Haptic Field


Chris Salter’s immersive art-work, open to visitors at the Chronus Art Center, M50, Shanghai, is definitely worth exploring.* It’s hard to review, because even among our small party, it took people to very different places (including the Curtains of Yog Sothoth) — none of them more than very remotely terrestrially recognizable. Almost insanely intense is a distinct possibility, so come prepared for metamorphic passages into the outer cosmos.

As usual in the contemporary arts, the overlay of verbal commentary is worthless junk, so don’t be distracted by that.

* This post is probably too late to be useful (it’s about to close) — so count the recommendation as saying: Look out for it wherever it travels next.

Dunhuang at the Himalayas

Absurd name aside, the Dunhuang — Song of Living Beings exhibition at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum is superb. Even those who’ve been to Dunhuang will appreciate it.


Just as an art of the replica show, it’s jaw-dropping (and it isn’t just that, remotely).

The modern artworks included in the show mostly make little difference, with a few exceptions. They’re simply, and inevitably, overwhelmed by the Mogao Caves material.



The Summit (Nov. 7) and Futures Market (“a Guggenheim online exhibition that enables you to take a position on the future of a world increasingly shaped by emerging technologies”).

Some explanation of the name:

Åzone is pronounced like the word ozone. The invented term incorporates references to azone, ancient Greek for “without nation,” and to Åland, a unique and autonomous region of Finland (and the site of a Guggenheim-led retreat where this project was initiated).

Origin of Species

Incipit the Plantoid. It’s exquisite:


Even if they are autonomous, Plantoids require the interaction of other species (humans) to subsist and reproduce themselves in a physical form. Reproduction of a Plantoid is enabled through human participation, coordinated via smart contracts and blockchain technology. Indeed, Plantoids have an inbuilt mechanism that takes an economic energy source (money, or Bitcoin in this case) and uses it to drive a set of incentives that enable their autopoiesis and eventual reproduction. A Plantoid is responsible for turning beauty into digital currency, and her flowers are designed to interact with other species, in just the same way real plants do. People who enjoys the aesthetic representation of the Plantoid can issue funds to the Plantoid’s wallet as a form of appreciation. In doing so, they provide them with the necessary substance — the nectar — that will enable them to reproduce themselves. Plantoids store this energy in the form a digital currency. They depend totally on this store of energy, and they protect it with strong cryptography, only sharing this value with other beings who can help them reproduce. When a Plantoid has stored enough energy, she may decide to reproduce, and will signal to other humans and symbiotic species her readiness through subtle movement and a display of colour and light. Depending on their form and size, different Plantoids will require different amounts of funds, which they will store as “starch” in their personal bitcoin wallets. Perhaps the initial Plantoid will need $1000 to fully turn into a blossom. Whenever that particular threshold for the Plantoid is reached, the reproduction process starts: the Plantoid only needs to identify a new person or group of persons (ideally, a group of artists) to create a new version of itself. Given the right conditions, the Plantoid is able to manufacture herself, by executing a smart contract that lives on the blockchain, and has the ability to commission welders, companies, and other beings to build and assemble a similar being. Reproduction is achieved by paying humans to design a new blueprint, to gather materials, and prepare, collate, weld, or assemble them, so as to ultimately deliver a new structure for every new instantiation of the Plantoid. Humans act as symbiotic pollinators, assisting the Plantoid in the reproduction process. The participation of human third-parties is required for the Plantoid to reproduce itself, just like real plants require the time and energy of insects in their pollination. Plantoids are responsible for attracting this new types of interaction — a process that is generally referred to as “attraction strategy” in plant biology.

Art Machined

Mohammad Salemy produces a manifesto for the deepening machine age. “What makes this experiment necessary is the severity of the cultural crisis in which art stubbornly refuses to find itself.”

‘Manifesto’ is a UF categorization, that responds to the text’s dominant imperative tone, as exemplified by: “Art needs to be removed from its contemporary ivory tower to deal with the implications of its appearance, but unlike twentieth-century modernisms, today art cannot afford to be solely about the limitations of its supporting material, or only conceived in relation to its own history and ontology.”

Much, too, though for awkward contemplative nihilists:

Art, whether artists agree or not, is the void of meaning folded in cognitive wrapping paper, visible only as the surface of cognition and as the materialization of both the historical and semantic emptiness which it carries. It is a series of verifiable claims inserted into the real world and reified to take up the empty space of meaning, a void occupying another void.

Quick links (#26)

China’s ‘Cybercrats‘. The trouble with Alibaba. Chinese reforms are hard.

The Free World: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland (and that’s it, understandably). America bets on Modi. The European dream is dying. Strange alliances. Žižek is excited. Nigeria and Egypt in the firing-line.

Messy but sporadically insightful reflections on Bitcoin (from the left). It’s “highly problematic“. ISIS apparently likes it.

Technology and finance are breaking away. Unbundling the banks. Mechanization and the future of work. Singularity and X-Risk buzz (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The business of human cryopreservation.

Flexible brain implants. New steps in robotics.

Anomaly Detection. A call to the edge. Interviews with Pamela Rosenkranz and Peter Boettke. Terminator versus Ghostbusters. Accelerationism under discussion. Property and Freedom 2015. Leaderless. Reason worries about Creeping Neo-Victorianism.

Dark Matter sounds. This is intense.