Anna Ådahl



VISION'S BLEEDING EDGE: Symposium on nonhuman vision, liquid and crystal intelligence and AI. Royal College of Art 3rd July 2018.

Vision’s Bleeding Edge will explore the impact of the latest imaging technologies on human and nonhuman vision and the way contemporary art engages with and rearticulates these developments.

Performances and screenings by current RCA researchers will be in dialogue with talks by Esther Leslie, Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck and author of Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (Reaktion, 2016) and Joanna Zylinska, Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths and author of Nonhuman Photography (MIT Press, 2017).

Esther Leslie will speak on the history and increasing ubiquity of liquid crystal technologies (in LCD TVs, computers and mobile devices) and the liveliness these bestow on the digital images they both display and ‘see’ - while Joanna Zylinska’s talk on nonhuman photography and AI driven imaging will focus on the political underpinnings of the current AI debate and its impact on photography and art.

Their presentations will be followed by an extended conversation to which the participating artists, researchers and audience are invited to actively contribute.

TICKETS ARE FREE - book here:…

4:15pm - screening | Di-Simulated Crowds (2018) by Anna Ådahl

4.30pm - screening | Geomancer (2017) by Lawrence Lek

5.00pm - performance | 6 Weeks in Kyiv (2018) by Adam J B Walker

5.20pm - performance | The Left Hand of Darkness (2018) by Emma Somerset Davis

5:45pm - refreshments

6:00pm - talk | Esther Leslie: Liquid and Crystal Intelligence

6:40pm - screening | Interference (2016) by Mayra Martin Ganzinotti

6.50pm - talk | Joanna Zylinska: Undigital Photography: The Warped Dreams of AI, Machine Vision and Deep Learning

7:30pm - questions and discussion

8:00pm - performance | Reset (2018) by Anna Nazo

8:15pm - screening | Riley (2018) by Anja Kirschner

8:20pm - DJing by Anna Nazo, drinks

Vision’s Bleeding Edge is organised by SOAH Research Students Anja Kirschner, Mayra Martin Ganzinotti, Anna Nazo, Emma Somerset Davis and Adam J B Walker with Aura Satz (Moving Image Tutor and Reader in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art.)

Abstracts & Bios:

Esther Leslie
Liquid and Crystal Intelligence

Photography shatters time and space, it has been said. It recombines too. As it shatters and recombines its procedures might be aligned to the states of liquidity and crystallinity. It snatches something from a flow – from a watery gush of life and holds it up – the crystal. But it could be said, just as much, that each image splashes into the world, is a drop in the ocean, is a liquid reflection of a fraction of a second, caught on a sheeny surface, now likely to be a smartphone, one of the latest stages of photography’s history which begun, in Benjamin’s description, with the emergence from a droplet laden mist, out of the aura that seeped into clothes, a dampness of imperial history that threatened ever to return. Jeff Wall wrote an essay on photography as liquid intelligence, again associating photography’s origins with wetness, with the sloshing chemicals, the water baths, and each photograph of liquid, arrested in its flow, like his explosive milk, evokes that ‘ancient memory’. The control of water, held back by glass is photography’s battle, but the intelligence, the materiality, the sensitivity and the desire seems to lie with the liquid alone. Writing in 1989, Wall observes a shift from analogue, chemical photography to digital photography, which, he notes, aims to keep the camera and its processes dry, to hold water far from the production process, far away powering electricity plants that the cameras rely on, top hold it all behind glass, which is hard, crystalline, a barrier, a dry product of technology. Later liquid and crystal will merge in the ubiquitous smartphone, unforeseeable in 1989. What liquid and crystal intelligences are evinced in it and how, in the light of these, does the history of its seeing, not ours, come to appear?

Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London. Her books include various studies and translations of Walter Benjamin, as well as Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso, 2002); Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005); Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (Unkant, 2014), Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (Reaktion, 2016) and Deeper in the Pyramid (with Melanie Jackson) (Banner Repeater, 2018).

Joanna Zylinska
Undigital Photography: The Warped Dreams of AI, Machine Vision and Deep Learning

My talk will approach the topic of vision by focusing on the relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and image-making. My argument will be structured in the form of a critique, but this should not be treated as a technophobic rejection of AI imaging, or AI itself, tout court. Instead of pitching the human against the machine, I will propose to see different forms of human activity, including photography, as having always been to some extent artificially intelligent. My critique will be primarily concerned with the political underpinnings of the current AI debate and the way it feeds into photography, and art more broadly – although I will have some acerbic things to say about some forms of AI-driven aesthetics. The exploration of the issue of machine vision in current AI research will lead me to raise broader questions about different ways of seeing, (in)visibility and perception, across various platforms and scales. Last but not least, I will seek to recognise the potential of AI art for breaking the circuit of what philosopher Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi has called neurotalitarianism, and for enabling a different form of psychopolitics. It is in the notion of ‘undigital photography’ that I will seek this opening from the current discourse of AI.

Joanna Zylinska is a writer, lecturer, artist and curator, as well as Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. The author of seven books – including The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (University of Minnesota Press, 2018, open access version available, Nonhuman Photography (MIT Press, 2017) and Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene (Open Humanities Press, 2014) – she is also a translator of Stanislaw Lem’s philosophical treatise, Summa Technologiae (Minnesota UP, 2013). In 2013 she was Artistic Director of Transitio_MX05 ‘Biomediations’, the biggest Latin American new media festival, which took place in Mexico City. Her own art practice involves experimenting with different kinds of photomedia.