows for a sort of mutation.

– Critical writing as material practice > problem of representation and criticality > Immanuel Kant: 17th century philosopher – blurring the lines

Spencer told us about the philosopher, Kant, his idea of orders of magnitude (which is demonstrated in the ‘Powers of 10’ below) , and how our perception is constantly changing, especially nor more so with constant technological advances. Kant was one of the first people to start thinking about representation and abstraction, Spencer then went on to demonstrate this by saying how each person in the lecture had their own representation of the lecture, we all had our own personal view (of Spencer), and our own opinions, all of us are having our own personal unique experience. Kant had the idea that everything was gridded, we lived in this gridded environment, and universe, therefore adding discipline to the world, creating a form of data visualisation – this is again demonstrated in the ‘Powers of 10’ below.

Powers of 10 – Charles and Ray Emmes

The Powers of 10 website

The Critic – Mel Brooks

Kant says there are two different worlds, the noumenal and the phenomenal. The noumenal world is the of things outside us, it’s the world of things as they really are, all the physical things such as buildings, plants, hair and things that are really real. However, Kant states that our minds are made that we can’t comprehend this world as it really is. He says what we perceive instead is an altered version of this world, this is the phenomenal world, this is the world we know, or the view of the world from inside of our heads.

For anything to be an experience it will be/have spacial and temporal qualities, or which are gridded. Things are temporal & spacial because of the structure of of representation.

Another idea of Kant’s is that the confidence we can have of the world are to do with the ‘lens’ we are looking with, this leads on to the possibilities of different modes of representation, and the start of thinking subjectively about different lenses:

  • group representation
  • individual representation
  • an intermingling of ideas and the raw qualities of the world

An example of different lenses of representation can be seen from the example of ‘Alice’, in book, film and game form:

Walt Disney’s lens:

Jan Svankmajer’s lens:

Spicy Horse game developer’s lens:

– Empiricism: Philosophy . the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense experience. Compare rationalism

– Rationalism: Philosophy . a. the doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience. b. (in the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, etc.) the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences.

Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.

Critique of judgement > The sublime and the anti-sublime (positions on complexity)

Lev Manovich talks in depth about the sublime and anti-sublime in this document.

– Sublime: elevated or lofty in thought, language, etc.: Paradise Lost is sublime poetry. In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.

– Anti-sublime: There is no dictionary definition for this, but it concerns data visualisation art. From Lev Manovich’s ‘The Anti-Sublime Ideal in Art’:

“Having looked at the particular examples of data visualization art, we are now in the position to make a few observations and pose a few questions. I often find myself moved by these projects emotionally. Why? Is it because they carry the promise of rendering the phenomena that are beyond the scale of human senses into something that is within our reach, something visible and tangible? This promise makes data mapping into the exact opposite of the Romantic art concerned with the sublime. In contrast, data visualization art is concerned with the anti-sublime. If Romantic artists thought of certain phenomena and effects as un-represantable, as something which goes beyond the limits of human senses and reason, data visualization artists aim at precisely the opposite: to map such phenomena into a representation whose scale is comparable to the scales of human perception and cognition. For instance, Jebratt’s 1:1 reduces the cyberspace – usually imagined as vast and maybe even infinite – to a single image that fits within the browser frame. Similarly, the graphical clients for Carnivore transform another invisible and “messy” phenomena – the flow of data packets through the network that belong to different messages and files – into ordered and harmonious geometric images.  The macro and the micro, the infinite and the endless are mapped into manageable visual objects that fit within a single browser frame.”

The ‘Powers of 10’ video also demonstrates the sublime.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Spencer Roberts / Representation, Abstraction and Definition VS Kinetic Surplus at Leo Patterson.


%d bloggers like this: