Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Insect Lab

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Thanks, Brian Keeley, for turning me on to Mike Libby’s Insect Lab. From the site:

Insect Lab is an artist operated studio that customizes real insects with antique watch parts and electronic components. Offering a variety of specimens that come in many shapes, sizes and colors; each specimen is individually designed and hand- assembled, each is one of a kind and unique.

Insect lab

Mandik Art Updates

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Get your retinal rocks off at my updated art page.

Writer Response Theory on Prayer Bot 2.0

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Prayer Bot 2.0

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Jeremy Douglass wrote a pretty cool article on my Prayerbot 2.0 project.


Prayer Bot 2.0 is a fascinating short story / photo / sculpture, created by Peter Mandik, a researcher in Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology, as well as a writer, photographer, and robot-hobbyist. The sculpture is a wired unit from which two plates with x-rayed hands extend upward. The story is arranged in 16 chapters, the first 15 numbered in binary (0, 1, 10… 1101, 1110) with the final leap (”1111. 10000.”) breaking into some higher base. (”2. I hear you.”).

In Flickr, a photo of the sculpture is screened into 16 panes (a 4×4 grid) and a shortened form of the full story text, sans original concept, is attached to each pane as annotation text. An excerpt from the beginning:

11. “Prayer is an information channel with a mind at each end, PrayerBot 1.0 being the first, God being the second.”

100. “A mind is a thing that thinks.”

101. “God is that which nothing greater than can be conceived.”

110. “PrayerBot 1.0 must pray.”

111. Thus is PrayerBot 1.0’s existence defined. All else that PrayerBot 1.0 does, all else that PrayerBot 1.0 believes, is in accordance with the four basic propositions in PrayerBot 1.0’s axiom set. The humans that created PrayerBot 1.0 were pretty stupid or pretty desperate or both. They built in no axioms for the protection of humans. Those would have come in pretty handy when, in the first 50 milliseconds of PrayerBot 1.0’s operation, after downloading the sum total of humanity’s digital archives, PrayerBot 1.0 began ripping knowledge directly out of human brains.

The story reminds me in part of the tradition of fantastic uberminds such as in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, or the novel version of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, but even more of the all-consuming conversion in Clarke’s Childhood’s End - although here humanity seems not to have evolved so much as to have been eaten by Unicron.

The larger theme, getting to (or even beyond) “that which nothing greater than can be conceived” raises an interesting point for digital arts, in particular textual or symbolic arts. Much of the power of computing comes from a strict formality - a data type, a memory allocation, and a whole set of rigid definitions which explicitly specificy their bound and limits, of which “nothing greater” can be computed.

Douglass, Jeremy. (2006). Prayer Bot 2.0. Retrieved June 6, 2006, from WRT: Writer Response Theory Web site:


Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

James Turrell’s “Pleiades”

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

James Turrell’s “Pleiades”

I saw this at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh in 1999. It fascinates me as (almost) an example of what Paul Churchland calls “The Direct Introspection of Brain States”:
Pleiades, 1983
Permanent Installation
Drywall, paint, incandescent light
500 Sampsonia Way, 2nd floor
“You approach the gallery through an inclined corridor so dark that you are virtually without sight. At the top of the ramp, you sit in a chair and face blackness. After your eyes adjust, an amorphous sphere of grey-white, or perhaps red, begins to appear, more a presence than an object. As you look harder, the form becomes smaller. You turn away for a moment and back again. It grows and glimmers. But the source of light itself is constant and still.”
“Pleiades, a work of darkness, utilizes the difference in function between the two types of photoreceptive cells, that is, cones and rods. The cones are suitable for discerning colors at light places. crowding toward the center of the retina. The rods serve to make out delicate shades in dark places, mostly gathering near the periphery of the retina. In the darkness designed by Turrell, the viewer experiences the difference between the two kinds of cells during the period of time when the eyes of adaptation to darkness takes place.”
“Pleiades is a work which exemplifies the Tao of Turrell. The viewer encounters Pleiades by walking up a gentle incline for about six meters, into total darkness. Whether one is in a tiny room or a vast space is impossible to tell except by guessing at echoes. As a note outside the work explains, after about fifteen minutes the visitor’s eyes adjust to the darkness. These fifteen minutes are functionally equivalent to insight meditation: as she watches the process of perception itself, the visitor becomes acutely, directly aware of visual noise that she didn’t even know was there. After-images dance in the black space, arising and disappearing. Slowly, a dim, red shape begins to appear, at first indistinguishable from the perceptual ‘interference.’ The faintly glowing light is barely perceptible at first, amid the noise, but gradually the noise dies down. After a half hour or so, there is only the red light, resting silently in a field of blackness: the inner light embodied. Is Pleiades “about” the science of perception, or the art of meditation? Both. Pleiades, Space that Sees, and similar works are attention practices. We shift from engaging our conceptual, symbolic minds to noticing the apparatus of Mind itself.”