Interviews and Essays

Federico Diaz interviewed by Jérôme Sans

How would you define your work?

My work can be defined as the work of a prospector, continuously exploring different layers of our reality, analysing them and redefining our superficial perception of the visual sensations around us.

What kind of process do you use to develop this analysis? How do you work?

The processes I use to form and define my work have always included the element of collaboration. By engaging in far-reaching discussions with philosophers, sociologists, architects, musicians and art historians, but also, for instance, workers and craftsman in my work “You Welded the Ornament of the Times”, , ideas around my work start to emerge, evolving from the specific points of view each of us has. The discussion forms a basic foundation for shaping my view. Placing several models of thinking into a connected grid, combined with my own perception of our reality, gives rise to a point of departure for my own specific form of visual language.

The question of gravity seems central within your work. How do you consider its reality and how do you try to turn it around?

Gravity is the basic principle of our existence in this world, defining what and how are we doing in our lives, how we look, how we move, how the river flows, how nature is constructed, how materials are formed into shapes and meanings. All this is an unconscious process, one which I’m trying to emphasise through visual interpretation.

Everything we do is conditioned by physical laws of nature, which are the source of our communication; we talk through our environment, through our perception of it.

If these inherent laws were different, what we are would completely shift. The average step of a man walking on Earth is 63 centimetres long; on the Moon, it is suddenly a few meters long. Thinking about how this initially simple fact shapes our being brings me to projects like Outside Itself or You Welded the Ornament of the Times.

Because gravity exists no matter what we do, I’m using this principle as a form of language that contradicts our technical development. I’m interested in conditions under which technology, as our extended arm, is no more, conditions in which we can’t rely on our inventions and have to use only the most rudimentary tools. The catenary system is one of them, using gravity and the simple principle of an arch as a basic architectural element that one can find throughout nature, in caves or in any other pre-architectural structures.

Why did you choose to reactivate Belvedere to present your work?

Belvedere used to be a place of great inspiration back in the 90s, when huge exhibitions of artists like James Turrell where shown there. That, of course, formed my artistic thinking. Equally important is the way in which this High Renaissance architecture talks to its visitors, through the language of symmetry but also through the ideas of Humanism, through its relation to our physical presence. What I’m really interested in now is the era of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, who built Belvedere to promulgate the concept that the sovereign symbolises the social body over which he rules. This particular era also brings up the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants, who were trying to sabotage the final stages of construction of Belvedere. As iconoclasts, they were trying to destroy or at least damage certain motifs , including nudity, which stemmed from an interest in antiquity during the Renaissance period. I am also using this motif in the show.

What kind of role has Prague’s Belvedere (Queen Anne’s Summer Palace) played in the development of contemporary art since the 90s? Several important contemporary artists have exhibited there; what about the Czech art scene?

At the beginning of the 90s, Prague Castle was performing very a special social role. It was the seat of the first democratically elected president after the fall of communism, Václav Havel. Prague Castle thus served as a cultural hub. In this period it was as far as possible from the idea of The Castle as known from Franz Kafka’s novel; it was the opposite of a bureaucratic unreachable fortress – it was open and inviting. Many venues on the Castle grounds were transformed into exhibition spaces; some no longer serve this purpose. Belvedere has hosted the solo shows of Joseph Kosuth, James Turrell, Jannis Kounellis and Christian Boltanski. Also talking about the Czech art scene, important shows by Magdalena Jetelová and Jiří Beránek were held there. Besides contemporary art, Belvedere occasionally hosted time historical exhibitions, such as one of 18th and 19th century historical maps from Tuscany from the archives of Habsburg family and an exhibition about Emperor Rudolph II. Basically, Belvedere presented a broader cultural range of exceptional art. .

Do you consider this exhibition, which is displaying works from 2004 to the present, to be more of a retrospective or an introspective?

I prefer the term prospective, which could be described as a dynamic exchange and enrichment by the passage of time in ones work. Getting back to the origins of my artistic oeuvre while presenting new visions for the future, the present moment is just a passing glimpse, constantly reformed and challenged by intersections of the past and future.

This exhibition develops one aspect of your work, which is the studio as a laboratory. What do you think?

This is quite connected with the idea of prospective, of showing the dynamics of the creative process, which is always on the move not just from one point to the other, but from many different situations to other ones. The laboratory is this space of continuous exchange throughout the process of analysis, the re-evaluation and development of new meanings in the presented work.

Your work deals with movements. You create shapes from your study of sounds, sensations, languages, lights and movements generated by people, etc. Do you think that movement is a permanent generator of something, ideas, things…?

The basic definitions of life throughout the centuries have always bonded with the idea of movement. We move, thus we live. The question of what this particular movement looks like is what interests me. If you live under a dictatorship, your movement is different than when you move through the streets of cities in democratic countries. But it’s not just about politics; it’s more connected with your present context: walking through a forest makes you move differently than through a contemporary art show. This may seem like a tiny detail, but from my point of view movement could be considered a universal language on a scale of thousands of years. Men in the Baroque era will understand it the same way as men living in the year 3010. Analysing how we move brings a definition of man himself.

Movement is part of the world in which we live. On the one hand we keep moving with the Sun and the Earth, but at the same time we are entering an era marked by accelerated speed. Everybody runs, everybody is chasing something. Is this something your work addresses?

I think it was 1994 when I acquired my first mobile phone, at the time a quite unusual gadget. I came home and my girlfriend literally burst into tears, telling me I had just voluntarily lost my independence and I would be out of balance with the natural rhythm of life. Back then, as nowadays, I was always able to find an equilibrium between what technology allows, how it changes order in your life, and how you can behave as a human, as a part of nature. With one exception, in my work Sakura, I have never been sceptical about our ability to control ourselves surrounded by technology. I’m not Hito Steyerl and I will never get into the trap of being exploited by technological progress; I don’t feel it this way and thus I don’t have any urge to warn contemporary society about the dangers emanating from our material development. You have to be aware of the dangers yourself. You have to control your tools and not get them get over your head. I’m really happy that I was allowed to witness the emergence of mobile phones, the internet and social media from their infancy to the current state. As I said before, there is no difference between the invention of the printing press, the typewriter or the iPad. It’s just about the way you use it and how you’re able to make the best of it.

What is your relation to kinetic and optical art? 

My relationship to kinetic and optical art has always been visible in my work, with influences from ZERO art group, Julio Le Parc, Jesús Rafael Soto, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Hans Haacke, as well as from the early Czech avant-garde artist Zdeněk Pešánek, whose concepts were quite revolutionary for his time. An important role for me is also played by František Malina, a not very well-known artist because his main line of work lay in the field of science, but his kinetic objects are among the most amazing ones I’ve ever seen. But this is just one of many layers of influence from art history on my work.

Zdeněk Pešánek was a pioneer of abstract art in the 1920s: he was one of the first artists to introduce a neon tube into an art context. Since this period, the neon tube has been a nearly constant material throughout art until now. You also mentioned another Czech artist, František Malina. In this sense, beyond the kinetic and op-art tendencies developed by these artists, how do feel belonging to a kind of Czech artistic heritage?

Jerome, I have to say that I just can’t differentiate nationalistic aspects in streams of creation. Back then, when Czech avant-garde was at its peak, it was strongly connected to other avant-garde movements in France and Russia. Nowadays we live in the context of a completely globalised art world. No one takes the illusion given to us by the architecture of pavilions in Venice seriously. Especially now, when you can spend your breakfast looking through dozens of pictures on Contemporary Art Daily or anywhere else on the web, national identity officially becomes a pure myth. My influences have always been international.

How do you see the Czech contemporary artistic scene? How has this scene evolved over the last decades? 

Besides what I just said, I have to add a bit more about the way I perceive the Czech scene. After the fall of Berlin Wall, the entire society in this country went through a huge shift, which of course also influenced the art scene. Enormous enthusiasm and interest about what was happening in the East brought many interesting people here and opportunities for local artists to exhibit abroad. But after a while, this wave slowly started to wear off. For the generation of artists at the peak of their productive life during the 90s, this was quite disappointing and, in a few cases, discouraging. I was much younger than them. I started to study at the Academy of Fine Arts at the very beginning of the 90s, so this disillusion didn’t really affect me. New connections to the international scene started later, around the turn of the millennium, with Ján Mančuška, the tranzit initiative with Vít Havránek, Jiří Kovanda, and later on with Eva Koťátková, Kateřina Šedá and Dominik Lang. Most of the scene is somehow not that active internationally. We can only wonder why; perhaps it needs more time. But on the other hand, we know from history that on the peripheries or in anomalies one can find the freshest, most authentic information.

Is there a distinctive feature or specificity of the Czech artistic scene in comparison with the West or East? How would you describe it?

If there is a distinctive feature that could be used to describe the scene, then it is an absence of any distinctive feature. When you see the work of Eva Koťátková exhibited at the recent triennial at the New Museum in New York, would you find something really “Czech” in it? You can read multiple layers of influences or distinctive artistic language, but this language is definitely not solely Czech. Parents of young artists today lived under the oppressive totalitarian system, in great isolation. Maybe this is a unifying element, since we can see a lot of introspection, usage of the language of psychoanalysis, the presence of fear and wish to overcome it in contemporary Czech work. Maybe Czech artistic language could be partially described as a will to create in order to overcome inherited frustrations from our specific Eastern European past.

The human body is a central aim in your work. What is your relationship to the body? 

Only around 10% of all reality around us can be perceived by the human body and its senses. What we do with technology is improve these unfavourable odds – which is, of course, accompanied by fear. Fear is always present in our endeavours, in crossing the lines of the obvious and known. That’s why I’m so interested in the body and the continuous human wish to overcome its limitations, even though it means digging so deep into our own psychological barriers. Everything we are able to define is just never enough for a courageous mind. You have to move forward to accept your handicaps and get through them further. Overcome them, but still with the same human body.

Your work could be considered an extension of the primary human body and senses.  The machine has been an object of fascination for many years, considered a good or a bad thing. How does your work try to show the machine as something close to the human soul?

The urge to create tools and aids has been one of the most natural characteristics of man from prehistoric times till the present day. In this sense there is not much of a difference between a flint and a robot. Tools are evolving together with a basic means of communication. When hunting, gathering and processing food, we should consider tools to be more than a mere extension of our primary abilities; they are an inherent part of us.

If robots and machines are an inherent part of us in our contemporary world, what about artificial intelligence? 

What kind of role can AI play within our society? Should we be suspicious of it?

AI has again recently become very present in general thoughts about the next steps in our technological development. You can observe several levels of reflections on this topic in different layers of popular culture, visual art and philosophy. But the fact is that the term itself is still quite an exaggeration. Since we are not able to create independent AI, it’s basically no AI at all. Besides that, its basic forms play an important role in our society already. It is an instrument of groups of experts who works with statistics, specific data which you can program into a computer, which evaluates the data and then produces certain predictions of what this data could mean in the near future. Its role is very important in meteorology, for instance. But in terms of art, you don’t have specific data which you can enter into a machine. There are too many variables involved. You can try to experiment with AI on a superficial level not to create art itself or calculate or predict something, but rather just to add another layer of interpretation.


In your work featuring robots (like Outside Itself, 2011), do you consider these robots a part of the work itself or a medium to create the work?

Using robots may seem like a kind of curiosity, something not really present in general practice. But what does it really mean to use a robot? It’s just a signification of a possibility. Robots are present in different fields of production, manufacturing and science. Appropriating something so technical for art may look like a deliberate attempt to introduce a new layer of spectacular, but actually it is just a step towards a new tool, towards a new potential medium. It is the same as when computer-aided design software was introduced to architecture: old boundaries were overcome and new ones were created. Suddenly we were able to work on a scale impossible for humans to achieve. Robots work in a similar manner. When the robot paints, it can do things humans will never be able to do with their own hands. It could be also compared to the introduction of the medium of video, which completely reshaped the way we perceive the classic medium of film. At some point, robots could then become a part of installation, as was the case with Outside Itself or LacrimAu, because these works were processual and were formed on the spot. But the presence of robots is not necessary in most other works they are used to create; for the most part people don’t see brushes lying right next to paintings.

How do you consider the viewer within your installations and sculptures?

During the 90s, when all these technologies that we today take for granted were more surprising and new, I was involving the viewer as an active participant in my work, as an element physically completing the work. Today the glamour is gone, technology is widespread and democratised, so there’s no need to emphasise it anymore that much. The viewer for me today plays a much more subtle part in the visual language I’m creating, using the technology as a tool in a sense I described before. His or her role is now much more on the level of interpretation then as a basic addition to the full meaning and form of the work itself.

Would you consider your work interactive or immersive? 

Interactivity is always going to be a part of my work, but much more important is the immersive level as the entry point to an augmented perception of our reality.

What kind of feeling would you like to produce in the viewer’s mind? 

The main goal is to unsettle the audience, disturb their conventional thinking about what they see, hear, smell or feel. It’s quite connected with a fear of the unknown and the process of adapting these new layers of reception. I’m preparing a map of thought that can be accepted and adapted through a broad scale of possible interpretations.

What do you believe is the relationship between science and art?

The artist and scientist occupy the same space of thought, experimental space. Even though the positions of art and science have changed throughout history, one is more utilitarian and perceived more as a craft, and one is considered the pinnacle of human achievement. But the basic element of freedom and experimentation is always present. Far from the basic layer of the production of commodities, far from seriality. Values coming out from both fields are unique, unrepeatable.

What are your artistic and scientific references?

Which contemporary artists do you feel close to?

Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, Roxy Paine, Carsten Nicolai, Bill Viola, Sol LeWitt, Alva Noto, Autechre, Kraftwerk, Igor Stravinsky, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Gilles Deleuze.

What is your relationship to mathematics? Do you think we can determine sensations via mathematics? 

Mathematics is the most complex language of our world, the most abstract one, but still in its infancy. We are not able yet to describe our sensations through mathematics, so it would be generally understandable and inspiring to the same extent as art. In the future these two fields could merge, but not now.

If mathematics and art cannot merge yet, which fields do you believe have perfectly merged with art?

Basic mathematical principles are, of course, a part of certain ways of creating art. But that doesn’t mean that mathematics merging with art. Art is just using a specific interpretation of mathematics. Fields that have found a much stronger symbiosis with art, evolving for more than a decade now, include archaeology, ethnography, archive work, documentary methodologies and more. But these fields are just skimming the surface of my own realisations. What is more important for me is the impact of music and architecture on art.

Your work deals with the principles of architecture. Some pieces are a reference to the “catenary” models used by Gaudi for the conception of his arches. Why this obsession of the catenary principle and this upside-down figure as a model of construction?

This obsession, as you call it, relates to my long-term thoughts about the point when society is forced to abandon its dependency on our technological advances and must return to the basic principles of nature. This is not a wish for something catastrophic to happen; I’m considering it as a model situation for the study of human behaviour, the restructuring of all our known infrastructures to accommodate a new scenario. It’s quite connected with my ideas about architecture and urbanism itself. By abandoning all our computer-generated protocols of construction points, you go back to the rudimentary givens based on the laws of nature. Which leads us again to gravity and catenary, as I described earlier.

What is your relationship to architecture?

Architecture is a social sculpture, defining our movement, our relationship to the given society, our relationship towards nature. So-called “primitive” cultures surround themselves with as many unobtrusive elements as possible so that their bond with the environment may remain undisturbed. Our contemporary condition is based on the undeniable principle of erecting walls and structures that would get us as far as possible from the uncontrollable nature of environment. You could call this a development, or just a difference in perception of the unknown, or a way of bridging fears. I don’t want to judge these two extreme positions. I’m observing both, trying to analyse the connections between them by observing the behaviour of men living under such conditions, by studying the materials, rules and conventions surrounding it. In this respect I’m much more interested in the theory of architecture than in actual structures.

You blur the difference between reality and fiction. Does it mean that there are no more boundaries between the artificial and the real in our digital world? What does reality today signify in our digital world?

The digitalisation of our world is just another way of creating tools. We are externalising our own memory to the digital space because the vast production of knowledge and experience is no longer sustainable on the analogue level. Without our drives and cloud storage, we would fill this world with materials so quickly and in such a devastating manner that this materialised information would overcome us and leave us without a suitable space to live. Our bodies are so fragile and we can’t hold any precise information for a longer period of time; similarly, our abilities to share data are always shifting meanings. Artificial space is thus just an extension of our living space, our abilities and our communication.

When you were in China, you created a series of ink paintings on rice paper that was produced by robots and machines. Do you want to show the conflict and paradox between old and new technology?

Techniques and technologies are never in contradiction. If something endures for such a long time, like ink painting, it’s obviously still needed; it creates a state of the art within its field. Robots cannot substitute it; they can only add another layer of options for handling this traditional technique. Ink painting is based on the emphasis of the form, the conventionalised form, which allows the artist to contemplate and nurture the mind not necessarily in relation to the content on the primary level as we know from Western tradition; the process of creation plays much more important role. Traditional mastery is thus a way of meditating. Programming robots to be able to recreate my ideas in the form of an ink painting is a similar process, a process of shaping the reality of the painting, adding a mediating tool that can produce unexpected elements to the totality of the medium.

What does it mean to still make painting in the 21st century?

I have never thought about a medium as something bound to a specific time period. Of course we can’t dismiss the long tradition, or rather traditions, of painting, but using it nowadays with a contemporary content is absolutely legitimate and unquestionably just one of many mediums we can use to voice our thoughts.

Since your title “You Welded the Ornament of the Times”, have you considered painting an ornament?

I’m thinking about the ornament in the much broader sense. The painting is just a form into which I incorporate my ideas. Ornament is something much more universal, descriptive, discursive, going from Kracauer’s “Mass Ornament” to my recent projects.

Your work is like a pointer of new perceptions and deals with how to gain new knowledge. Do you think art is a form of science or science is a form of art?

I think I already answered your question about the relationship between science and art. But the idea of creating new ways of perception is really important. I would say that art is a generator of its form, a generator of manifestos dealing radically with our lives and its multiple contexts. Gaining knowledge can’t be a forced process. And art is not forceful. It proposes ideas; it enables you to shift your perception, to see through art to possible augmented realities.

How do you see the future?

The future is connected with the subtle perception of turbulence that is taking place under the surface of things and fusions of human activities and experiences. To gain objective knowledge in this world, it is necessary to constantly stay in a fluid state, passing through layers of existence, and always be on the extreme verge of perception without the influence of dogmatic systems.

When we get stuck in a rigid and monolithic space behind the walls we are erecting, we become ill. Our society is based on a working model of a spectacle, but illusion and entertainment are not meant to cure an unhealthy society. On the contrary, art creates subtle values which can break through those walls.


Jérôme Sans

Curator, art critic, artistic director and director of internationally-acclaimed institutions, Jérôme Sans is renowned worldwide for pioneering new ways to approach and discuss contemporary art. He has worked with Nicolas Bourriaud, the co-founder and co-director of the acclaimed Palais de Tokyo in Paris from 1999 to 2006, where he presented more than 80 solo exhibitions (Tobias Rehberger, Chen Zhen, Wolfgang Tillmans, Kendell Geers, Candice Breitz, Wang Du, Bruno Peinado, Katharina Grosse and more), a number of group exhibitions, and countless events, concerts and performances. During this time he was also a curator at the Institute of Visual Arts in Milwaukee, where he presented the American debut solo exhibitions of the new generation of artists (Maurizio Cattelan, Pierre Huyghe, Erwin Wurm, Kendell Geers, Philippe Parreno, Barthélémy Toguo, Steve McQueen, Kimsooja, Joachim Koester, Annelis Strba, Lars Nilsson, etc.).Then he moved to the UK, where he became director of programs at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. From 2008 to 2012 he was the director of the ground-breaking Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing (UCCA). He has also been the creative director and editor-in-chief of the French cultural magazine L’Officiel Art.

Jérôme Sans has curated numerous major exhibitions around the world, including the Taipei Biennial (2000), the Lyon Biennial (2005), and the Nuit Blanche in Paris (2006). He is currently the artistic director of one of the most important urban development projects in Europe, the Rives de SaôneRiver Movie in Lyon, and has been recently nominated co-artistic director of the Grand Paris Express network. He is also the co-founder of Perfect Crossovers Ltd., a Beijing-based consultancy for cultural projects between China and the rest of the world. He has contributed to various art publications and is the author of several books, including Au Sujet de / About Daniel Buren (Flammarion, 1998); Araki (Taschen, 2001); China Talks (Timezone 8, 2009) and China: The New Generation (Skira, 2014), the latter two compilations of interviews with leading and young Chinese contemporary artists. He has also compiled a series of pocket book interviews: Bright City: Ma Yansong (2012), Smoke Shadows: Jannis Kounellis (2012), and Kendell Geers: Hand Grenades from My Heart (2012), all published by Blue Kingfisher.

Robert T. Buck Visual Activist

Federico Díaz’s creativity knows no bounds. Although his beginnings were as a painter and sculptor, today he makes works involving multimedia art, interactive installations and projections, light and kinetic art, sound compositions and architecture. Among the more remarkable aspects of his creative production are architectural designs. He has already accomplished three architectural projects

in Prague. At the moment, his plan for a 30‐storey building called Cobra is under consideration for two potential sites in Asia.

Díaz considers architecture a complex discipline that nonetheless emanates from sculpture, adding that “architecture is basically sculpture with more active sociology.” Like many artists exploring new dimensions before him in the Renaissance during the 14th and 15th centuries, his work often blurs the differences between art and science. In a further link with the Renaissance, his work often references the natural world, inspired by the structures of such living creatures as the nautilus and sea urchins. He created his first important work called Nostalgia, drawn from the composition of a seashell, when he was only twenty years old. The sculpture was purchased by The National Gallery in Prague.

Díaz is not copying anything but instead, in numerous ways and with numerous means, he is continuously inventing and reinventing through his prodigious imagination and voracious energy. Fully fluent with computer science, he works with the E AREA Team that he founded in 1994 “to prepare visual and architectural strategies for the next millennium”. The team, consisting of ten people, primarily architects and media programmers, collaborate with him on a continuing basis. Díaz observes that “his art is created without contact with the human hand.” His creative energy enables him to inform and direct those involved. In this manner, his creative acts may also be considered a kind of extension of the Renaissance workshop. He has sometimes documented the creative process in a kind of visual theater or happening as part of his work.

The thinking and philosophy of the distinguished artist and professor, Karel Malich, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, marked a turning point in Díaz’s life vis‐a vis his perceptions of art and the development of his creative energies. Says Díaz, “Malich has had a significant influence on me regarding the pursuit of invisible energy in the visible and the inaudible in the audible.

Robert T. Buck, Director, The Brooklyn Museum, 1983–1996, AlbrightKnox Art Gallery, 1973–1982 New York, November 2007


Architecture, art and cyberspace
Marek Růžička speaks with Federico Díaz Why is interactivity important for you in the things you do?

It is like the thoughts running through my head – these are composed of lots of other people’s thoughts, too. The moment I was born, my body was composed of how my father and my mother had lived. It is a perpetual chain. What I create is interactivity; the technical term for it is “meme”. Thoughts materialize in a certain form and I have decided to present them in an information field,

in a way that is closer to the elusive stream of thoughts in the brain. I find something created in a studio to be presented somewhere else later, lifeless. It is vital that the ideas that are represented by movement, sound and body temperature be created right there on the spot, meaning a new organism is created that exists in the present, while the past is suppressed in it.

What place should art occupy in contemporary architecture?

I don’t separate architecture from art. I don’t separate it from sculpture or interactive installations. When I walk down a street, I cannot separate the two. I can’t answer that question because I am unable to separate the two.

in some of your projects you dabble in architecture, so to speak. What makes you do that?

People tend to meet in certain spaces. They can meet in a field, in the woods or on a square. In the past they used to gather by the village pump. After the pump was replaced by water mains, they started meeting inside buildings. They used to gather around fires. Now it is around radiators. The natural need to share information and talk remains, and is absolutely central for human beings. Meme theory even states that human beings have been created solely for the purpose of carrying memes. But that is beside the point.

The space that provides our living conditions and protects us from the cold and heat creates circumstances for us to be able to share ideas and talk. That is the space of architecture. And because I am interested in communication, I always think about spaces that are intuitive, that don’t build barriers, spaces where people are not separated in individual cells. I think about spaces which allow ideas to materialize. In our interactive installations we work with the fact that whatever one thinks, whatever movement one makes, will materialize and be reflected in some way. There will be immediate interaction with the building, the building will respond to people. We plan houses that think, houses that are living organisms.

The Generatrix project – an installation responding to individual persons – was based on a similar idea. Do you think it could be translated into architecture? In the beginning, in 1999, there was architectural thinking, an effort to create an intuitive AI‐HCCI space. When you build a house, you need to collect lots of practical parameters for its construction; the geological foundation, the movement of wind, water, light and temperature. These parameters can be gauged and they can be the basis for an interactive materialization of the house, of a space, of urbanism. We added other parameters, such as one’s feelings and emotions that can also be partially converted into data systems, and the result was Generatrix. An architect who has this data can create in an interactive way. Generatrix is very viscous. Imagine that it spills into the space which is a result of these interactions right there on the spot. One makes an appointment with the architect at the location where the house is to be built and using a sensory umbrella they create a living organism – the foundation of a living space. The data is recorded and can serve as a basis for spaces and new intelligent materials.What is currently new your work? i know that you have cooperated with the architect [Josef] Pleskot in the town of Litomyšl… We were approached by the Litomyšl authorities to take part in a competition for a memorial to the astronomer [Zdeněk] Kopal. He lived in Litomyšl for twelve years and then moved to the United States, and also worked in Britain and Japan. He worked for NASA. One of his major tasks was to prepare a map for the Apollo landing on the Moon. He cooperated with František Malina, a renowned lumino‐ ‐kinetic artist. I imagined him and František Malina developing rocket engines while discussing art, and I realized that the monument needed to be something different than just a sculpture or a bronze bust. So we recreated the outline of his house, which no longer exists, using a light display. There is a ten‐ ‐centimeter band in the ground continuously displaying Kopal’s writings and formulas covered with walk‐on glass. In the corner facing the street, the display is twisted into a figure eight representing the binary star which he discovered and worked with. Its models are called Roche lobes. A three‐meter star is wound from carbon fibers using the same technology used for rocket engines.

What else is important for your work, for your life?

For me it is important to balance the electronic forest with nature and love. I take walks in the woods and run long distances, which tones the body. The working atmosphere is important for me, being able to work without compromising and with a vision.

What is your view of human beings and their place in the world? Would you call yourself a believer? What do you think of God? What others call God, I don’t. But I can feel it, and thus I respect all religions. When I speak now, it is in fact God, because God is timeless and spaceless and people are his extended “sensors” that enable him to experience the beauty here on Earth. Everything here is perishable and everything exists in time – God cannot see it because he is timeless and without space. Thanks to our memory, we can live. Thanks to its memory, wood can burn. Thanks to the fact that trees remember they are supposed to bear fruit, they live… We exist in time and space. So that’s how I think about it.

What do you think of the relation between the physical world and the virtual reality? i have come across the view that virtual reality is more real than the physical one because you can define it to the last bit and you know exactly how it works. Do you think that is a proper description? is digital reality more real than physical reality? It is just as real; it is not virtual. We call it virtual because we need to give it a name just as we need to label the color green. We need to realize that it is the planet’s natural self‐regulation. Before there were any kind of written records, information was carried in the heads of wanderers. Then came clay tablets, cuneiform script and smoke signals, and eventually books. It does not mean the amount of information is growing. But as we penetrate reality deeper and deeper with the electron microscope, we need to record all the information. At the same time the number of people on the planet is rising, so the net and the Matrix are natural responses to overpopulation and the necessity to record more information. Naturally, a parallel world where information could be recorded was bound to emerge. A user‐friendly interface was created for us to be able to move around it and store things from this world there.

Do you think that with the development of technology the interface will become more similar to physical reality? No, it definitely won’t. It is impossible because we create it. It lags behind the idea. However, I believe that just as we will stop writing one day, the keyboard will disappear and everything will become more intuitive, a whole new space and new forms of communication will emerge. Right now I think about it as a multidimensional ornament. When you see it, you will understand what I would have needed several sentences to explain. The ornament can contain scents and sounds, and at the same time a biological mechanism will circulate in our blood system, connected to this Matrix. But let’s not imagine anything metallic. To us, to me, it seems scary, but at the same time I think it is natural that the body will go through a lot of changes.

Do you think that in the future people will be born straight into that cyberspace?

That there will be people who have never known anything else? They will basically be born straight into it. We will still realize that they were born into cyberspace, but their peers won’t because perhaps fifty percent of their bodies will be connected to the system. But just like with the layers of thinking, it is important to keep recording and developing our senses. To see where they are becoming dull and exercise them in meditation, movement and in vibration…

Are you scared by the forecasts that we will be able to create artificial intelligence on a par with humans around 2030? No, I’m not.

Do you think that humans and artificial intelligence can be partners, or will they compete?

Just as there are fights between people, between intellectuals, over differing views, there will be fights between individual machines with artificial intelligence, and between artificial intelligence and human beings. We need to realize that human beings are not superior to this universe. Even if they cease to exist there are at least ten other planets that are developing in a different way. Extinction is completely normal, so why should I be too anxious when the universe is so beautiful and running?

Thank you for talking to me.

Thank you. Prague,

September 30, 2004


Everyone is the artist of his life
Vít Havránek speaks with Federico Díaz in the E AREA Studio1

First of all, could you say a few words about the last large exhibition which you had at the Royal institute of British Architects in London – what did you exhibit, and how, in brief, would you describe the e AReA project which you are currently working on to people who are not familiar with it? At RIBA we exhibited visualizations of a project created on Silicon Graphics computers, i.e. a sectional view of a building, a sectional view of a holophonic area, a six‐minute computer animation, a stereolithographic model of a construction of a holophonic area, and in the RIBA bookshop we presented the E AREA catalogue (which, by the way, was awarded the first prize of the Ministry of Culture). In brief, E AREA is a prototype of a cultural and scientific education centre for art and science. It runs on the basis of renewable sources of energy and uses new information technologies.

2002: One year on, I look back at this event with pleasure. The E AREA team, which has architects at its core, managed naturally to break through the barrier of conservative England and exhibit at a prestigious venue, where top world architects exhibit. We are proud of this. In retrospect we are not so proud of the actual content of the presentation – it was an unrealizable ‘Titanic’. Investors from Taiwan are interested in our work, but I would never allow anything like this to be built. The project was fundamentally very self‐contradictory. Such a monstrosity cannot be ecological. Nonetheless, our naivety gave us immense strength and continues to do so. Most important of all was the actual preparatory process, which taught us a lot.

The age of transporting our bodies and minds with stored information from place to place is long gone. Human expansion must respond to an immaterial and ecological mode of information transfer.

It occurs to me whether biotechnologies, which are and will be made from biological matter, which perceives and feel, will create the network of an artificial organism spread out over our planet, which will become a kind of extended sensor of ours, through which we will be able to sense the incredible living organism that is our planet. It is a way of transferring information without delay, without an intermediary, without any insensitive intrusion into the Earth’s ecosystem. Or is it more natural for us to have information mediated and processed for individual areas of intellectual levels? E AREA should provide an impetus for discussions on the theme of the negative or positive influences of these technologies on man and nature.

What is in the e AReA centre? What will a visitor see and experience there?

Our goal is for centers throughout the planet to create a network, a living organism. A concrete example: when a person enters, the building perceives him as its own particle, the way you feel your blood coursing. We will develop software to respond to your knowledge and feelings. For instance, when you read a text, it will record your feelings in real time, effecting the colors and motion of an object or room you’re in. Your eyes stop (they are observed) on a concept you don’t understand, and you confirm it with your voice. Based on the info about your level of knowledge, the intelligence network will explain the problem to you, not only with text. You can converse with it.

Of course you could argue that man will become lazy. But is not our immense activity (running back and forth around town) active laziness? A new type of man will be born. Instead of thinking, he will live in the present, freed from mechanical filing by his brain. Why not teach orientation in the multitude and chaos of information we gather in the network? If I cannot perfect them, why deform them? Why not create

a new form of net education? Why rely on one person leading students, when I can connect in real time to a stream of presently happening information of net intelligence? People often waste their time with absolutely routine contacts thus depreciating human communication which could be, and truly is, unbelievably creative and wonderful. Why couldn’t artificial intelligence, let’s call it Insider, communicate on our behalf using our voice, passing on this routine information? Of course there might be another Insider on the other side. Humans thus may be duplicated several times as they wouldn’t be hampered by their bodily limitations (i.e. speaking with several people at one time). Many people would object: we would be controlled by a kind of device. We fear that it will run out of control not allowing for any verification of information. This is not the case however. Why not live in the present? As it is, we live in the past or in the future. Observe how many families break up just because many people leave for work in the morning and only return late in the evening. They do not live together, do not communicate. New communication technologies will create brand new workplaces, not tied to any particular place. E AREA designs such settings. We have to educate ourselves in the area of human feelings and intuition, and emphasize the undiscovered potential of the human body, thought and universe.

2002: Today I would add that process is critical. I don’t mean construction but communication between people during process. Plus I do not trust the present official establishment. I don’t like to think that the construction and its mission will later be tinkered with. It is much more important to create global citizen communities that will self‐generate intraspherical cells, independent of the official system. The official will lose its purpose. We will become a part of liquid architecture.

At what stage are preparations for the construction of e AReA right now?

We have completed visual plans for the pilot project, Introsphere. We would like it to stand at the location of the former student dorms at Špejchar, at the streetcar’s terminus, a spot set aside by the City of Prague for culture and education. The building could be built within the next two or three years. By the end of 2000 our plans will be finished, and in the two years after that we will finish erecting the pilot project. This also depends on the investor. We have the support of the municipal authority.

2002: In November 2001 the E AREA group received a blow it hasn’t recovered from yet: We lost all our files from the past three years. That’s why we are striving to continue our discussions without being tied to any one physical space.

2007: Currently a National Library is being designed for the same location by Jan Kaplický and his Future Systems studio. it not paradoxical to use highly sophisticated technologies that are controlled by global corporations and produce pollution for a return to primal, that is, natural perception? Do you think that contemporary man needs a highly sophisticated setting to become natural? It is certain that human expansion carried out in virtual reality is much more ecological than the existing effect man has been exerting on the Earth and the universe. We don’t take up physical space, don’t exhaust resources. As for the real wars that sow the worst ecological, moral and ethical calamities wherever they happen, this technology also has a positive aspect: a war takes place in virtual space… I’m probably one of the few people who think a loss of identity is positive. I have never thought of any particular place as my home, given that I was born in Prague, my native language is Spanish, my mother is Slovak, my father Argentinian, my grandfather a Basque (a Sephardic Jew from Asturias), my grandmother a South American Indian etc. I feel responsibility toward the entire planet. E AREA is a counterbalance to the exclusively economic view. I would present my view on the E‐forum which we organize. Participants, who are to deliver a speech here in Prague, will use a car using up 40 litres of fuel, then a plane using up another 40 thousand litres of fuel, etc. During E‐forum these participants will be transported using teleconferencing without the need to leave their homes. They may be poor or handicapped and yet they may take part. Let’s say I am confronted with someone whose attitude is perfectly ecological, their approach is based on zen and in harmony with nature and the cosmos, they are not materialistic and they live without technology. I contemplate these paths, but there is another argument. They want to build using purely ecological and natural materials such as stone, wood, clay or rushes. If everyone on the entire planet would make this decision, we would end up living in a desert due to deforestation.

2002: It is up to each individual to choose a means of communication. The natives of Papua, New Guineas can fend off missionaries with the help of the Internet, which is not linear like a book. The greatest defenders of nature know that nature is damaged most by its protection. Embalmment is unattainable; everything is incredibly connected. A highly sophisticated setting is positive in creating communities that can thus guard themselves from supranational systems. It is a delicate participatory process. Besides, it’s easiest to manipulate an uninformed individual. is it not a manipulation for someone to enter the centre, receive this cybernetic service and feel wonderful empathy coming from the machine? Does it not strengthen the barrier separating him from ‘reality’? It is a paradox, but I admit I support a form of a solar log cabin in the woods, connected by a wonderful interactive optical net with the entire Earth and universe. To view through a telescope something that is not in one’s physical presence, the sky, the galaxy, is not a problem today. Our project goes one step further – at first glance it seems high technological, it has carbon construction, but we use more and more recyclable ecological materials and technologies. Maybe one day E AREA will be an uninteresting building of unattractive materials that will work without disturbing its surroundings. The E AREA team strives to create a new vision of urbanism, a nervous system that respects our basic nature, our biology. Naturally, I am also considering the issue of a person who visits the E AREA centre becoming extremely enthusiastic about the interactive approach of this artificial intelligence, as he will experience something which he will not experience in his urban world, as he has become lazy because he himself did not search actively. His observational and perceptional senses are numbed by contemporary urban life. People are weakened by the passive reception of information from television. Indeed, you could argue that one can become addicted to this cybernetic service, but in just the same way people in the past were afraid of films screened in the cinema when they first saw this technology, and they do not sit in the cinema all day long, even though for two hours they forget that they are sitting there surrounded by a hall and they become actors. Similarly, people were afraid of the telephone, electricity etc. For a long time people thought the Earth was flat unaware of its roundness. Perhaps, in the same way, some time in the future we will discover that the Earth is not round :) Praha 2001, 2002

Zdeněk Neubauer (philosopher and biologist) speaks with Federico Díaz

FD: I wish that the structure of the house, the individual layers of the space of the E AREA project could create a sort of neurological system which would have its own geometrical rules. It would be something like a cellular organism, interconnected with the logic of a biological structure. The successive rooms would have their cosmic proportions, the so‐called architecture of space energy, forming a type of molecular structure. The construction will be based on the mathematical model of a black hole – which means, for me, a halt in a point of the presence – timelessness.

Zn: Black holes are usually compared to cosmic maelstroms (sea vortices). Indeed, such a relationship makes good sense, and moreover it is a process inverse to the creation of the universe. A certain moment ceases to exist, symbolizing entry into the absolute elsewhere. A black hole is defined as a purely mathematical model, and that, at the abstract level, brings it close to the seraphs of medieval theology.1 The fact that the mathematical model is taken as a symbol here is rather appropriate, because a live simulation of reality – virtual reality – is a purely mathematical construct. I would emphasize the aspect that a man entering your house actually never comes back. When we pass through to somewhere we enter into the absolute elsewhere, and even though the new environment would seem to us like our reality, like our world, it would not actually be our world. The mathematical form for the funnel of your house E AREA, which limits the house and has its own singularity,2 could by itself break the modern concept that everything is immersed in a shared, common space – such as entering a house, the penetration of a body in a dissection room, of descending into a cell in the microscopic dimension. The fact that it is very natural for us to sit in this place with our guts – which obviously, however, do not fit here, somehow – is a prejudice with which we were indoctrinated: the prejudice that the world is one universal aquarium in which everything exists, and therefore everything can be opened by us. On the other hand, the geometry of black holes may help us to destroy the idea that we have been introduced to some sort of sub‐space which totally separated and isolated us from the exterior space. In this respect it is interesting that sheet windows came into use only with the discovery of perspective. As a matter of fact, your project is an autonomous, peculiar world in which one sees from a certain point that there exists “somewhere else”. That is why I would rather speak of a world than a house.4

FD: Last time we discussed holonomous (holophonic) space5 – a sphere inside which a man, moving in the virtual reality, sees himself, which is one of the chief themes of my project (although it is very difficult to represent this visually). I think that it would be important for the man standing in the middle of the sphere to perceive the same as a sphere, without any obvious changes, i.e. seeing the internal envelope of the sphere, but simultaneously to see himself as seven microcosmic energetic fields. If he were to touch the sphere he would find that the internal envelope of the sphere is nothing more than a plasma, or rotating air cyclone, or quantum of photons. The space inside could also be changed interactively, i.e. by shaping its geometrical character to correspond to the individual simulated elements within this “holophonic” space.

Zn: I once expressed the idea that Western science is just one of the variants of knowledge dealing with the external world and with the objective aspect of reality. However, science pursued, for example, in the tradition of Tibet, concentrates instead on the exploration of the internal world – and it is a science as well, not just mysticism, because a tradition of passing and taking up, which is the key attribute of a true science, appears there. There are traditions which teach their novices to reach a certain experience which can subsequently be developed. An analogous situation can be found In the West – a pupil acquires certain knowledge, certain rules in math and physics, but nevertheless he must be initiated into the odd aspects of quantum theory (even though he is able to rationalize it).

One system speaks of particles, the other of elements, the third of energy points. I would be happy to demonstrate that all these attitudes are just individual, different approaches, different pathways towards knowledge, where none of the focuses, whether on structure, order etc. could pretend to be the most important one, the true and correct one; some of them are just auto‐illusions, psychoses, imagination. There is a chance for people to choose from among different methods of knowledge of the internal experience: the hermetic method, the method of Renaissance science, and the traditional modern age method. To experience the quantum world of organic macromolecules6 would be a lovely experience, experience of a world which no one has so far touched and which most people, even though they are familiar with the concepts, are unable to understand. We count on these entities in our thinking but nobody thinks it through to the end. Organic macromolecules are simply things which do not have a solid surface, for their surface is dependent on the probability of the distribution of electrons, and when an interaction occurs the whole system may be transformed and/or may collapse. Enzymes work on this principle. Under certain types of impulses, they change their forms, thereby, consequently, changing the whole micro‐space. These are matter‐of‐fact data but nevertheless, if I were to discuss them with even the most pro‐mechanics microbiologist he would reply that he knows there are no sticks and wires, but he would continue thinking in terms of stick and wires. In brief: nobody has ever touched it, and even though we have an idea of the thing, nobody has created VR visualization yet. Still, this would be an imitation only, but at least it would give the opportunity to experience something not tied to Euclidean space. And even though such an experience would mean nothing more than a strange plasticity of changes in reaction to the slightest impulse, I could very well imagine that people would experience something which absolutely had not been included in their concepts before, in particular, when being able to descend to other geometrical virtual spaces, to the cells you mentioned. I am a molecular biologist, so this is exactly whatI am crazy about. I think it would be extremely interesting to experience the vast dynamics of molecular transformation (but I don’t mean it in the sense of hopping like a midget over the organelles).7

FD: I believe it would be interesting to show this interactively, i.e. with virtual touch causing changes in shapes. The transfer of certain information in human bodies is also made on the basis of electrochemical reactions, and very interesting connections occur. The surface of cells is dependent on the distribution of electrons and the shape of the macromolecule reacts to any intervention in their inter‐relations.

Zn: That would be excellent. I think the fact itself of implementing something which is known but which cannot be visualized is very interesting. The computer‐simulator treats the form as a single entity and it does not care about how it screens it. It would be interesting to visualize such a cloud of strangely de‐localized being.

FD: In this sense, one idea particularly deserves to be stressed: that this cloud is an independent microcosm – a universe.

Zn: It really does, but at the same time it would be important to suppress the imagination in these visualizations. The visualization should instead illustrate various directions, ways. It should depart from a point identical to the reality we know and further continue, for example, in a cermetic way (the elements and their movement) and in molecular, atomic and quantum ways. The crucial point is to generate an attitude showing that the same way may be displayed in different manners. I realize now that professor Ivan Havel is preoccupied with the same problem. The approach to the world

of molecules, atoms and elements is nothing other than a model in my own mind, i.e. virtual reality. Naturally, it would not be possible to both visualize and understand this at the first attempt. It is similar to the situation when we get accustomed to a new language or art image, look into a microscope etc. It came to my mind that in this connection, it would be interesting to connect such visualization with figurative art, which would be an interesting way to abstraction. This would be an interesting attitude for understanding great pieces of art. Also it would be interesting to perceive the world of animals and plants from the inside. The internal experience, as they feel it, for example, in a relief manner, echolocation reflection etc. It would be good to erode the traditional idea that the eye is only a camera obscura8.

FD: I think that we face here a very interesting moment of negation of perspective. I got the idea that the device which is scanning the movement of the eyes of a person moving inside VR in fact evaluates the sight of that person – i.e. evaluates on which object, form and/or point the person is focusing or concentrating, and thereby selects for the person what is most important from the real world. Moreover, this may be made technically in such manner that if the person keeps his or her sight focused on a certain point or spot, that spot will approach the person, will zoom in, i.e. will become more important than the rest of the space. Similar to orthodox church icons, the perspective is turned towards us and the essential symbols are larger in size. In fact, this is the original state which is possible

to revive! June 1998


David Kořínek speaks with Federico Díaz
Sharing Space

E AREA may be perceived as a certain turning point in your work, for since the moment the E AREA project began to be conceived as a specific space, it has also been used as the name for the whole group. seen from today’s perspective, i consider it as a crucial milestone in your work, which might thus be divided into pre‐ and post‐ E AREA

Back in 1998, the point of the visual turning point was that for the first time we attempted to focus on architecture of the E AREA project, which resembled a university. When I say university, I do not mean it in the sense of certain exclusive education. At that time, on the other hand, I conceived universities as spaces monopolising or laying claims to knowledge, so I imagined new forms of teaching or new forms of communicating information. Looking back, you may definitely interpret the name E AREA, with the letter “E” standing for emotions, ecology, electronics or earth. Then, we were captured and inspired by all that. Ive always had a feeling that E AREA was given by your inner tension leading to an alternative way of education. To what extent do you find it important to build alternative spaces aimed at any form of education or self‐perfection? i mean spaces independent of any institution. i perceived it as a desire to build your own institution. First of all, it seemed to me that communicating very interesting information through a text, curves and physical or mathematical equations, is too complicated and I wanted to create a completely intuitive space. At that time, there was a lot of excitement about virtual reality, and we thought it could serve as a suitable tool for communication information, following the principle of replacing reality. Just imagine that you are observing a process and, instead of it being explained to you with the help of an experience of any kind, you can experience it yourself thanks to the technology… you can experience the percept directly via neuronal communication in virtual reality. In any case, I have always asked myself whether developing systems replacing reality makes sense, and whether there are any other alternative ways more connected with the natural perception of space. It is a matter of chance in which space you emerge or you are born, and what mankind will perceive natural and artificial in the future. E AREA was a certain culmination of this stage. How do you perceive this first period in the 1990s, and what do you believe to have been the most characteristic? Suppose you were asked to look back; you started as a sculptor, then became interested in ecology, you gradually left material behind, then E AREA which is architecture, although it should be filled with an idea… When I remember that, it was 1998, which was particularly important, when I above all attempted to provoke discussion. Quite naively, I called it neuronal discussion, which means discussion not limited to words only. With my team, I considered various technologies linked directly to thoughts. So, we abandoned the term “virtual reality” very soon, since we understood that it leads to nowhere. Mainly due to the fact that it isolates the human being from reality. We realized that it is necessary to create things in harmony. E AREA itself had several developmental stages, ranging from an enormous building to smaller cells, which tend to be connected to a certain educational or scientific center. In essence, we aimed to reflect the area of Prague, which I am attached to in a way; I thought it was interesting to create a center which would attract new ways of thinking owing to its shape and matter. Everyone searches for a space in which they feel good, escapes from it, or on the contrary, they search for it. Thus, the initial stimulus was to create an interesting architectural magnet for people from all over the world. At the same time, there was a desire for discussion and shaping new opinions of the globalised world. Due to the fact that, back in 1998, Prague lacked a developed Internet network, I realized that a center like that must give rise to a certain network; a network of small centers, small inter‐connected cells. Basically, this was the reason why we were happy to finish the development three years later, since creating a megalomanic center is, in fact, against all natural processes. And that’s what we didn’t want.We met for the first time just before the e‐forum. To me, it was very special, since until then i had perceived you as an artist working with objects and virtual reality, while moving around different forms of art. but in the e‐forum, the art began to fade out, thus becoming the discussion or the network itself. Why was the e‐forum so important to you as an artist? In 1998, the first annual international conference Forum 2000 was held. The conference was founded by Václav Havel and Elie Wiesel, and it was there where I met young people, politicians and philosophers thinking in a similar way. René Kubášek, one of the Forum’s main activists, was really helpful to us. It was he who initiated the E AREA’s presentation at the Forum 2000. We took part in the first three years, developing our own accompanying E‐forum, reflecting our views and issues from the sphere of digital culture. We complemented the main Forum 2000, in which leading intellectuals, such as Francis Fukuyama or Fritjof Capra, participated, with a very subtle yet extensive network connecting over 300,000 individuals at one moment, which was a huge success in 2001. What was important was the fact that we connected the E‐forum with universities, destroying communication barriers and getting the discussion into the network. Over those three years, I really said to myself that the discussion had the power to change something since I was also dissatisfied with the situation in our society. By this, I mean stupidly taking over the already obsolete and out‐of‐date capitalism (dying elsewhere) in our society. The E‐forum discussion was supposed to generate new observation as to how network‐ and fractal‐based thinking society may function.

you often talk about things such as education, whether in connection with e AreA or e‐forum. i see in it an inner desire to learn something more. Are your projects based, to some extent, on self‐ ‐perfection of any kind, or on the desire to overcome barriers? At the beginning, I said that certain space gives you the possibility to concentrate on sharing or spreading information. Self‐perfection works, quite obviously, as the first stimulus. At the same time, however, when you feel that a certain network is missing in the space we move around in, you attempt to create it. I thought this was natural or what society needs. It was also one of the impulses why the Digital Media programme was established at the Faculty of Social Sciences, where we both teach. In the case of the E‐forum, it was very pleasant to have created a space which (thanks to electronic media) wiped out the barrier of shyness, the barrier of psychological obstacles, leaving a space where you can express yourself freely.I have always perceived these projects as, say, intellectual and highly societal. And, in the case of sakura, suddenly, i had a feeling of a certain turning point that you need to delimitate or identify yourself with society. i perceived your need of a critical view. Towards the E‐forum’s end, I realized (and thus concluded naturally) that there was evidence that it was all connected to what might be labelled as a snobbish space, which is no longer truthful but rather exclusive and closed. And that’s something I have never wanted. Yes, it may be said that it was intense techno‐optimism that was expressed by the Sakura project, appearing naturally through the Mnemeg and Sembion projects, yet 5 years after the E‐forum. It expressed a technocratic view, searching for harmony between the body and the technologies distorting and hybridizing us. Sakura was all about searching for an escape from such distortion, where freedom has no room, where the technologies create a cage and where our emotions are distorted. It attempted to find a way with the help of a certain techno‐mission.Each work of art reflects the author, in particular. you have always been an artist whose creation is perceived to resonate directly with new technologies. Where does your anger come from then? At least, i thought it was anger… Sakura, and all other works in essence, originate from network thinking. Yes, it is I who provide the initial impulse, but later, we all seem to be absorbing together, working with ideas as thoughts, as if with matter. One may say that even such collective perception was reflected in Sakura. A critical view of the techno‐space is a question of experience and the question of how I perceived myself, how I change in relation to the environment and to nature. More intensively, I started searching for contacts with a natural environment; with a scent, wind and feelings that are primitive and archetypal.

i am also asking you this because the artist is often alone with their original idea. And as you work on it for some time, you might become isolated. i do believe that frequently it is hesitating between being somewhere alone in peace and quiet, resonating with the environment, regardless of the fact whether it is nature or the surroundings, and on the other hand, there are things heading directly towards society where they resonate. Do you feel the need to overcome such isolation? Do you want to be heard? It is similar to when you go to sleep at night to regain energy and you communicate during the day and get it out. The waves of people and society you feel are about the fact that first you drink this energy and then you make up a filter so that what you create is not confused. The projection into society, the desire to communicate is just natural, but it must be somehow reflected, it must go through a filter taking place in peace or concentration. I have been making lots of efforts not to produce rubbish. I try to produce what is healthy and what makes room for healthy growth. I don’t long for decadence; I always search for what is fresh. This might be the reason why there is also the desire to search for new technologies not carrying the burden of the past, that’s why there is the desire to work with sound and projection, which is extremely non‐material, being close to thoughts.One may perceive it on two levels which might seem traditionally contradicting. you are bound to the city, you live in it and you like to move around it. i guess you like its hustle and bustle. And on the other hand, there is the ecological way of life and perceiving something that is wild. At first, I do not see any contradictions at all, but absolute harmony. Imagine a wild Indian coming from the Amazon to New York, reflecting society around through his or her own perspective. The city’s chaos must be a torture. Whenever I arrive somewhere, what I am interested in is searching for the absolutely clear view in myself. I arrive in the city as if entering an extreme order of right‐angled urbanism. The wilderness, on the other hand, means extreme movement and fight for survival. It is where I feel happy, where I dive into accumulated thinking and the city‘s inspiration. What calms me down is the change in the light, noises, scents and temperature of the wilderness which is in sharp contrast with the digital quiet of the electronic forest.To what extent do you attempt to reflect this in your work? At first glance, no such inspiration from the city is visible. for example, you have never dealt with street art, while on the other hand, these are not things that would be completely ephemeral. When you are preparing a project, it is a long‐ ‐term process. can you see the clear shape of the result from the very beginning? The thing is that the most subtle and sensitive is always born in chaos. It is recorded by hands, by wrist movements and Chinese ink. When I come to the city, I see the liquid movement of data which may be recorded by technology. Take the Sembion project, for example. It’s an organic form stemming from a syntactic analysis, so it must have been created inside a city person; it couldn’t have been born elsewhere. When I was 16, I said to myself that I would never portray reality directly since it makes no sense. I’ve been interested in augmented reality, disturbing the space with strange objects, pushing to think in a different way. This means that you leave the installation space with neurons in your head being layered differently, providing you, generally speaking, with other impulses to your life. The preparation may take a long time; you may need up to ten years to come up with a single project. I am not interested in working on a number of projects but I want to say to myself: “Yeah, this is it, this might be useful or inspirational. It may have

the power to disturb the grey mediocrity and stereotypes in society!” To a large extent, human evolution depends on various institutions. How did you perceive an institution like a university where art is taught? or an art gallery where lots of works of art are displayed? or an art magazine writing about art? i am asking this question because you make me feel that you often identify yourself in contradiction to institutions, keeping your own view. How did you perform at school? Art is a very peculiar space, you can move around it freely, being different from what society tells you you should be like officially. It is a space where you can truly be extremely free. At secondary school or the Academy, or any other institution I attended, I always felt some institutional protection. Nevertheless, I respected individualities and the clever, while speaking out against bureaucracy confining us. So, when asked to produce a five‐page text, I came up with a single word only. I believe it was my father who brought me up in this way, for he was a South American revolutionary. And there’s also been some influence from our family Sephardites, Spanish Jewish ancestors.I think it is somehow related to you delimitating against what you call clerical art. When i take it in general, i believe you may have difficulty filling in tables… Wherever I feel laziness, laziness in thinking, and stupid reproduction of social models transformed into art, that’s what I call clerical art or the art of statistical clerks. I don’t want to sound as if I am quick to condemn somebody, since everyone has the right to do what they want, but there are things where I feel a kind of calculation in the sense of parasiting on and mediating something that has been examined before, or that has undergone a certain process, and thus being nothing more than further rearrangement. Harping on. It’s like when DJs are working with music, sampling it into a new form. Although it is absolutely alright, there are also composers who create. So, to me a DJ is a clerk and a composer a creator. I am sorry. What i also had in mind was the fact that a table is a pattern and your work lacks exact tables, it is not something that could be pressed under a scheme. your work is liquid, variable, or in incessant movement. recently, you have also concentrated on architecture, working, on a number of occasions, with so‐ ‐called blobs. but it was back at the beginning of the 1990s when you started working with this shape. At the turn of 1992 and 1993, the Thomson Digital Image (TDI) company provided us with software as an experimental plug‐in designed for testing chemical processes, which they wanted to implement into animation processes. That was the first moment when we touched an the blob software as a modelling tool. One may say that it was the beginning of liquid architecture, because the blob simulates certain instability. Grey Lynn, the king of blob architecture, started using it five years later, when the software was eventually launched onto the market. I can openly say that these first blob‐like objects, ascribed to the company Alias Wavefront in the dictionary of world architecture, had appeared in a French piece of software which we had, coincidentally, used back in 1992. When you observe a person’s movement in any kind of space, it is always blob‐like and organic. The blob attempts to simulate and create such organic liquid movement. We conceived this liquid essence with the E AREA team (though not bearing this name then) as a natural process, similar to a river flow. Liquid footprints of human activity in the landscape, shaped by geographic and social and ecological regularities. We aimed to pour architecture into the niche, where a space for living emerges without blindly respecting the right‐angled order, which does not respect spreading data using optical fibers, for example. We are turning to the movement of cars, to the obsolete system and the principle of spreading information. We are looking out of the windows, gazing at horse carts which are not there any more, though. It is necessary to work with liquid bits and data of a new city and urbanism.Earlier, you used to work with sculptures. A sculpture or an object is bound to a certain material which might be dangerous at times, or which may disturb the environment. is your move towards software somehow linked to ecology? Apart from the unbelievable possibilities of intuitive modelling, software has a dematerialising tendency. This means that what you design does not fill up the physical space. After 20 or 30 years of work, you still can’t see anything behind you, nothing like the space exists, and you may materialise it at the moment when necessary. You don’t flood the planet with useless things.Back to the 1990s, you started working with something non‐material…First, I was interested in ecology and perceiving what grows though the invisible. What you don’t perceive has a certain genetic code, which may be a generated digital form. Second, I was also keen on perceiving our mental processes which are non‐material; immaterial thoughts. I am convinced that the thought creates matter, although it is not so trivial that I say something to myself now and make it out of splinters or soil. The key point is that the process of thinking itself creates matter, i.e. what surrounds us. The past creates the future. It is thinking in a kind of holo‐field, generating matter and our bodies in the presence. The current processes are a thing of the past, since they are already a reflection, vibration or echo.In essence, this means that whenever you are creating a piece of work, whether it is architecture, an object or a programme, it is the idea that is most important to you beforehand, since you work with it for quite long after that. How do you come to the final shape? And on the contrary, what is at the beginning?

At the beginning, it may be a feeling of the city; sound, a vibration or shiver of any kind. It can be a dialogue with friends, which is the starting point of the so‐called network thinking. Definitely, I wouldn’t like to say that it’s a thought in my head that materialises all of a sudden. It’s a network of inspirational sources, which then searches for an adequate material for creation. Therefore, already back in the 1990s, I believed, just naturally and intuitively, and maybe naively, that software could approach the impalpable feeling of thoughts, since it allows simulating a nascent process; it isn’t the matter only that lies in front of you. It’s as if you irrigate something with words, and the words are the liquid needed for the matter’s growth. That is to say that all the projects form a single continuous structure, undergoing the process of modification and spilling over to some other consistencies, or being incomplete in some other parts. This is important.Sembion has several versions. Do you think that contemporary art or (better put) contemporary works of art wind off in versions? That they are no longer closed in the frame of a specific art gallery space or possibly its exact determination? Ten projects have been created over ten years, while in fact they’re all part of a single project. Individual projects, shapes or installations have always reacted to the specific environment, as if flowing into that space. If you were asked to map it from the outside, then you’d find connections between Generatrix, Sembion or Mnemeg. Essentially, there are different versions of the same thing, just bearing different names. Can you imagine returning to the very beginning, to painting?

As a child, I used to say to myself that I must learn the technique perfectly, because I felt that my wrist didn’t listen to me but that it is very important so as to manage the flow of energy of ideas so that my hand can become free. At that time, at the age of about sixteen, I was interested in Caravaggio, experimenting with a kind of confrontation. I painted the Burial of St. Lucy in a specular view in order to test my technique of visualising reality. After some time, I sprayed the painting in Jackson Pollock style, attempting to imply that the path does not lead through a realistic depicting of reality, but rather through its abstract perception. I said to myself that this is the way. And I followed it. Over the last three years, I have devoted myself to the technique of Chinese painting, for a simple reason. When you paint with Chinese or Japanese ink onto rice paper all the strokes are visible, recorded whether you think of them or not. Within the Fluid project, I went to China, where I observed Chinese masters painting landscapes, bamboos or lotus flowers. I realized that it is technique polished over a thousand years, allowing you to paint a picture in a completely different way than the European tradition tells you. I observed them moving their wrists and hands; they have thousands of different ways to lay a sheet of paper, to stroke the paintbrush, how long to push it or what shades of black should be used. And they are well aware of all this, confronting one another. It was the time when the Fluid 1 project was coming into existence, searching for the original archetypal rituals in contemporary society. Thus, I said to myself that using this old technique is ideal to record energy.When observing primitive nations and tribes, I am always fascinated with their relationship to what cannot be described. Neither using mathematics, physics, nor words… it is a relationship, as we say, with the wind or a mountain. For them, a mountain is alive, the sun is alive, which is something Europeans find hard to understand. For us, the sun is a source of radiation and heat, while for them, it is a living organism. The relationship is established with the help of rituals containing movements with a specific meaning. In Asian culture, such moves have been transformed, for example, into kung‐fu or the spiritual movements of yoga. Among Indians, on the other hand, it is an uncoordinated chaotic movement, closer to the wind and scents. What I was interested in was the perception in contemporary society, and I realized that it is particularly substantial in the area of sport, such as Formula 1 racing. I chose Formula 1 as the first project because it combines technologies and the cooperation of hi‐ ‐tech industries operating on the highest level of quality and collaboration in our society. Let me give you an example: when a Formula 1 car approaches the cockpit, then there are 30 people cooperating at the same moment within the space of six seconds. Each one of them has a ritualized movement, similar to a shaman’s movements. In these six seconds, they produce something that gives new energy to the driver. He then becomes a medium perceived by huge audiences. And now I’m getting to the point. Imagine the enormous energy looking at the driver. This energy is mediated through media technologies; the power of emotions of victory is, within a second, mediated all over the planet. A huge explosion of impalpable wave spreading through the space within a single second. And all this owing to technologies. This is absolutely unprecedented in the history of humankind. It becomes very natural due to an artificial and digital space. Imagine the explosion of billions of people when they shout out. What does it do to materialising thinking and the matrix of the information field from which we are born? What does it do to the vibration, essence, and our genetic code? These are subsequent questions explaining my fascination with Formula 1. So, I tried depicting the ritual using the technique of Chinese painting, which allows, within a few seconds, depicting the movement of the hand, the movement of energy, lacking any thoughts and being similar to the energy spreading around when replacing tires in the pitstop. To make it even more complicated, I blindfolded myself so as to be able to concentrate as much as I could, and not to be disturbed by anything. I set myself the task to paint as fast as I could until the moment an idea comes up. The painting was then inserted into a specially designed case in the same way as the pilot’s immaterial, fragile body is inserted into the Formula 1’s aerodynamic cockpit. Brno, 2008

Jiří Zemánek,

Awakening into the living cosmos Among young artists it is Federico Díaz and the virtual unit Silver that have managed, in their multimedia projects, to fully face up to the challenge to apply digital technology as a new medium of expression.1 Their work represents specific methods of exploring nature and shares a common starting point in sculpture. Computers make it possible to approach this form of art from the opposite side, as it were, to program shapes as models from within the computer field, “without the touch of the human hand“ (Díaz), like a pure expression of thought. Silver and Díaz are interested in shape in its archetypal structure as the conduit or medium of energy. This is the case of Silver’s computer‐animated E‐Flowers – simulated psychoactive radiators in the form of symmetrically constructed abstract shapes – and Díaz’s illusory cyber‐objects Blob I,II,III (1992–1997), emphasising physicality and motion.However, if the work of Silver is shaped by a strict rational order, a kind of virtual classicism, grounded in algorithmic structures, then the visionary work of Federico Díaz springs from the subconscious depths of dreams and reveals the primordial chaos of creation. This is symbolically demonstrated in Díaz’s first important multimedia work, the sound sculpture Nostalgia (1992), which takes the form of a giant helical seashell – the case or “dwelling” of the body, that at the same time is a hologram of the cosmos. Nostalgia takes as its subject dreams of the cosmos origin and of man’s deep union with nature and the universe. The medium used for this was an unidentifiable low‐frequency sound emanating from the core of the object, which the viewer has no visual access to. From that point, the intangible sound vibration became Díaz’s primary medium of artistic strategy. Federico Díaz – like his teacher Karel Malich – perceives the world around him as an energy field of various vibrations. In the multimedia installation Dehibernation, which over the course of two years passed through three transformative stages, he finally achieved his concept of a dynamic holophonic sound environment, in which each visitor through his or her movement in space evoked various, diversely localised sounds. Part of the installation was a computer projection that could be modified by the sound of a person’s voice or the movement of eye pupils. The term dehibernation, which we could paraphrase as “awakening”, would appear to be crucial to understanding Díaz’s creative thinking. Díaz is trying to attack the viewer’s immediate perception, to offer a sensorially compelling experience, devoid of all the usual connotations of meaning. In doing so, he opens up a path beyond language, structure and communication. He suspects that there exists something beyond the mind, something more substantial, which is revealed in the pure experience of the given moment. Through this intuitive sense, Díaz evokes not just Zen and other Eastern teachings, but also the theory of some contemporary scientists, such as the physicist David Bohm or the theorist of general evolution Ervin Laszlo. Both have reached a similar conclusion, that matter and mind, as mutually interconnected aspects of reality, evolved together out of that “primordial vacuum“, or as Ervin Laszlo put it: “it evolved out of a common cosmic womb: the energy field of the quantum vacuum”.2 The path to this intangible, invisible substance of the world is sought in Díaz’s interactive sound installation 7 at City Gallery Prague (1998), in which the artist counts on the effect of conscious and subconscious sound impressions. From this perspective, his grand project for a house of cosmic consciousness for the third millennium, E AREA (1998–1999), represents a synthesis of Díaz’s work.3 The heart of this project is formed by holophonic simulators in the shape of balls ten and twenty metres in diameter, intended to simulate multidimensional motion based on the principle of holophonic sound and virtual reality. They were intended to facilitate a view into multidimensional reality, into the processes of external and internal nature, including human consciousness. In their installations, Díaz and Silver model patterns of human perception on the principle of the participative links between the perceiver and the perceived. They thus touch on the understanding of reality as a kind of continuous “field”, something explored in quantum physics by the above‐mentioned theorists Laszlo and Bohm: 1. The perceiver can through his/her senses enter the perceived reality and with his/her voice or vision can change it (Díaz – Dehibernation / Spin; Silver – Resident; both 1995); 2. Matter (nature) represents a specific form of perceiving being, which responds to our perception (Díaz – GUG, 1997, and Blob, 1998). For example, Silver’s Resident, created using the technology of virtual reality as an artificial luminous being or an artificial creature, changes form according to the sounds of the human voice; in the broad spectrum of connotations of this work we can note the Rudolphine myth of the Golem or the revelation of an internal light in the pastels by Karel Malich.4 In their installations, Díaz and Silver thus model the perception patterns of an interconnected world, in which there is no dichotomy of matter and consciousness or of man and nature.5 The work of both artists chimes with the current wider trend of an awakening into the living cosmos, which many studies and theoretic visions of a new paradigm have opened up for us.While Díaz’s sound installations can be described as dynamic, unstable (“chaos”) structures of sound, pelting the viewer and drawing him/her into their vortices, Silver’s interactive sound fields take shape

on a strictly rational principle and adhere to the idea of harmony. This work of Silver’s emerged out of the need for an alternative to classical music, and it can be ranked in the wider context of so‐called generative music, exemplified by its main initiator Brian Eno. It audio‐sculpture or audio‐performance, where, out of a databank of recorded sounds, the spontaneous movements of visitors generate an actual image of the work of music in a specific space, an image that is each time different and original. Silver created a total of four such works – from Sirénes in the New Hall Gallery in Prague (1993) to the installation Victoria in the Small Hall of the Veletržní Palace (1999–2000); one project never realised was an interactive sound field called Gateway from 1996, which was based on the myth of speech, its origin and functions, and which anticipated a similar project by Federico Díaz, 7. Díaz’s sound installations and Silver’s process sound fields reflect the change in the life feeling that was ushered in by the 1990s. I have in mind a de‐subjectivised human consciousness, its interlinking through interactive ties and the development of a new type of telematic and ecological existence. According to Vilém Flusser, man in the telematic age is “something like an onion, an empty kind of cluster of fibres. […] Relationships are the real, concrete given”.8 The consciousness that we exist “only if we are connected to others” is becoming a paradigm for us today. The question of human identity and of the originality and authenticity of artistic expression thus re‐emerges. Sheldrake’s theory of morphogenetic fields and morphic resonances has shown that we do not actually possess our thoughts, and that too can be applied to artistic inspiration. Reflections on similar questions resonate in the project E AREA and even lie at the very origin of the virtual unit Silver.

Jiří Zemánek, art theorist and curator 

Camille Morineau
Beyond interactivity

When the visitor enters the dark and silent room that initially constitutes the installation called Mnemeg, a work made by Federico Díaz in 2002 for the space Electra, he moves, turns his head, leans, perhaps emits a few sounds. Only then does Mnemeg starts to reveal itself, at first in an abstract form, in a chaotic and fragmented fashion, and gradually, as the visitor approaches, in a humanoid form – in the image of the person who is looking for it. In reality, Mnemeg was already here, but in a form that is invisible to our eye. It is precisely the vibrations generated by the presence of the visitor (his movements as well as his sounds, the beating of his heart, vibrations emitted by his mobile phone or only the warmth emanating from his body) that have literally made Mnemeg appear, feeding it enough to change it from the invisible to the visible. In this way, Mnemeg does not appear in our image, but in the image of that which is not visible, which is inside us: our hostile or curious attitude, the vibrations – perceptible or not – that constitute us, the waves that pass through us, conscious or unconscious, bodily or radio, and link us to the universe. Its strangeness thus consists also, perhaps above all, in our image. Are the black holes constituting it the symbol of the very fragmentary knowledge that we have of ourselves, particularly of the mechanism of our sensations. Do they sum up, in the image of the ‘black hole’ which they represent, a mathematical model symbolizing at once the origin and the destiny of everything? In reality they are energy knots, through which Mnemeg lives off the presence of the visitor and communicates with him, gathering in that same image of the black hole – in an allegorical form – the three fields forming the basis of the work of Federico Díaz: abstract knowledge of the world, concrete experience and the Utopia of a creative and intelligent interactivity that connect these two types of knowledge. Mnemeg is in the image of man, as he is shown by Federico Díaz, as in reality he wishes him to be, as he literally creates him – meaning a simple membrane, a resonance tool, between the inner – the biological and the microscopic – and the outer – the cosmic, the geologic and the macroscopic. For the artist at least, it is more a matter of reconciling opposites than of finding links, and of clearing a path that technological progress and its mirages, modernity and its contempt for the ecosystem, have almost entirely concealed. Therefore the work of Federico Díaz is above all thaumaturgical: he pretends he is healing a wound, the wound of a planet damaged by centuries of intensive exploitation, with no one caring to achieve a balance. The scar of an urban, industrial world, deserted on the one hand and submerged on the other, built in the image of a humanity without soul, without creativity and without concern for the future. The agony of a spiritual thought, which at first was able to link the macrocosm with the microcosm, and give the culture back its natural, biologic and physical origin. That which man has unlearned, art can re‐teach him: the intelligence of the sensible experience. Since the mid ’90s Federico Díaz has devoted himself to this strictly sensible art, based more and more on sensations. To erase himself, to erase the trace of his hand, his mind and his tastes, and finally the art work and art itself, together with its references, to erase the very thought of representation, to leave room only for purified sensation: that is the difficult goal he has chosen. The use of new technologies allows him to disappear effectively as a person, in the creation of functional environments where the precision of phenomena can be equaled only by the absolute anonymity of their embodiment: it is an artificial intelligence that has, for the most part, generated them. In these mechanisms, where there is nothing to see, to touch, nor to understand, the visitor is left to face his own sensations. The conception of enlarged objects having simple forms, in which symbolism is reduced to a minimum and which are intended to emit an indeterminate sound (a shell in Nostalgia, 1993), or an object defined by its acoustical function (Bolb 1996), was still too marked by the subjectivity of the person who had conceived and shaped it. This led to a transition to installations consisting of cabins covered by more or less visible loudspeakers (the Dehibernations series, 1994), where abstract images, real or digital, are projected. Very soon the images as well as the hidden objects disappear, to make space only for sound (GUG, Fermion and Photon, 1997). The artist defines an ideal space, where the progressive loss of the usual markers would be compensated for by an increased consciousness of the intensity of his own sensations: ‘the holophonic space’. In this mathematical space, a sound controlled in real time by a computer reacts in a multidimensional manner to the motion of the audience. This means a shift from the interactive to the co‐creative: thanks to the precision of technological tools (captors, data processing programs, information scanning on the web), the sound can adapt itself to more stable data, invisible and unconscious, than voluntary body movement alone. The audience can contribute to the generation

of a work in perpetual evolution, without center or origin, developing like a net, in the image of the Web. It is thus possible to go from a production in a closed space, the museum installation, to self‐ ‐generated mechanisms mirroring the universe, whether architectural (E AREA), humanoid (Mnemeg) or communicative (e‐forum). The ambition of E AREA stems from this: it is the name of a company, which he founded in 1998 with the intention of creating in the most precise manner a center of education and transformation of man. In this new phase, the harmony of plastic formation and pedagogical education, of the initial Utopia and the means of its implementation is almost perfect. Partly situated underground, functioning in a closed circuit thanks to solar and wind power, and drafted in the style of organic models, the plans of this place are described in minute detail in collaboration with Jiří Zemánek. E AREA consists of thematic rooms where the phenomena are taught through virtual, three‐dimensional reconstructions requiring the senses of the audience in their entirety. Cosmology, the study of the planet as a model living from equilibrium, to be understood and managed with respect, a return to a spirituality close to animism, the foundation of a society based on participative democracy based on the internet and the development of the potential creativity in man are the subjects on the curriculum. In this way man will be able to solve, without today’s stereotypes, the problems intensified by globalization. Pushing to the extreme the dematerialization of the work to enhance its efficiency, Federico is today developing the E‐forum project, which allows subjects announced in the E AREA to be discussed in real time on the net. Mnemeg is an efficient embodiment of the global communication between the natural and the cultural, the human and the artificial, with only one possible outcome: the mechanism itself has become autonomous. Mnemeg lives on vibrations caused by the visitor, in other words he integrates them, transforms them and creates them in his own image. Finally it becomes impossible, as his creator says, to determine what in Mnemeg’s reactions is the result of “the coded, the recorded or the living”, to differentiate for the public a “programmed” reaction from an “invented” reaction. Mnemeg is no more nor less foreseeable than an average visitor. Like him he has no face. Like him he fits statistics without ever conforming to them. Everyone must therefore see for himself what Mnemeg has in store for him.

Camille Morineau, curator of the Pompidou Centre

Miroslav Petříček


What shape does a process have? At first this question seems completely incomprehensible.

The reason for this is probably very simple: a shape is something we associate with objects, i.e. with something which does not change, which is constant. Yet a process is the complete opposite of this kind of constancy: a process is change, or to be more precise, changing. An object is that which manages to maintain its shape throughout all change. If we perceive an object as something that does not change, then we favor it, as it denies time. From this stems our fascination with tangible things, such as images of eternal ideas. However, if we perceive the phrase ‘to maintain shape throughout change’ as a description that does not want to eliminate time and the dynamics of shaping, then we come close to something that could be described as ‘the shape of movement’. A question that wants to discover the shape of a certain process is a question that originates from an ordinary, albeit not entirely comprehensible, experience: we are able to determine whether one process is different from another – we know when a process has begun or ended. But it is not clear how we are able to do so, i.e. how we know this. And we think that as soon as a process has a different shape (or a different appearance), it is some other process. For the only thing that applies to both objects and processes is that they are capable of preserving their identity. And the word ‘shape’ then describes that which gives objects and processes their identity. Shape is something whole: we do not perceive things and their attributes, qualities and values; we perceive shapes – and only through a subsequent analysis do we arrive at their attributes, qualities etc. And we also perceive something like the shapes of movement: we do not perceive a certain sequence of steps in an additive manner, but in the suspense of expectation, sensing haste, precipitation and hesitation, and it is the combination of various rhythms that determines shape – therefore we can recognize a person by his walk without seeing him, a bird by its flight. A thing that is the subject of external influence resists such influence and at the same time changes, while preserving its identity. A thing is the occurrence of change, its shape is therefore not morphé, but metamorphé – and it is therefore identical to itself in its changing.However, the world is not just objects and processes. Perhaps objects and processes are just limiting notions, between which lies all that we come into contact with in our experience. Rivers, clouds, waterfalls, the flame of a candle, plants, living beings, language. All of these are thing‐processes, even though we speak of them as though they were objects: we refer to them as nouns, they are substantives. God knows why. The only explanation for this persistent effort to get rid of time, to not see change,

to hold on to that which is solid and without movement, is a fear of not having anything to hold on to. Because we can think a process quite well, we have just forgotten that we can do it. We look at the world around us and we see: water and earth are below. However water evaporates and rises up, air and fire are overhead, but fire sometimes falls to the ground: this is not a random list of various things, it is in a certain sense truly everything. This vision encapsulates the ‘world’ as a whole. No more is necessary. In contrast to this a mere list never ends, will never be complete, will always be somehow random. In other words, it will never contain logos. In contrast to this, earth, air, fire and water also represent in this sense certain orderly mutual relationships, by which as ‘elements’ they are joined together, in spite of, or rather thanks to, their polarity: earth versus air, water versus fire, air versus water, above and below. Expressed even more generally: hot (fire) versus cold (air), dry (earth) versus wet (water). Cold feuds with hot, wet tries to overcome dry, heat dries earth, rain wets it. In a human body there is everything necessary for the creation of a tree, and in a tree there is everything necessary for the creation of a human being. Elements are also forces. Imbalance generates cohesion. Life is a phenomenon of instability and balance, yet it exists as long as it is capable of changing in interaction with its surroundings. Is it something archaic or is it a common experience? These elements or forces are somehow everywhere and in everything, nothing exists without them, nothing exists outside of them. And to express it more forcefully: they give life to all that exists and all that we see. On the whole, there are no more and no fewer of these elements or forces. They do not decrease or increase, no matter how they feud. If we understand this, then we ‘see’ the whole. And if these elements or forces feud with one another, but in this feuding are constantly equalizing their proportions (because if one thing is predominant here, then another is predominant elsewhere and they counterbalance one another), then we see that the world is not something which stands still, but that it is characterized by the motion of all that it comprises. It is a process, it is happening. It is a process

Spin which we constantly have before our eyes – and which we understand because we are able to envisage an image of it. ‘Fire lives through the death of the earth, air lives through the death of fire, water lives through the death of air, earth through the death of water.’ the flame in a lamp ‘lives’ by feeding on oil. From here one can go even further, for fire is already a more dynamic notion, or ‘concept’, a notion which is still conceivable, however “abstract”. One lives through the death of the other – the world

is like a kindling and a dying down, but this is also at the same time a notional grasp of a principle: the fieriness of all happening. It is something like a principle, as we even see this fieriness in flowing water, which ‘with the swiftness and speed of its change disperses and then comes together again, arrives and then departs’. The dispersed comes together again. This is action, continuation; a river never disperses in such a way as not to come together again, and it does not come together so as to become water which does not flow; there is an equilibrium, but only thanks to a constant movement, only thanks to the fact that this equilibrium is happening, only thanks to the instability of this state of equilibrium. If a river did not flow, it would not be a river, so in order to remain (as the river which we see before us), it must constantly change. If we see before us this image of a river (or image of fire), then we have before us the true shape of the world as a process. The order which we see has the shape of the fieriness of fire. We watch a waterfall and we see the shape of fire. Modern science says that fire is a dissipative structure. It is possible that we need to have a concrete fire before us in order to understand this claim and to see the shape in question. If we perceive shape in such a way, then we understand better that which at times seems inconceivable. Color, for example, is not color. Color is not the word ‘color’, color is something else, because unlike geometry, unlike drawing, whose substance is a certain line, outline and form, color is primarily colorfulness. This means a world whose substance is merely shades, nuances, intensities, les valeurs. Not, however, absolute nuances, such as ‘yellow‐brown’ or ‘light blue’ for example, but shades within shades: this light at this hour, here and now, has created this shade – and in the next moment this shade will disappear because it will change. This is colorfulness. The notion of essence, of idea, disappears

in shades. Color as colorfulness is this movement of absent substance – it is the movement of changing. Each morphé is always already metamorphé. The limit of difference is transition and the limit of transition is difference. The limit of diversity is changeability, i.e. movement, and the limit of changeability or movement is diversity – variety, colorfulness. Movement is transformation. And every movement has a certain shape: a stone, whose movement is virtually imperceptible, a cloud, which, before it disappears, exists as something which is transforming. Formation is the self‐description of shape. Capturing change so that it does not cease to be change, a transition so that it remains transference, means to discover ways of dematerializing matter, and at the same time also the materialization of the intangible. It is almost possible to touch light. Substance becomes movement. A sensitive field reacts to movement. A strange paradox: the technology of new media and sophisticated software facilitates an encounter with archaic elements. Architecture is a sign of influences of force, the body lives on through the elements, without any clear boundary of where one becomes another – nothing that we can identify as an object. Matter is mass only if its movement slows down extremely, but even then we perceive it rather as energy. The source of morphology is resonance, and for this reason it seems as if an energy field has acquired the ability to empathize. A collision is resonance: two particles collide, move away from one another, and remember the occurrence of the collision. Two people speak to one another, then they go their separate ways, yet altered by what they have said. But this is an infinitely small knot in the network of interactions, each of which changes the form of this network slightly in an unpredictable manner. Would it be erroneous to claim that the shape of this network is fire? If we want to understand this shape, we have to see it in a differently structured space of the representation of reality (if the word ‘representation’ still has any significance when the depiction of the world has become a moment in a process). Because an organism lives within an organism. Art is an analogon of science, yet we do not know which of these is the model for the other.

Miroslav Petříček, philosopher This text was written after the author’s encounter with Federico Díaz in May 2008.

Karel Srp
Federico Díaz’s Machines of Desire


Federico Díaz and his team, later named E AREA after one of their late 1990s breakthrough projects, have been working together for more than fifteen years. They have contributed to contemporary Czech art with new stimuli that have broadened and transcended the current way of perceiving art and the concept of a work of art. Every time Díaz presented a new interactive work, he caught the public’s attention. The unusual span of his creativity appealed not only to aficionados of contemporary art. Since his early years at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts, Díaz has always followed his own approach, which distinguished his work to a large extent from that of his peers. His appeal stemmed from his unusual artistic generosity and strong determination to follow through with projects that overcame all manner of technical and social obstacles. Díaz, unlike his predecessors who worked with novel techniques and materials in the 20th century, managed to make people perceive his attitude neither as experimental and Utopian, hovering on the margin of the art scene as a potential prototype of a future mainstream, nor as alternative, presenting another option to the prevailing view of art. Since starting to exhibit, he has been accepted as a natural part of the “young” generation of the day, even though he articulated his experience in unusual ways. Díaz did not draw sharp lines between the old and the new consciousness. He refused to accept that alongside a given consciousness, freed of all obstacles that it had created for its own protection, there should be another consciousness, independent of it. He preferred to reveal the existing consciousness and enrich it with new layers and strata hidden behind the known ones. He ventured into areas where no one had been before him in order to bring back experience that had been swallowed by oblivion. Díaz strove to renew what had been lost in an expanded and new way of gaining knowledge. At a very early stage, while still a student at the academy, Díaz developed original approaches, quite different from most artistic programs endorsed at that time. He was brave in his use of technologies and materials that were originally designed for other purposes. He expressed far more general objectives for which a mere palpable rendering of a mental object was not enough. They were determined by the varying relationship of art, nature and science, based on the shift of their mutual center of gravity. Every time Díaz emphasized one of these three areas, the other two remained in the background and completed the framework of his installations. These are the roots of the considerable integrity of opinion in his work. Díaz’s work spans a wide area. The artist transcends the established boundaries of one field, and also goes into depths where he reveals forgotten primal images that are subsequently reflected in human consciousness: whether it be inner space, materialized light in motion, a blend of sound or a symmetrical rosette. As early as in 1997, Díaz enriched with ease the attitude still labeled as art with new means of expression in two of his major projects. The first was Tacuzcanzcan (consisting of three separate works: Photon, Blob and Fermion), which took up the whole of the second floor in the Old Town Hall in Prague. It happened to be his first solo exhibition and also his final thesis submitted for defense. The other was also a distinct installation titled simply 7. For a number of years it became a magnet within the contemporary art collection in the House of the Golden Ring in Prague. In both projects, marked by a progressive use of the latest technologies, spectators found themselves in an artificial space that exposed them to unusual sensory experience, a kind of ebbing and waning echo of the artist’s expanding and contracting inner world. Although the spectators entered a depersonalized installation, they became part of Díaz’s mind, which dragged them into its own psychoplastic intentions – the way a sculptor uses material and a painter colors – whether the result be a 3D form or a surface projection. Díaz, or rather the participant in Díaz’s projects, encountered projects of markedly distinct shapes that each time seemed like different grades of embodiment of light energy, from solid and steady to flowing and dematerialized. He focused his ideas precisely on those human senses that he strove to captivate. The sources of his work were in the expression of experience located beyond the common, everyday perception that they transcended. He suggested that our perception is covered with additional layers which can be accessed under certain conditions. Even though the artist’s pronounced plastic sensitivity, along with his drawing talent, were already obvious at the academy, the underlying aspect of Díaz’s attitude was an experience that would later surface in his work: sound and inner space. He was already using both of these as themes in his early work Nostalgia (1993), a monumental upright conch. From its coils came a dark, remote thunder whose origin and meaning could not be clearly determined and the eye could not see its most covert, dark space. While Nostalgia was still expressed by a 3D object of a given size originating in the history of nature and art, Díaz’s subsequent works seemed to take place in the inner walls of a spiraled shell. The spectator entered specifically arranged inner spaces, equipped with sensors that recorded the spectator’s movements or speech. While the constructivists used the shell mainly to express various development theories, to Díaz it provided an image of a two‐way motion that was contracting at one end and dilating at the other. Díaz probed into embryonic forms, dealing with the preconditions of inner life. He also freed himself from them and took a broad approach in projects concerning architecture and the outer environment. Even though these were marked opposites, they did not exclude or contradict each other. They were linked by an integral, unifying form. They intermingled and merged with one another. In this way Díaz overcame thinking in polar terms by means of harmony. In a sensory echo, reflecting an idea within an idea, he freed himself from direct reflection and immediate sensory data. It was as if Díaz were attempting to grasp an image before becoming aware of it, while it still contained traces of its source, before it became loaded with the meanings that consciousness projects into it… As the coils of the Nostalgia spiral grew and broadened, Díaz’s projects transcended into the everyday environment. When the coils shrank and narrowed, he focused on the source of life and light. At one end, his imagination broadened, at the other it focused on the cosmogonic moment of the emergence of the embryonic form. Díaz elaborated on both possibilities in his projects in the first years of the new millennium. In these projects he reconsidered the relationship between the participant and the execution, and also worked with his long‐term idea of a work of art created without any contact SuProportion with the human hand. He had an opportunity to execute this idea very early on. Since Dehibernation (1993), he has left it up to the spectator to decide on the working of the installation by setting it in motion and becoming part of it. The spectator’s intervention determined the sound, the shape and the illumination of the project. The result came back to the spectator like an echo. Unlike the Nostalgia shell, this time the spectator was the originator. The viewer entered a space that anticipated him and took into account his movement. Díaz’s projects belonged more and more to the spectator – first of all the viewer controlled their sound (Dehibernation, 1994), then their shape (Blob, 1997) by modeling a taut, flat surface by walking on it. Díaz shifted his focus to the spectator’s body (Generatrix, 1999) which was “captured” by the apparatus and “processed” without the possibility of further intervention. The spectator could eventually see himself or herself in the least expected form on a projection surface. There the viewer turned into blazing light energy. Its movements, though instigated by the spectators, are no longer dependent on them. The spectator’s figure was appropriated by the machine; it became material for further reassessment, which the viewer could witness. Díaz’s relationship to the human figure progressed. The following step after 7 was the creation of an artificial being (Mnemeg, 2000), hovering in a weightless space, rolling from side to side in the center of a projection surface, turning freely, approaching and receding, as if it had condensed from the white noise and waves caused by the spectator’s presence. From a state of calm, Mnemeg gradually grows into a frenzied ecstasy, during which it disintegrates and changes into a sort of nebula. Díaz showed that through his artificial being he is capable of expressing all the motor capabilities of the human body and even surpassing them. A distance can occur between the spectator and Mnemeg due to the fact that the viewer is addressed from the projection surface by someone who looks like him but is not him. At the same time Mnemeg seems to be a projection of lingering but forgotten states of mind. The gestures of the being determined by a “machine” resemble the rites of tribal peoples. With Mnemeg, Díaz perhaps became aware of the limits of his “apparatus”, whose capabilities were so great that their thorough utilization was beyond the limits of human possibilities. Even though Díaz did not mean to create his own robot, Mnemeg loosely relates to similar artificial beings. If the spectator connected to Mnemeg identified with it and ceased being himself, he became the other entity and revealed his hidden side. With Mnemeg, Díaz also came into conflict with the technology he used to express himself. The power emanating from it did not lead to liberation but rather to conquest and control. It devoured human identity more and more forcefully. While Mnemeg expressed a desire for liberation from the body using an instinctive power, Sakura (2005), referring to the high art of the Samurai, was a gradation of the effects of will; it concentrated onto itself to the point of self‐destruction. It is symptomatic that this time the protagonist of the project who undergoes the process is the artist himself, assuming the role of an imagined Samurai. He concentrates so much that his head bursts at the end of the rite and blood starts pouring into the white room. Sakura, resembling age‐old rites, had a strong, social and critical tone, clarified by a proclamation included in the project: “The more we know about you, the less you exist.” the individual is swallowed by the outer system so much that he can only be delivered by entering a different order. This means the individual’s end in the mundane world. Díaz was attracted by flux and movement. He refused solid and unchangeable borders. The wall that faced him in his projects became permeable under his touch, matter holding shape together dissolved. Nostalgia was followed by space installations and also by objects created through computer animation, which did not emulate any natural shape, such as Bolb and Up. When their form settled on a computer screen, their 3D rendering was carried out in an established workshop manner. The interior of the metal Bolb, commissioned for Český Krumlov, was divided by a membrane reverberating in the wind. The transparent dematerialized sculpture Up, which was meant to be made of glass, broke during construction. Only in the first decade of the new millennium did Díaz get round to realizing his dream. He found a new way of rendering a 3D object – it was created in the exact opposite way to that of a traditional sculpture. His projects like Sembion (2004) and Resonance (2007) showed that the source of a polyamide shape (created using SLS rapid prototyping technology) can be a computer‐ ‐processed flow of speech. It can shape matter using a beam inside an incubator. Díaz got as close as possible to converting an idea into a shape when the flow of non‐material speech acquired a solid static shape created by the flow of speech. The object at the end of the process resembled an abstract sculpture only in its external appearance, but its substance and orientation were totally different from such a sculpture. Díaz shifted to a different level of thinking, which brought him to capturing the embryonic form as the source of life. While he dealt with decay and extinction in Sakura, in Sembion and Resonance he returned to his own beginnings. The wave that had sprung up suddenly in the E AREA project (1998–1999) like an uncontrolled element, spilled over the edge, dispersed into individual drops and disappeared. The same wave was now rife with new meanings in other projects. Díaz’s works lost the solid shape of the earlier Blobs, Bolbs and Ups. They became the materialization of flowing light. Their solid and lasting appearance became set when the flow was stopped. But they can be described as “shapeless” only from the point of visual perception. They can be captured by a mathematical model and displayed on a different plane of their existence. Díaz was captivated by actual events as one of the possible states of energy. He wanted to probe below their surface and capture their preconditions. In recent years, he has dealt with this in two large projects, Sembion and Resonance, from which he excluded all color. The large computer prints were only black and white – if they can be called even that. Their task was to capture the invisible flow of light that materializes at the extreme limits of vision. Díaz did not break light into a rainbow spectrum, but emphasized its basic cosmogonic element as the carrier of life. He did this by showing that a ray of light contains “binary sperm” expressed in the contrast of black and white. In Sembion, Díaz penetrated to the self‐fertilization of life based on the conflict of opposites. It broke down and shrank, swelled up and bloated. He concentrated on the depiction of an endless process, revealing only a few moments of it. Díaz’s imagination has not been restricted to the installations of inner spaces relying on the movement of a visitor, or to the 3D object – which are two opposite ways of approaching a work of art. His close affinity to architecture became more and more apparent in his works, culminating in the designs of large buildings (Microna, 2007). Their unusual liquid morphology was predated by the older E AREA project. At that time Díaz still clung closely to the metaphysics of the circle, which for some time was a limiting shape for him. At the turn of the millennium, the circle became the prototype of the course of life and the state of the cosmos. While he opened the computer presentation of his E AREA project with a flowing Möbius strip, an allusion to the symbol of infinity, the following rapid sequence of images features a rosette, one of the fundamental images of the unity and integrity of the world, morphing into a sunflower and a human eye, whose iris then blends into the circular shape of a building. The iris composes its empty center, from where the designed building seems to draw its energy. Díaz, who organizes the space as a closed shell that can expand and contract, rendered it in two opposite, seemingly contradictory ways. He used a geometrical network onto which any shape can be abstracted, and a cluster of swelling matter emerging from itself. Both mutually exclusive possibilities had earlier appealed to the painter Václav Boštík, who worked with highly dematerialized pastels and simple linear division of a blank surface in the 1970s. These were different ways of capturing the same universe, which can be approached from two different angles. In his E AREA building project, Díaz also showed that the relationship between the geometrical network and the circle had its limitations. They could not be identified and converted one into another. A sphere was set into the linear frame of a polyhedron. Díaz brought together two worlds that approach each other but, despite their similarity, remain incompatible. These are modern science on the one hand, and faith and mysticism on the other. Their differences were suggested by the circumstances in which they appeared as attributes in older works of art: spheres were carried by saints and polyhedrons by geometricians.

Karel Srp, City Gallery Prague, December 2007


Jeffrey Kipnis speaks with Federico Díaz
IP phone Call

Jeffrey Kipnis

JK… But let’s go back to this question of the Resonance sculptures.(→p.36+133) If you think of them as simulations, then the effect is to be fascinated by how close they imitate something else. I have a different concept that I use, but I am not trying to impose it on this work. I want to suggest the concept of Federico that helps me understand his work; it’s basically called “re-origination.” The idea is something like this: Let’s say you read a book, and you make a movie of it. Then I’m interested; first of all, in the power of one medium to represent another medium is a really fantastic thing, and we should respect that and not be afraid of it. So, the power of representation is really good, is important. On the other hand, what’s really interesting to me is when the movie can do something that the book couldn’t do. So, the book gets inside the movie and then becomes a new original condition. When I look at the Resonance sculptures, it’s really fascinating to me, not because they look like water, not because I don’t recognize the representation, but because they do something completely different; mostly because they are still, not because they are moving. And so, it feels like, not that it’s stopped, not that it is a picture of something that’s been stopped, but that it actually stops all the time around it, like in the Matrix.

And what I think is interesting to me is that I don’t think that [this could be created by] any other technique or technology, but this is only something that could be done in rapid prototyping, not because of the ability to represent so well, but the material itself, and the way it’s made, has this uncanny ability to produce this effect that nothing else can produce.

What you do seems different for me, there is a way that your project takes on a kind of original art condition. Basically, I don’t believe in such a thing as an idea. I believe that ideas are diagrams that change matter. … That’s why I think the work is so interesting.

I’m going to make it very simple. Caravaggio was a great painter, and most of his great work began with religion. Not all of it, but most of it. He would paint, for example, John the Baptist. But he would remove all of the evidence, the traditional symbols of religion. The art would make us confront the living reality of miraculous moments. I think that today science is like religion. In a certain way, that’s interesting to me; Federico is like Caravaggio in that he starts with science and then removes everything that is scientific from it, leaving the part that’s about life. My theory is, from the moment he thought he couldn’t do what Caravaggio did, that’s all he’s been doing. The trick is to understand the relationship between science today and religion in the 16th century.

Basically, there is something, and I don’t know what to say about this, there is some reason that digital methods can do it and paint can’t. Nietzsche was the first philosopher to ever use a typewriter. And his first publisher refused to publish anything because he didn’t think you could write philosophy on a machine. There was a belief that there had to be a kind of intimate connection between the soul and the medium of expression.

Jeffrey Kipnis : architectural critic, theorist, curator, educator

For more than two decades Jeffrey Kipnis work has shaped the thinking, imagination and creative work of architects and critics. From seminal studies of the work of such key practitioners as Philip Johnson, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind,

to theoretical reflections on the intellectual, cultural and political role of contemporary architecture in such essays as Toward a New Architecture, Twisting the Separatrix and Political Space I, to his award-winning film on the work of Frank Gehry, to exhibitions on architectural drawing and design, Kipnis has brought a restless, generous and provocative originality to bear on the issues that have defined contemporary architecture.

Professorship: Knowlton School of Architecture (OSU), Harvard (GSD), Columbia (GSAPP), Angewandte Kunst, Vienna


algorithmic revolution
Osamu Okamura speaks with fdrcdz

Federico, you have just returned from the opening of the new exhibition ‘Die Algorithmische Revolution’ in the world digital technologies centre Zkm in karlsruhe, Germany. Perhaps i am a little skeptical towards revolutions, but does this mean that we have another revolution before us? Peter Weibel, the principal curator of the exhibition, tried to chart the development of revolutionary methods in the visual arts, kinetic art, photo‐kinetic art, and interactive art, architecture and music. The entire development since 1929. From the photokinetism of our Zdeněk Pešánek


and Moholy Nagy in Hungary, through Kiesler in architecture, the contemporary Greg Lynn and Asymptote, to the youngest generation represented by studio Smart or our E AREA team. The aim was not just to show the current revolution, but the whole cross‐section, including the historical foundations. Famous revolutions of the past were visible and had a clear leader. Today’s revolution is net‐based and fluid. We can visualize it as a multi‐dimensional membrane vibrating between people. With the aid of this, one works with thoughts as a material that generates space. A kind of thought sculpture.

The world of digital technologies is closely connected to the development of computers. What influence does the rapid increase in computer performance have? Sometimes I wonder whether digitalization isn’t the self‐regulating process of our planet as a system, which has its ‘space’ limitations. Digitalization enables a greater concentration and reduction; this is its great advantage. Any living, physical system requires space.
Sembion What does Sembion represent? What is this project about? The combination of semantics and bionics. Hence Sembion. Can the system recognize the meaning of individual words and sentences?
The version which is being exhibited in Karlsruhe does not work with content yet. It is based on a morpho‐ ‐syntactical analysis of text. It enables the visualization of the inner logical structure of a given text with the help of the SLS method, which is a member of the rapid prototyping family of technologies. Physical matter represents the intangible sensation of a text. This approach is different to simple 3D modeling which is analogous to our physical environment. It comes close to materialization purely with the hel of thoughts. We have also created a materialized version of Sembion with the aid of the SLS method, which is a laser technology of the rapid prototyping family of technologies. Physical matter represents the intangible sensation of a text. It is possible to touch software and this is very interesting.
           BLOB ARCHiTeCTURe Does blob structure and logic have the potential to be used in the creation of real dwelling places? How might architecture and construction of the future look? in what way is blob architecture unique? Do interaction and dynamic change of systems have any advantages? The basis of space and the functioning of living structures is movement. Movement of blood in arteries and veins is blob‐like. It is chaotic, yet it follows a route which has a certain logic. That which does not have energy, some kind of frequency, is dead or inanimate. Humans search for some order within this chaos. When we return home or return to our family, we seek stability. But people also need that chaos, so they go out or to nature again. It can be the movement of clouds or changes in light intensity. People need change in light levels; when people are exposed to stable light for a longer period of time, they become ill. It is important to find a balance between stability and calm. So the advantage of blob architecture is that it is interactive, that it is fluid, that it responds directly to one’s feelings. It responds to the need to find harmony between animate and inanimate structures.
Blob architecture absorbs characteristics of living matter. Should not such materials rather be of a biological nature? Yes, they should be intelligent. They should adapt to something or on the contrary initiate something. They should be ecological and be closely connected to nature. People outside cities in effect live in a beast, be it under trees or in an igloo, everything is in a way living matter. And there is not such a great difference between a tree and an animal. However, biotechnologies are somewhat different to digital technologies… Biotechnologies are closer to analogue technologies than to digital technologies. They are living, continuous structures.
And are not biotechnologies closer to human beings?
That is why they are being developed. I would say that they are also closer in essence, in terms of humans. The body will become hybrid, it will change. The hierarchy of society will also change

In what way do current visions differ from the Utopian projects of the 1960s, from the time before the great oil crisis? The end of fossil oil technologies is approaching. Within the next 30 years, at most, the nature of the aeronautical industry, cars, medicine, protection of the body, everything which is connected with oil, will undergo a fundamental change. This concerns up to 90 % of the technological foundations of society. Previously, these were astonishing visions, marching cities. Today’s visions must be much more realistic, and this will not please investors who are expecting to make a profit. The current vision must take
into account risk capital, which will be invested into completely new technologies, which will be able to support the whole social mechanism of inhabitants dependent on electricity and the urban system. Natural peoples will be surprised by an invasion of people from cities at the time of the greatest crisis. These aren’t catastrophic visions, but absolute reality, which all of us must respond to. In our way of life and in our values. This is also a priority in art.
ABOUT BeAUTy What about traditional cultural values such as the need to settle, stability, and the home? Do you think that digital technologies can replace this, or on the contrary have such values lost their significance, or has their significance changed? Their significance has changed a lot. Digital technologies are changing the structure of the family, just as radiators changed the structure of the family. Instead of a joint fireplace we have heat delivered to individual rooms. Water pipes also changed the structure of the family. Imagine that you have one hundred thousand people in a stadium and you need to speak to someone. The Internet is also a stadium for one hundred thousand people, and yet you still have the privacy to talk to anyone without interruption. This completely changes the structure of communication. But there is still room for improvement, for example, sitting at a keyboard. Keyboards and monitors will disappear within the next 10 years, that is for certain. It would be comical to say something like this to the people of Papua‐ ‐New Guinea or Brazil because they live in true union with nature. As soon as you begin thinking about it, you cease to live like this. If you live like this, you don’t think about it. I have observed this on myself. All visualization technologies only create illusions. Soon the line between artificial and natural will disappear. This is the subject of my latest project Sakura, which we presented in the summer at the Kampa Museum in Sova’s Mills at the Com Bi Nacion exhibition. There a completely new direction is emerging and I begin to be very technocritical. A fixation with things and a confused mind are the breeding ground of social engineers, advertising agencies and sects. Through propaganda they manipulate and create scenarios of a ‘happy life’ based on illusion and deceit. That is what I am thinking about.
For what reason?
The more I learn, the more I penetrate the structure of artificial reality and illusion, I do not find beauty there. By this I mean the beauty of life. Part of the current social revolution involves modifying the body into hybrid systems. Various artificial systems will enter into living systems. And all of this stems from a fear of loss, a fear of nature, just as city ramparts were built. A fear for the human body. That is why genetic modification is taking place. The Sakura project contains the thoughts of the Samurai, who suppress this fear and even
in extreme situations are able to continue being humans and live life to the full.

Prague, first published in Era 21, April 2005


Joseph Thompson speaks with Federico Díaz (conference call)

JT          Federico, I think it might be interesting for museum visitors to know that this black wave – Geometric Death Frequency – 141 (GDF141) – is the second iteration of the work. The original idea(→p.36) was a free-form wave rendered in aluminum plates: bright shiny aluminum plates stacked up, the wave crashing up into and through the building. GDF141 is a contained wave, more dense, somehow crystalline. Instead of reflective of light, it’s consuming of light, made of black spheres instead of flat plates. There are many formal differences in the work, and I’d like you to tell me about them.

FD          At the beginning there was an abstract wave form, but over time I decided to deepen the idea so that the sculpture isn’t just a simulation of some random fluid movement or velocity, but also contains a sort of code. If you have a seed that is going to become a tree, you can’t see the tree in the seed, though it is there. You need to add energy to the seed, and let it grow. And when you see a person, the person is made of a genetic code, even though you can’t see the code itself. Soin the same way, I didn’t want this sculpture to be superficial in terms of aesthetic. I wanted a code to be imprinted deep within it.As for the surface, initially it was supposed to be smooth, but now we have black spheres because I wanted to make it more subtle, to make it look more like the movement of light. Light is something that enables us to see. Light is made of particles. In the sculpture, light particles were replaced by black spheres. So they represent the fluid movement of light, like a wave, as much as they represent the motion of fluids. There is a parallel between light and water; the turbulent movement of light is similar to the movement of the particles of water. They are basically molecules that move in the same way as light does. In this specific project, I wanted the sculpture to somehow grow or flow out of the space that it is located in because the space itself gives energy to the sculpture. That’s why we took photographs of MASS MoCA and analyzed them. The origin of this work is a photograph of the MASS MoCA entrance courtyard– the same place the sculpture now sits.Let me explain the photographs: as light hits the surface behind the lens in our eyes, an image is created of the world around us. A camera lens works in a similar way as our eyes, and a camera body like our brain. A photograph is a record of reflected light at a specific point in time. The photos of light energy hit the photosensitive plate of the camera, and are recorded as a “picture element” or pixel with each pixel containing data about the amount and quality of light particles that make up that small part of the image. A fixed recording of those light conditions on a photosensitive surface replaces the actual space. Time and light are stopped – if they can be stopped at all. This stopping of time represents death. If we look at a photograph, parts of the image, or pixels, are lighter in shade, some are darker. With software, these flat pixels can be converted into three-dimensional spheres. Using this software, I created a code that converted pixels, which describe the lighter parts of the photographs, into “fast” spheres; they bounce higher and move faster when stimulated by energy. The darker elements of the photograph are slower, less reactive, and therefore remain lower in the sculpture. Through another computer simulation, these pixels-turned-3D spheres (which are called “voxels,” by the way, or “volumetric picture elements”) can be energized like a wave. The entire simulation is driven by a code. It is actually the code that makes it possible for a living form to be born again from something that was dead.

I wanted to say one more thing concerning the black color that we chose. I’ve always thought a lot about how to compare or attribute a color to velocity, to something that is not visible because the faster something goes, the less you see it. Velocity drains color. I found out that the early 20th-century Suprematists also used black and white to represent speed – they reached the same result independently. If light had only one single color, there would be no matter, and therefore we wouldn’t be able to touch it.


You equated the lens of a camera to an eye and, in some ways, the camera body itself to a brain. You noted that the moment a photo is taken, that moment of stoppage is a kind of death. I once read that ten times as many neuron connections run from the brain to the eye as run from the eye to the brain. In other words, what we see is driven more by what we know, and what our brain allows us and guides us to see, than by any purely optical phenomenon, which is why, for example, they believe that children see very few things at birth. A baby’s eyes and optical nerves are developed, but their brains are not, and therefore they do not yet see. You have to learn how to see. How does the interconnection of seeing “what the mind already knows,” to paraphrase Jasper Johns – how does that thought enter into your work?


As a society, we tend to create recordings because we are afraid of death. We create a parallel brain in the form of image repositories; thanks to this, we can move forward. Our bodies are not immortal. I’m drawing a parallel between photography and our brains because when we see something new we must compare it to known structures, to shapes that we can relate to. This actually makes it possible for us to understand, to live. Without a reservoir of information that we have in our minds – with photographs, books, and films – without this transfer of information we wouldn’t exist. Information fields also create matter. Even our interview now is creating a web of energy, creating new information and images, and these connections create one big information field. I would like to share my theory, which makes me happy in my own life, with you: The future creates the present, and the way you live when you’re 80 influences your first year of life, which leads toward the positive approach of assuming responsibility over your life.


So we create the past, just as we create the future! I’d like to ask more about this “code.” You mentioned in your first answer that parts of
the encoding of this sculpture allow lighter color pixels to rise higher in the wave, since they move faster, and the darker pixels remain lower. I’m sure that even more complicated coding rules come in to play. Are all the coding rules based on actual physical properties, or do you apply whimsy? I’m wondering, as you transform this flat photograph of the museum’s front courtyard into a 3-dimensional sculpture, and as you’re manipulating the data tables to generate the location of these “3D pixels” – at what time does the image fall apart? At what moment in your manipulation did the original courtyard picture become illegible? Was there that moment, or did you immediately apply a whole set of algorithms and rules that erupted immediately into this wave?


When you look at a photograph, it is flat. In the same way, when you start off with a sculpture, it is flat. Here we are reconstituting a 3D space from a 2D surface according to an algorithm: the intensity of light of a pixel defines the position and velocity of a point, a “voxel,” which is then represented by a small black sphere in the sculpture. The assembled spheres create a wave. At least that was the first idea, but I thought that was too simple, that there would be too much of the photograph still visible in it; so I decided to add in more turbulence, more fluid movement: our world is created from turbulence and is full of fluid movement. To do that, I applied to the photographic data a simulated model of fluid motion. Each light particle, as represented by sphere, was treated as if it were a water molecule, and then “shaken.” I added this fluid dynamic action one bit at a time, interpolated, frame by frame, second by second. It was in frame 141 of the simulation that the photograph disappeared in the wave, and that’s the moment I froze it.

JT Tell me – you “stopped it at frame 141.” What does that mean?

FD The simulation starts from zero and could go on in perpetuity according to the algorithm – if the computer had unlimited operating memory. When I was observing the results of the simulated fluid dynamic, I chose to freeze it at frame number 141. I decided that from an aesthetic point of view, that was the instant the original image was totally subsumed by wave action. This may contribute to the debate over whether an object created without any human touch can still be called a work of art: it was namely the selection of the particular frame that constituted the (only) direct human input into the piece, the artist’s choice.

JT You’ve combined a Duchampian stoppage with a LeWittian instruction. Federico, this piece, your whole body of work, it’s almost always about transformation, transformation of color into light or light into motion, cellular growth, and transformation between speeds as measured in velocity. In your work, matter is always becoming energy; energy is becoming matter. Your work lives in a state of constant transformation,to some extent. Yet, obviously, when visitors approach this work, they only see a static piece of sculpture. It sits there beautifully arrested in the courtyard of the museum. It does not move or change. So how important is it to you that the viewers, the people who will come to know this work, also come to know the back story, the story that began with a photograph of the very place on which it sits, the story about the way you created these algorithms and applied 3D computer simulations to a photograph to alter it, the story of you stopping at frame number 141 because it looked right to you? How important is it to you that the visitor comes to know all that? I’m interested both from a philosophical point of view but also just museologically, in terms of when and how much of this back story is communicated to our patrons.

FD I don’t want to burden visitors with some complex process. This is something they can read in the leaflet or the book. What is essential is the aesthetic perception of the sculpture. We ourselves should be satisfied intellectually and philosophically over how
it was created. It is not just some geometric game created by a computer, because you have a lot of art generated in this way. Rather it is a site-specific sculpture. The place itself creates the sculpture in a way, but it is certainly not important for the visitor to know that in advance. The viewer does not need to know about the technology of creation; it is the aesthetic aspect that matters. That leads me into
one of your other questions. It is actually important that this work is based on an algorithm, and it is not something that could have been handmade. One reason is time because it would take maybe 10 or 20 years to make it by hand. There were almost half a million spheres to assemble precisely. And besides, it wouldn’t be as exact if made by hand. And that’s also a reason I chose a robot to make it, because robots can best understand pure data. This is a data sculpture, after all.

JT That’s interesting about the lack of human touch. You said once, if I may quote you, “At the age of 15 I painted the entombment of Christ based on Caravaggio’s original. I realized I could not rival the great Masters using traditional techniques. I could never surpass them as far as transferring the real world to the surface of the painting. When I later splashed canvas with paint as Pollock did, I saw no direction there either. What I wanted was to picture the visible within the invisible, the audible within the inaudible. This abstract technique, as I fathomed it that very moment, shall accompany me the rest of my life. And at that particular moment I decided to sink into the depth of the abstract worlds of energy, form, sound, and thought.” This piece seems consistent with that line of thinking, and it has to do with substituting alternate means of production to represent deep, complex realities. I’m still wondering, though, Federico, as you’re working on these works and thinking about them, are you still sketching? Do you draw?

FD I don’t want to boast, but I have always wanted to achieve something as good as, or better than, the Masters, in terms of capturing deep realities. Caravaggio was creating something that was unacceptable at the time, according to society and the Church. His imagery went against the dogma of the time. He wanted to picture something that was true and real; that’s what connects me to him. What also connects me to him is the work with light, the effort to picture what cannot be seen. And yes, I still do sketches. It is important to me. It is the beginning of every project – I make sketches at different phases. In the same way that I don’t want to burden the visitors with technology, I like to use my hands in the initial phase of a project when thinking about the first ideas, because this is the most direct way to capture those first flows of energy. That is also why I use ink painting in my sketches.

JT MASS MoCA is the home of a body of work by another artist, Sol LeWitt, who also did not personally touch many of his final works of art. He would create a set of algorithms and instructions and have them executed by others, sometimes very skilled assistants, sometimes by interested amateurs. But Sol also was interested in the mark of the hand, as well. He would sometimes have walls prepped and sanded by hand rather than by machine so that you could feel the surface of the irregular plaster. Obviously his work with graphite and color pencils carries the marks of a human being.In some ways your work has a similar structure. You give rise to an idea, you create an algorithm, you then code it and project it into a data stream. You meticulously remove the sense of human touch. In fact, one time you wrote something that said, “Art is created without contact to a human hand. Humankind has touched the actual visual boundary and limits of the human body.” And you equated this process of a ‘touch-less’ art with, for example, the way a crowd stays in contact during a techno-dance, following the vibe of the music and the movement of their bodies, but never touching. Touch-less dance. Touch-less art. Talk a little bit about that, Federico.

FD What really connects me to Sol LeWitt is the architecture and energy of the space. Every space sends out some geometric parameters; for example, the lines that were created in response to the space – to the doors, to the floor, to the windows of the space. This is an art and architecture of space and energy. We share that interest. In the Middle Ages, windows were used to let the light in, and nobody thought of looking out at the world through them, as we do nowadays.
Now about the transfer of information and touch- less art, touch-less dance. I came to this idea when I was thinking about how society has come to rely on the transfer of information. Before having technology for recording, we used to transfer information through voice, touch, or dance. There are still some tribes in the world (in Brazil or Papua New Guinea, for example) that use these ways of transferring information –
dance or speech – because they do not record in writing. These people are somehow communicating through the ritual of dance. We have our own rituals: physics, mathematics, science. These are some of the new languages that we have today. But what we have been doing for millions of years is still part of us; for example, in the form of dance. Earlier, touch was used to express or transfer emotional information. Now these modes of communication are moving elsewhere; for example, the internet. It is perhaps no longer necessary to touch while dancing. To pick up on what I said about rituals, one big ritual of today’s world is sports. For example, when you have a soccer championship or some Formula One races, you have one billion people who are suddenly joined together in a particular moment, thanks to technology. Thanks to television, they are watching the same match, and when a goal is scored, one billion people live through the same emotional outburst simultaneously. So this is a new phenomenon that used to be only local. We are now connected in this global ritual, thanks to this touch-less optical highway.

JT For the last question, I want to get back to GDF141. Why did you decide to contain the wave? Again, in your earlier thinking, the wave was free- form. In this final manifestation, the wave is boxed in a seemingly invisible container. Why?

FD The answer is simple. The wave could, in theory, fill the whole courtyard. It could wash over the whole museum (maybe we should do that sometime!). Here we select only parts of the reality. This is simply part of the simulation, a sample. In reality this wave actually takes place all around. We all create our own cuts from the larger reality, which makes it possible for us to survive because if we were feeling everything, seeing everything, we would just go crazy. But, of course, within 10, 20, or 30 years, we could fill up the whole museum. I’m certainly not against this idea.(laughter)
If you look at the computer model, that will show a greater part of the simulation. Sometime I would like to show a simulation of the entire event.

JT I look forward to seeing it, Federico. Thank you.

Alanna Heiss Tune into Ultra

When I first saw Federico Díaz’s biomorphic sculptures and architectural projects, I invited him to design a pavilion for P.S.1’s annual radio broadcast from Art Basel Miami Beach. During one week in December, we create a temporary broadcast station in a public plaza by the boardwalk. Thousands and thousands of people who gather in Miami come to this plaza to relax, listen to interviews, and watch performances broadcasted from this location. Díaz proposed to create a radio space station to house our Internet radio laboratory, “Art Radio International,” and attract a large and enthusiastic public to this lunar lounge.


My understanding of Díaz’s futuristic project was informed by my visits to a number of architectural and sculptural works primarily constructed in the 1960s. The projects from this period crossed a wide variety of categories and conditions, from indoor to outdoor, habitable to uninhabitable. Some structures came out of performance‐based concerts, while others, like Drop City in Colorado, were inspired by the vision of Buckminster Fuller. Still other designs culminated in inflatable tents. Another important reference was the work of USCO, founded by Michael Callahan and Gerd Stern. Both a collaborated group and commune, they created immersive, multimedia performances and environments that produced a sensory overload of sights and sounds. In a more meditative manner, Alexandra Kasuba filled a New York brownstone with cocoon‐like constructs. Calling them Space Shelters, Kasuba explained, “The intent was to abolish the 90‐degree angle.”In some of the interior designs of New York nightclubs, artists developed a series of light shows that attempted to duplicate or amplify the visual experience of the drug culture of the time. The short‐lived Cerebrum club and the more renowned Fillmore East were just two emblematic venues. Describing Cerebrum, critic and curator Alastair Gordon writes, “Was it a participatory nightclub? A pleasure dome? A sensory‐stimulation laboratory? It certainly wasn’t a nightclub in the normal sense. There was no dance floor, no live music, no alcohol. Upon entering an unmarked storefront at 429 Broome Street, patrons encountered a small black room in which a disembodied voice invited them to remove their clothes and don translucent togas. They then proceeded down a ramp into a cavernous space with imagery streaking across the walls. The main space was designed to disorient the spectator, obliterate the normal body‐to‐ground relationship, and open a door to new sensations.”


Díaz’s installation, ULTRA, is in many ways a visualization of a metaphysical space. With roots in Eastern Europe and South America, Díaz’s interest in futurism and modernism stems from two continents. His practice encompasses the utopian attitudes of the 1960s as well as the advanced materials of this century. He is truly an artist more than an architect and his work is closer to landscape and earth art than it is to installation.

Alanna Heiss, Founder, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. In my references to 1960s counterculture I am indebted to Alastair Gordon and in particular to his book Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties.[/odsazeni]

Joseph Thompson Geometric death Frequency 141

From a distance, the dark shape at MASS MoCA’s front door looks like a large aquarium, awash with turbulent, oil-black waves. But as we approach the sculpture, the splashing free- form liquid snaps into a tightly structured, almost crystallized accumulation of hundreds of thousands of small black spheres, meticulously stacked and interlocking as if according to some hidden geometric code. The action is suspended freeze frame, and we soon see there is no glass container.

Across his practice, which is equal parts architectural design, visual research and philosophy, Federico Díaz often examines incongruous moments of change in time, motion, and velocity. His tools vary, but include sophisticated software for modeling particle physics, 3D stereographic polymerization lithography (which enables the “printing” of 3D objects, directly from streams of data), and state-of-the-art computer-controlled manufacturing equipment (but also, and tellingly, brush and
ink, the tradition of which he studies seriously). Díaz does not work alone. While many artists rely on experts to help fabricate complicated work, Díaz sees himself as part of a research collaborative that includes engineers, computer programmers, genetic researchers, multimedia graphic artists, and others who visualize problems and projects posed by the artist. For example, one such challenge posed by Díaz in the early 1990s was “to create a synthetic organic shape, which at first sight resembles a living organism, but which is in fact created on the basis of an algorithm. My aim was to create an object that emerges directly from thought and feeling (and that) represents the merging of molecules but without the touch of any human hand.”
Creating new forms that arise directly from thought itself – in essence, short-circuiting the representational techniques (and constraints) inherent in painting – has been a central interest to Díaz since his youth.
For Díaz, the need to create an immediate connection between a form’s conception and its realization is driven in part by a utopian desire to collapse time itself, to eliminate any gap between the formation of an image in the brain and its representation. “A command is given via an electrochemical
reaction that governs the movement of the hand,” he once commented. “However, the movement is belated, far behind the idea received by the brain. The time segment, which the neuron must pass through in order to encompass the still unclassified information, moves within me from a point in the present (hand) into the past (brain).”
In this and other formulations, Díaz expresses an idea that art realized by handcraft (for example, oil paint on canvas, via brushwork) is doomed to be out of sync, and that to make an artwork that is connected with its moment of conception, the entire neuro-physical interaction between brain and hand must be dramatically foreshortened. The radicality of this notion is at times mystical, almost Zen-like – “I am interested in dematerialization leading to extinction, the art of becoming nothing at the point of the present” – and so it is not surprising that when Díaz sketches(→p.22–23), he uses brush and ink techniques associated with East Asia. To some extent, the quality of ink drawings are judged by the extent to which there appears to be no lag between conception and realization; the instantaneous fluid mark of the brush on paper carries within it the total collapse of thought, image, and memory into muscle, hand, and flowing ink.(→p.35) In the case of Geometric Death Frequency – 141, the artist began his process of collapsing time and space with a simple digital photograph of the museum’s entry courtyard, the exact location now occupied by the sculpture. But then he subjected the digital files that comprised the photograph to data analysis, encoding the data with a series of formulas that, once rendered in 3D by state-of-the-art computer-controlled manufacturing techniques, would finally become the sculptural form we see … but with no human touch involved, the translation from original image to final form taking place literally at the speed that electrons move through digital circuitry. Digital cameras focus light energy onto a photosensitive plate, which measures the intensity and wavelength properties of the individual light photons striking it, recording those readings into data files. Each discrete picture element, or “pixel,” is described by a distinct packet of digital data. When making a conventional 2D photograph, each of these packets of data determines the exact location, layer, and tone of a dot of ink on the page: thus an image moves through the channels of digital photography from photons of reflected light passing through the camera body, to information-rich pixels written to digital files, to dots of color precisely printed on a page.
Díaz draws an analogue between this process of transcribing photographic data and human perception, and indeed, between life and death itself. “As light hits the lens in our eyes, a picture is created of our 3-dimensional world,” he said in an interview.He continued, “A camera lens works much like the lens of our eyes. Passing through the lens, light then hits the curved surface of the eye behind the lens. The camera body works in a similar way as our brain. Those impulses of energy excite neuro-optic nerves that are part of our brain. When you look at a photograph, you are seeing information – light – as it flowed at a specific state and time. A fixed recording of light photons at a fixed point in time thus replaces the actual space in front of the lens. In this way time and light are stopped. This stoppage represents a kind of death.”(→p.12)
But in Geometric Death Frequency – 141, Díaz intervenes in this chain of connections that creates, stores, and recycles images. For this work, he treats each photographic pixel as if it were an actual physical object in space, granting the photograph a 3D, topographic presence. Then he asks, what if these pixels- turned-spheres, whose points of origin were light photons, were treated as if they were molecules of a liquid?
“Re-originating” the light-based pixels as individual molecules of viscous liquid, Díaz proceeds to rearticulate them, literally shaking them up.(→p.131) He does so in a particular way, generating his shaking force by means of a sophisticated computer modeling program that simulates the complex physical action of fluids
in motion. To that simulation model Díaz adds other rules of behavior for the individual pixels-turned-molecular spheres: for example, pixel-spheres which represent lighter color wavelengths within the original photographic image were coded to rise higher when subjected to simulated energy, while darker colors were encoded to remain lower. Having encoded his algorithm (which included the definition of the confining virtual glass wall of the aquarium box) into the simulation model, Díaz then ran the computer simulation, frame by frame. Each frame is the next instant of time, the individual pixel-spheres reacting to the simulated shaking forces placed upon them by the fluid dynamics model, and all subject to the rules and constraints of the artist’s code. Pixels-turned-spheres collide, carom, coalesce, form droplets, well up against the virtual walls, and crash, frame by frame. Díaz observes the virtual waveform animation unfold on his computer monitor, millisecond by millisecond, frame by frame. The original photograph is suddenly three-dimensional, and almost immediately illegible. In this case, Díaz stopped the animation at frame 141, selecting the moment that the image stops, or “dies.” Frame 141 is then constructed by a computer- controlled robot which, sphere by sphere, reconstructs the results of Díaz’s simulation. Four hundred and twenty thousand black spheres of ABS plastic later, each glued one to the next, the sculpture is complete.
If the stoppage of time is, in Díaz’s formulation (and in the naming of this work), a kind of death signal, Díaz also seems to suggest that the instantaneous information flow which propels the sculpture forward, and which links it back to its source – the sharing of time-liberated data in all its totality – is something like the essence of art itself.
As an artist, Díaz is a shape-shifter, though his works are always deeply rooted in physical reality. There is something alchemical or magical about the series of transformations that gave rise to GDF141: the bricks, the clocktower, the window mullions, the glare of windowpanes that, taken together, form our entrance courtyard are reduced to streams of digital data, the photons of reflected light becoming small black spheres meticulously cut, stacked, and glued; the courtyard becomes sculpture but also still contains it … and all the while Federico remains behind the curtain. If data manipulation sounds dry, this work shows that data too can have metaphoric sweep, fluctuating between stasis and movement, permanence and change, fullness and emptiness.