she sees read

while my laptop was hanging out with virgil in purgatory, i managed to chew through a few books, unsurprisingly. [i also managed to make my own christmas cards, wrapping paper and cookies. but that’s not what i’m going to post about, obviously.]

and i just thought i’d share about these books a bit, because, as it turns out, they’re all linked in some way and all three have effected me in a profound way – existentially. the nice thing is that two of them were gifts too, which means i now have awesome mind-reading friends who know exactly what kind of garbage to put in my brain.

the trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture  lewis hyde.



apparently there’s quite a famous book by lewis hyde called the gift. i’d not heard of it, so this author and his second big title was all new to me. i was a little dubious about that subtitle, but i peeked at the first page and was hooked from the get-go. in fact, i cheated on the book i was reading at the time – ditched it in favour of the first chapter under the covers. ooh er..

basically, hyde uses stories in mythology about various trickster characters, to show that the wiley, crafty and chaotic traits of the trickster are a vital part of society. He then matched those traits in stories/principles with the traits of the artist in modern society, as a vital trickster character that keeps everyone on their toes.

some of the other areas that i found fascinating included place of chaos/dirt/upheaval (or images thereof) in orderly society; the need for shame/shamelessness in social cohesion; and the skill of a trickster to play with perception, whilst holding the order of perception dear.

Hermes, Coyote, Monkey (and tripitaka), Ifa/EshuPicassoDuchamp and Cage (are all referenced as figures that simultaneous understand the lay of the status quo, respect it and yet seek to subvert or circumvent it, whilst offering it back to the quo on a gold platter, having completely reinventing the status. [And maybe because I was listening to the new Kanye album non-stop during this time, I kept imagining that Kanye West would end up in there in the future sometime.]

the actual writing flow of the book was slightly problematic, but the way he teased out his examples, and the kind of stories he chose as illustration was so good, that i could forgive the lapses in writing craft (just like you’re doing now).

there is an admirable element of playfulness about the trickster which hyde kept reiterating (and about which i have a creeping doubt that i have lost recently). it was inspiring to get a bit cheeky, a bit naughty and throw caution to the wind a little. nothing reflects a security in the order of ‘things’ than acting as though they’re not important.

the book was an excellent reminder about the role  of chaos, entropy, mishap, coincidence, serendipity and mistake in evolution, change, growth and innovation. trickster also served as an illustration of the position stories, myth, artifice, imagination and fiction have in society as a way to abide by principle and establish a code of conduct.

ISBN-13: 978-1847672254

the canon: the beautiful basics of science. natalie angier

whilst i was reading the trickster, i had an invigorating discussion about science and religion with a friend who had just finished the canon. we were the only ones in a club in stockholm, laying on a mattress and shouting over 105 rpm techno at 95dbs, debating the importance of scientific thinking and spirituality and everything in between. it was a brilliant moment in our friendship, and the momentum to read this fantastic book.

its premise is to concisely and adroitly recap the main tenets of science and scientific research, to upskill adults in the basics. especially after they have convinced themselves that they know nothing about science.

as a science writer, angier surveyed a stack of scientists and academics for their ‘top 5 things to know about your field’ type information. each chapter covers the principles of each ‘flavour’ of science, distilling the history of its knowledge and how it relates to life, the universe and everything.

scientific thinking, probabilites (maths), calibration (maths), physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, geology and astronomy are all covered – from their history to current thinking. and of course, she covers where religion and astrology clash too. in fact, sometimes her subjectivity around the subjects of religion and even intelligent design, and her outright derision at astrology show her cards a little.

in the last two years of high school, despite being a A+ english student and studying 3 languages, i decided that i wanted to be an industrial chemist. so i moved to sydney and started a science degree. turns out it was much harder than i thought: i was convinced i was a failure (thinking that 72% on an assignment was akin to disaster) and the fact that my week would start at 8am  on a monday with a mathematics class on matrices in a stuffy room, was a recipe for flunk-out. i bid science a swift adios and turned to print and art instead.

i kept a secret crush on mathematics and chemistry through those years and so reading the canon was like falling in love again. all the old lessons came flooding back, with greater links to subsequent experience or knowledge. the picture of how much everything is related scientifically was quickly seen and i just churned through the book.

thanks to a catholic education, my knowledge of the details of evolution had been a bit loose, so this book was a mind-blowing and yet super easy-to-read lesson on how far we go back (like, to the beginning of cells) and same with the big bang theory. the idea that cells’ innate mission has always been to respire, replicate, excrete, communicate and coalesce is mind-boggling to me and is influencing my next read.

i feel like i know more about science now and that i can’t hide behind the ignorance of learning it in high school – it’s part of a general knowledge and understanding about life. in the same way that i feel it’s necessary to understand concepts in philosophy, economics, politics and art in order to be a well-rounded citizen (how neo-classical of me).

and i can see why my friend gave this book to me (and six of his other friends). i feel similarly – like everyone who has let their science knowledge lapse, should pick this up and feel like they know a little more again.

in fact, it was so profound that i ended up in a two-hour conversation with a paleonto-bio-mechanic about his PhD and i held my own! yay me!

ISBN-13: 978-0571239726

basic writings. martin heidegger

i stopped and started with this one. i got distracted by shiny pop non-fiction. but now that i’ve read both of the previous books, i feel like my take on heidegger is going to actually be better prepared. especially after reading about molecular biology and the big bang (which trace the history of the life, the universe and everything, back to the beginning – before there was even ‘let there be light’). After reading about these things, i keep asking myself ‘why did life begin? – what is the purpose of Being..

heidegger’s big area of questioning/interrogation/query (words which he unpacks as a sign of being) is about Being, with his famous work Being and Time (Zeit und Sein). It is the very capital-B being and different from existence and the nature of being. So far, he’s primarily interested in the meaning of Being, and not necessarily the purpose, or the drive behind it. But i’m only a little of the way through so far.

thanks to the simplicity of the english language, there are a lot of being/Being/beings in the text, which are translations from Dasein, Dass-Sein, Was-Sein and Da-Sein. All different relationships to Sein ( the action of being).

heidegger unpacks his questions in a very methodical way, and makes a lot of references to other sciences that tackle existential concepts (which is why i feel like reading The Canon has unexpectedly augmented my understanding of Being and Time). It has been quite interesting to see the history of his thinking around it and the critical ‘evolution’ of such ideas throughout philosophy and ontological research.

on a more egocentric level, are there levels or classifications or even species of Being? what does the Being of an artist translate to and is it fundamentally different to the Being an accountant? or does it follow biological framework – that the Being of a vertebrate is different to the Being of an invertebrate, but has mutual elements of Being, both being from the animal kingdom and eurakyrotic domain. Or is there just one type of Being?

ISBN-13: 978-0061627019

images: all images from amazon.co.uk

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

the future

a few weeks ago, i popped over to london to take care of a few things: there were a series of excellent exhibitions on that i didn’t want to miss (i’ll write about them later); there were some friends i needed to touch base with; and there was a little symposium about the future to attend.

thrilling wonder stories, part II was organised by geoff from bldgblog and liam from tomorrows thoughts today at the architecture association in london.* and featured a stack of writers, gamers, interactive designers, artists and researchers talking about a whole range of fiction-based ideas about the future and its possible construct.

check out the list of amazing people involved!

oh, and did i mention it was free? charlie and i were there at 10:30am, expecting a marauding mass of architects falling over themselves to be part of the discussion. turns out architects aren’t quite like that.

i don’t really consider myself much of a futurist – sometimes i’m disappointed when discover that i’m actually too romantic to readily cast aside old ways of behaving in favour of new innovations. but i’m  really attached to the idea of innovating and changing and mixing it all up so that we don’t get caught up in our stinking thinking.

and unlike my dear friend rob who thinks that kind of talk is bollocks, i do actually believe in the idea (one i think i’ve garnered from bldgblog or russell davies or some other awesome brain) that in aiming way forward to gain 10, with the inherent ‘backdraft’ of life, you can still actually gain 3.

science fiction (inc some of its design associates like buckminster fuller and pentagram), is an excellent tool for designing for the future in this way. if you get wacky and can really design for ‘a galaxy far, far away’ you might just unlock something that will be functional for a building that will be great for 10 years’ time.

or, free from the constraints of ‘must be viable’, you can end up with ‘could be possible’ and you start to solve problems that no one has bothered to think about yet, whilst still make them believable to an audience firmly sitting in the present day. language, imagination and concept rooted in fact. ftw.

so, the day was split into 5 sessions (perhaps a little OTT, by the end of it all), but each session started to unpick different aspects of designing for the future.

i didn’t really make very objective, journalist notes like rory did, so my report of the day is going to be quite subjective and perhaps influenced by where the ideas took me, rather than what was actually said.  (if that isn’t a caveat for sloppy reporting, misquoting and laziness, i don’t know what is!)

the ideas which floated my particular boat i’m calling designing for hiding, the smell of the moon, and using changed behaviour through gaming.

designing for hiding

geoff manaugh spoke about geologists dealing with nuclear waste having to come up with a protocol to signify to future generations: DO NOT OPEN THE CAN!!. basically, there’s a stack of toxic waste being drilled into the earth, which is all fine and dandy for us who can read a sign or two, or who have the means to be in communication with the culprits. but how do you build a vault to hide that garbage, with those 60,000 years in the future in mind. given that we’ve no concrete idea about what stonehenge, the pyramids or macchu pichu are trying to tell us – how can we expect the equivalent to understand what our ‘wrong way go back’ signs might mean.

not only did this particular feat of language and signification pique my interest, but the whole idea of designing for the hidden was exciting too.

everyone knows that if you want to hide something, put it in plain sight. the real outcome of a tunnel, maze or complex series of encryptions is not safekeeping, but a means of revelation, discovery and inquisition. the safe is the best kind of learning tool. it got me thinking of other ways to use this kind of design process. maybe the best way to teach young boys to read is to bury books in a well, or the hide ideas about sound behind a glass soundproof door.

the smell of the moon


now, when i told this story to my scientific photographer friend, of course i didn’t have all the facts and he picked holes in it straight away (spoil sport), but the idea and the possibility of what this means still totally floated my boat.

nicola twilley presented a story about perception from the moon – astronauts on one of the apollo missions recalled the particular smell of the moon – that it was something like gunpowder. they brought back a sealed sample of the moon dust and no aspect of its chemical added up to smell anything like gunpowder. which means that the way humans smell on the moon is different to the way we smell on earth.

which of course calls into question our whole perception of life itself, but also about the possibilities for the actual science of earth and/or the moon itself. if we perceive things differently away from earth, whose to say that things aren’t actually different here. and if the chemical properties are different away from the moon, whose to say that what we believe is on the moon is not completely different. like, what if we only see a desert of sand and dust and fuck-all, but

now all of this is fascinating from a philosophical point of view, but the reason i think this kind of ‘what if’ thinking is important is for other areas of existence. like the perception of power, or the perception of life itself (like the couldabeen arsenic-ingesting bacteria from last week).

which leads me onto…

changed behaviour through gaming



ed stern spoke about the splash damage game brink, which was an intense FPS multi-player, multi-level game with some amazing architectural and wayfinding structure inbuilt. he spoke about the need to really make things work – “a barrel needs to big enough to really hide behind and small enough to jump over”. each level had varying levels of decay – this being based in a future in which war is being waged. the imagery was brilliant and the architectural possibilities for archiving and spatial experience were super exciting.

when talking about designing the next version of the game, ed said that “it would have more women in it” –  highlighting the fact that v1.0 was all blokes**. which had me thinking about a game solely designed on feminist or gender equality principles – it could be a completely different world: social organisation could be different, motives and spatial organisation could be altered –  imagine what that could actually look like!

and what would the kids who played that game grow up to be like, if they had already experienced a world in which women and men really were treated equal? what if gaming is used to construct alternative social dynamics in which we experience an altered perception, reinforced by haptic and sensorial memory. i mean could we equalise men and women? could the israel/palestine conflict be solved through gaming?

epic win.

UPDATE: so it turns out jane mcgonigal has presented some similar ideas, and join the company and method are also doing work on the small ways in which you can use play/gaming for changing behaviour.

*here’s the chain of promotion: @roryhyde;@sheseesred;@CharlieGower + @johndodds (who watched it live on the interwebs). who sez we’re disconnected, yo.


** although the lead character, i noticed, was an afro-carribean man – something i haven’t really seen in macho gaming this far. not that i’m a gamer, per se – i have zero dexterity.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

sound in public: audiology australia conference

whoa! what a day!

audiology

Art and Audiology Poster

yesterday was the first day of the national audiology conference in sydney. i’ve been invited here as a participant of a project i’ve been working on with a small group of audiologist in a community health centre in broadmeadows. we’ve worked primarily with indigenous teenagers to teach them and engage in education about hearing.

you may or may not know that otitis media, a disease which attacks the outer ear affects about 85% of indigenous children in remote communities. their hearing is severely impaired, which then translates to difficulties with schooling, social development, language (which is where i come in) and spatial perception.

the figures are pretty scary and i learned the true nature of it yesterday in a round table discussion on indigenous hearing health.

the numbers are not so dire when it comes to urban aboriginal and torres strait islander children, but their general and hearing health is still far below colonial australians, so we’ve been working with them to develop ways in which that can improve.

the initial project we developed was a program that involved some interactive workshops, interactive/performance art and some publications. it was, for a pilot program, pretty successful and gave us the impetus to keep delivering.

we presented a (last minute) paper about the work and have a poster as part of the conference/research section – which i have souped up with an inbuilt podcast, of course. it’s all pretty exciting and new and a little bit daunting.

i learned so much here about how the medical/scientific world works, what are the real concerns for those working with hearing/listening/sound in the public health system, who are the key organisations interested in research and how does that all fit in with private practice and/or clinical diagnosis. my mind was being blown into a hundred different directions.

at each session, i took away something relating to my area of research – something that i can adapt to, or consider working with. i also realised that, even more than i originally thought, sound in the public space continues to get even more interesting for me and is revealing even more areas of opportunity. who would have thunk!

and although it might be a bit daggy in the art world, working with community/indigenous health like this is becoming increasingly important to me personally. i’m looking forward to designing some new artworks with/for them in future.

EDIT 1: this forum with artist lucas ihlein will be interesting to attend, in that light too.

EDIT 2: i’m hoping to find links to the papers from the interesting sessions and when i do, i’ll post it on my delicious feed.

sociology

SSR_ 33

so, as if that wasn’t inspirational enough, i finally met up with a fellow public/private sound/device researcher – michael walsh – who is submitting his PhD next month to Monash,and who has been researching the behaviour around sound in public, especially public transport and relevant to the use of PLDs (personal listening devices). i stumbled upon michael’s research whilst trying to recruit a fellow presenter for the architecture + philosophy lecture i’m giving at the end of the month. we have a mutual love (read: biography referrals) of dr michael bull and his essays on headphone/ipod use in public life.

we ended up trading opinions, findings and general information for an hour and a half, perched in the thoroughfare at a QVB cafe. it was so fantastic and although it would have been fantastic to compare notes whilst i was doing my masters, in a way i’m glad that i could share my information afterwards instead. i tell ya – meeting of the minds.

social audiology

after a well-deserved home-delivered pizza, the audiologists invited me to join them at a supplier party in the v-swanky ivy bar in george st. i almost lost my shit at the tracey emin neon work in the lower foyer ‘take me to heaven’ (not the image above, which was pinched from the guardian site, and the hip penthouse bar was a real treat: sunken round lounge, cast concrete planks for the curved walls, free cosmopolitans (and they made me up a shaken orange+cranberry mocktail) and super-cute cupcakes. these audiologists are a spunky bunch, i tell you!

needless to say, i was absolutely knackered by the end of it, but man i’m havin’ a great time. i’m so grateful to the crew from dianella hearing services for their courage to work with art as a means of communicating health issues and to continue a developing relationship with me as an artist.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

more juicy theory

in doing some reading for my cracking paint project, i’ve discovered the most exciting theory in my current codex of the moment: fontana’s dictionary of modern thought

entropy:
1
. In thermodynamics: a quantity forming part of the specification of the thermal state of a system. Entropy may be calculated from the heat which must be added to the system to bring it via intermediate states to the state being considered. It is found that the entropy of any closed system never decreases. This is one formulation of the second law of thermodynamics, which can be explained by statistical mechanics, where entropy is interpreted as a measure of the disorder among the atoms making up the system, since an initially ordered state is virtually certain to randomize as time proceeds.
2. in cybernetics: entropy is generalized to measure the tendency of any closed system to move from a les to a more probable state, using the same mathematical apparatus as in above. If, however, the system is open to information, then this tendency may be arrested. This is because, mathematically speaking, information can be defined precisely as negative entropy (negentropy)

non-equilibrium thermodynamics:
The thermodynamics of systems that are no at equilibrium. processes that are irreversible evolve towards an equilibrium state that has a greater entropy than the initial state; when equilibrium is reached, the rate of entropy production is zero. If a system is constantly supplied with matter or energy, it can be maintained in a non-equilibrium state in which entropy is continually generated. It was thought by the originators of thermodynamic theory that non-equilibrium states would be disorderly, but observations show that they can find highly ordered structures, such as the hexagonal pattern of convection cells first seen by Henri BĂ©nard in 1900. Other examples of ordered non-equilibrium states include the chemical patterns predicted by Alan Turing in 1952. These ordered non-equilibrium states are called dissipative structures, since they must dissipate energy in order to persist. Their existence is counter-intuitive, because the generation of entropy would be expected to engender disorder in the system. As most natural processes, such as the functioning of cells and the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, operate away from equilibrium, the importance of understanding non-equilibrium structures is clear.

and i dropped out of a science degree all those years ago!! maybe i should go back and wade through physics lectures with dr carl again!

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx