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In three voices: Laura Marks | Finn Brunton | Artist's text

In 2007, I met Laura Marks at a conference in Aberdeen, Scotland. We walked on the long greens of a golf course and talked about her project: a bridge between the mathematical, mystical and artistic world of the great Islamic renaissance and that of our contemporary moment of coming to terms with new tools and the civilization and culture they enable. Walter Benjamin spoke of the Tigersprung in certain forms of historical thought, the wild leap “in the open air of history” by which Robespierre folds the intervening centuries to make ancient Rome and revolutionary Paris simultaneous; this motion, which crosses centuries in a single stride as it passes between coincident thoughts and conversations carried on at once between different continents and eras, is how Marks slips from an apogee of philosophy, architecture, textiles, and calligraphy to programming, aesthetics and design in a moment of many new forms of technological expression and visioning.

This site provides a few works from the far side of the tiger’s leap, pieces of algorithmic art and theory that speak to her ideas — all the more so for having been gathered and curated, lightly customized readymades from the present moment, with their own agendas, intentions and conceptual lineages. All of them were written in Processing, a programming language developed specifically for artistic expression. They were selected to counterpoint the nine main forms of unfolding that Marks describes in her book. What is this unfolding?

Laura writes: Enfolding-unfolding aesthetics explains how images reach us by unfolding from the infinite, or what Bergson called the universe of all images, which I call the infinite. We cannot perceive the infinite as such. It is a vast field of virtuality, what Deleuze and Guattari called the plane of immanence. But now and then, certain aspects of the infinite unfold and become actual as images.
    I suggest that between the infinite and information exists is another plane, namely information, which sometimes codifies the infinite before an image arises from it. On the three-ply model I propose, information unfolds from the infinite, and image unfolds from information. In the relationship I propose, image is an interface to information, and information is an interface to the infinite. The interface may make a user aware to some degree or other of the relationship between the code and the world, or it may completely obscure it.
    Finally, image and information come into the world and roll back into the infinite in a ceaseless flow of unfolding and enfolding.
    On paper the relationships between infinite, information, and image look like this:

large version

This exploration of the different relationships between the infinite, the probability space that describes the whole of the perceptual, and the informational and finally the image, their different manners of unfolding and enfolding, feeding forward and back, governs the arrangement of the Processing studies gathered here: explication and implication, a loop of ideas that runs from ninth-century Baghdad to refinements of Conway’s Game of Life made the week before this was written, encompassing a tiger’s leap.

Brooklyn, Summer 2010

Contact Laura Marks / Contact Finn Brunton

Bios: Laura U. Marks is the Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, and the author of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, as well as The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses and Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media. She has curated film, video, and new media for venues around the world. / Finn Brunton is a writer and postdoctoral researcher at NYU-Steinhardt in Media, Culture and Communication. He holds a PhD from the Centre for Modern Thought at the University of Aberdeen, and an MA from the European Graduate School. He works on digital media (history, privacy, modification and misuse), dead media, and industrial design. He is writing a book on the history of spam for Duke University Press.