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American Cyborg's favorite essays, in chronological order

While I think of the shrine fence painted scarlet beautiful, sometimes I am also entranced by the electric advertisements of Jintan. That's when creative fervour is boiling in my head. When there is no creative fervour, I am irritated to no end by the random confusion of the city today. There always lives in my mind bugs of these two different stripes.


A Green Sun
Takamura Kotaro, 1910

And if the origin of things is not like the ground of the planet that seems to be the base, but like the circular movement that the planet describes around a mobile center, then a car, a clock, or a sewing machine could equally be accepted as the generative principle.

The two primary motions are rotation and sexual movement, whose combination is expressed by the locomotive's wheels and pistons.

These two motions are reciprocally transformed, the one into the other.


The Solar Anus
Georges Bataille, 1931

That which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.


The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Walter Benjamin, 1936

The original question, "Can machines think?" I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted. I believe further that no useful purpose is served by concealing these beliefs. The popular view that scientists proceed inexorably from well-established fact to well-established fact, never being influenced by any improved conjecture, is quite mistaken. Provided it is made clear which are proved facts and which are conjectures, no harm can result. Conjectures are of great importance since they suggest useful lines of research.


Computing Machinery and Intelligence
Alan Turing, 1950

Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art; Modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting — the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment — were treated by the old masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only by implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.


Modernist Painting
Clement Greenberg, 1960

It is quite commonly thought that the intellect is responsible for everything that is made and done. It is commonly thought that everything that is can be put into words. But there is a wide range of emotional response that we make that cannot be put into words. We are so used to making these emotional responses that we are not consciously aware of them until they are represented in artwork.

Our emotional life is really dominant over our intellectual life, but we do not realize it.


Beauty is the Mystery of Life
Agnes Martin, 1969

27. The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.

28. Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist's mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.

29. The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.


Sentences on Conceptual Art
Sol Lewitt, 1969

It is these two characteristics of modernist sculpture that declare its status, and therefore its meaning and function, as essentially nomadic. Through its fetishization of the base, the sculpture reaches downward to absorb the pedestal into itself and away from actual place; and through the representation of its own materials or the process of its construction, the sculpture depicts its own autonomy.


Sculpture in the Expanded Field
Rosalind Krauss, 1979

To suppose that animals first entered the human imagination as meat or leather or horn is to project a 19th century attitude backwards across the millennia. Animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises. For example, the domestication of cattle did not begin as a simple prospect of milk and meat. Cattle had magical functions, sometimes oracular, sometimes sacrificial. And the choice of a given species as magical, tameable and alimentary was originally determined by the habits, proximity and “invitation” of the animal in question.


Why Look at Animals?
John Berger, 1980

Cyborgs are not reverent; they do not remember the cosmos. They are wary of holism, but needy for connection — they seem to have a natural feel for united front politics, but without the vanguard party. The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins.


A Cyborg Manifesto
Donna Haraway, 1985

It is commonplace to note that it was the appearance of photography which, as the representative of the Industrial Revolution in the realm of the image, set the historical process of modernism in motion. Yet photography's own historical evolution into modernist discourse has been determined by the fact that, unlike the older arts, it cannot dispense with depiction and so, apparently, cannot participate in the adventure it might be said to have suggested in the first place.


Marks of Indifference
Jeff Wall, 1995

In much of the cockpit's remembering, significant functions are achieved by a person interpreting material symbols, rather than by a person recalling those symbols from his or her memory. So we must go beyond looking for things that resemble our expectations about human memory to understand the phenomena of memory in the cockpit as a cognitive system.


How a Cockpit Remembers Its Speeds
Edwin Hutchins, 1995

The explanation I offer of how an unsocialized entity, such as a calculator or other computer, can appear to do tasks that require the abilities of a member of society, has firstly to do with "Repair, Attribution and all That" which I will refer to as RAT. What we do with RAT, as I will explain below, is what makes it possible for us to use computers for some of the more complex tasks that humans usually fulfill. RAT is what we do when we fit computers into the social context. A full blown, fully socialized, artificial intelligence would have to do as much as RAT as we normally do. As I will explain, I believe no significant progress in this direction has been made.


Rat-Tale: Sociology's Contribution to Understanding Human and Machine Cognition
H.M. Collins, 1997

A robot can be broadly defined as a mechanism controlled by a computer. A telerobot is a robot that accepts instructions from a distance, generally from a trained human operator. The human operator thus performs live actions in a distant environment and through sensors can gauge the consequences. Telerobotic systems date back to the need for handling radioactive materials in the 1940s, and are now being applied to exploration, bomb disposal, and surgery.


The Unique Phenomenon of a Distance
Ken Goldberg, 2000

The grainy image and the equally 'grainy' soundtrack make it difficult to forget the mechanics of the apparatus. While the sheer beauty of desert scenes and snow-covered fields would seem to invite an immersive form of engagement, the humble production context and mode of exhibition — via the television monitor for the historic viewer or probably the computer screen for the contemporary viewer — effectively gets in the way of an easy viewing. The resolution is 'poor' but this lack of image quality is integral to the experience of, and appreciation for, processual changes in the environment and the materiality of video itself. Technological and weatherbased interruptions prevent clarity of image and sound, radically altering the expectations and habits of the viewer.


It's About Time: Slow Aesthetics in Experimental Ecocinema and Nature Cam Videos
Stephanie Lam, 2016