Thursday, 15 September 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Tate Modern

For the first time in my life, I stood before art and felt I could cry.

The stone as life and author

Read the review I wrote called 'The stone as life and author' on Stuart Whipps's exhibition Isle of Slingers at Bristol's Spike Island:

(foreground) Marbled Books (Yellow); Marbled Books (Grey); Marbled Books; (Purple); (All 2016); (background) Marble Book; Marble Book (Detail 001); Marble Book (Detail 002)(2016) Tables reclaimed from Birmingham Central Library.

Monday, 5 September 2016

A sexist encounter

Today I experienced my first instance of sexism in an academic setting. I went to a talk by a leading scholar in Artificial Intelligence on how it is to change 'everything'. The room was mostly men but there were some women. I found the talk interesting and while there were certain technical concepts I did not understand, there was a lot I was able to follow, especially in terms of connecting Machine Learning to the human brain.

When it came time to ask questions, I was the first person to raise my hand and nonetheless was the fifth person to have the microphone handed to. When I got the microphone I asked a two part question, the first about morality and ethics with regard to self-learning robots (making specific reference to points he made in the talk), giving an example about drones and automated decision making. The second part of my question was about robot agency and the posthuman and if he thought this kind of AI work would have positive social implications and effects with regard to gender and race.

The first thing he did when he answered was ask me if I had any children. When I said no, he said 'well, you will soon'. The audience laughed. Then he offered a pedantic allegory about how teaching robots to be moral is like teaching children to be moral and gave the example that if a child is burning ants, you teach him that is this wrong. He answered no part of my question. No one said anything and the Q&A continued as normal.

While it may be true that my question was too long and perhaps too 'Humanities' for this context, I thought it was nonetheless a worthwhile question and that scientists who work on this kind of research should be capable of answering questions about the social and cultural impact of their work on the world. I felt this especially deeply given that Art History, amongst other subjects have begun to make an effort at introducing interdisciplinary approaches and bridging gaps between the arts and sciences.

I am convinced that had a man asked this question, he would not have asked him if he was a father. Moreover, there are several more interesting, more intelligent and more respectful ways he could have addressed my question some of which include notions of subjectivity and morality, the possibility or impossibility of controlling robots, how he expects life will be like if and when we live amongst robots as equals, etc. I am truly disappointed by this exchange and sincerely hope that people within the technology and science fields are having important discussions such as these both amongst themselves and with scholars in the humanities and that this was an isolated instance of a paternalistic individual who lacks an open mind.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Ernö Goldfinger re an encounter with Adolf Loos

Goldfinger re Loos: 

“one time we were sitting in the Dôme and a young Austrian architect came up: ‘Master, I have achieved a fabulous thing. I am going to work for Le Corbusier.’ Loos says: ‘My dear boy, when you come to Paris you come to learn French, not Esperanto.’ He hated Corbusier’s architecture, just as I hate his ‘Kasbah’ architecture – all the white stuff” [1].

[1] Stamp, Gavin and Goldfinger, Ernö. “Conversation with Ernö Goldfinger”. Journal (Thirties Society), No. 2 (1982), pp. 19.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

2 Willow Road

I'm so excited by my discovery of Ernö Goldfinger's house at 2 Willow Road last week, which will be the case study for my third and longest chapter of my thesis. I went to visit it on Saturday and was blown away not only by the architecture of the house and by Goldfinger's furniture but also by the collection of modern art that was housed inside, which included works by: Bridget Riley, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Fernand Leger, Henry Moore and to my great interest Amédée Ozenfant, who was the art teacher of Goldfinger's wife Ursula in Paris. I'm so thrilled that my research has brought me to this house, which ties together so much of my thematic work on Loos, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Ozenfant of course and that here in London, I will have the opportunity to discover this house in great detail and the objects inside it, both the valuable art pieces and the trinkets Goldfinger brought back from holidays.

Can't stop thinking about the Foundations of Modern Art...


Interesting overview in The New Yorker of philosophy and asking fundamental questions about existence, God and modernity. 

"Modernity cannot be identified with any particular technological or social breakthrough. Rather, it is a subjective condition, a feeling or an intuition that we are in some profound sense different from the people who lived before us. Modern life, which we tend to think of as an accelerating series of gains in knowledge, wealth, and power over nature, is predicated on a loss: the loss of contact with the past. Depending on your point of view, this can be seen as either a disinheritance or an emancipation; much of modern politics is determined by which side you take on this question. But it is always disorienting"

"One of the most popular names for the unexplainable is God: God is how we answer questions about creation and purpose that we can’t answer in any other way. Certainly, both Descartes and Leibniz relied on God to balance the equation of the universe. Without him, they believed, the world did not make sense. The philosophers’ God was not necessarily identical to the God of Christianity, but he had some reassuringly familiar attributes, such as beneficence and providential oversight of the world."