Alvederzane Pet: Robots Set To Replace Human Jobs In The U.S. And U.K.


Biomorphic Robotic Live Art Action Painting Performance by Tom Estes at Nottingham Contemporary, in which a supervised robot takes over the  manual job of the artist

The McDonald’s on the corner of Third Avenue and 58th Street in New York City doesn’t look all that different from any of the fast-food chain’s other locations across the country. Inside, however, hungry patrons are welcomed not by a cashier waiting to take their order, but by a “Create Your Taste” kiosk – an automated touch-screen system that allows customers to create their own burgers without interacting with another human being. It’s impossible to say exactly how many jobs have been lost by the deployment of the automated kiosks – McDonald’s has been predictably reluctant to release numbers – but such innovations will be an increasingly familiar sight in Trump’s America.

Back in 2011 researchers in Switzerland invented a robot bricklayer which they predicted would be commonplace on building sites within 10 years.  And it already seems to be happening. Meet Robo-Hod the hi-tech robot brickie-it doesn’t need a tea break and will not wolf-whistle at women walking by. The In-situ Fabricator is a giant mechanical arm on a mobile base and can even be programmed to lay bricks in complex designs. It can also move around a building site using laser-guided range-finders to navigate. The In-Situ Fabricator can build the walls of a typical house in two days – or 20 times faster than a traditional brickie.

According to Matthias Kohler, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich, the In-Situ model is “the first machine that can actually go on construction sites and build non-standard designs, meaning designs which can vary and adapt to the local conditions directly in the building site”. In-Situ’s 2D laser range-finder, together with computer algorithms, help to build up a 3D map of a building site linked to structural plans. The map allows the robot to know its location at all times and – uniquely in the growing field of construction robotics – to move around a building site unaided. It can also adapt autonomously to minor design variations.

Professor Kohler said: “The benefit from an architectural point of view is that you can really design the construction directly, so you can plan for how it is built instead of designing your plan and then that plan afterwards being converted on the construction site. So it actually changes the paradigm of how you design and build quite fundamentally.”


Your greatest competition in a few decades probably will not be human. Instead, job applicants will most likely have to compete with tireless and efficient robots, which are aggressively transforming the labour force.   Image:  ‘Night Cleaning’ performance by Artist Tom Estes  at the exhibition BIG DEAL in London

New York-based firm Construction Robotics has developed a robot called SAM (short for Semi-Automated Mason), which can lay 3,000 bricks a day. Robots that can lay six times as many bricks a day as human builders are set to turn the construction industry on its head. The devices have already started replacing humans on a handful of sites in America, and Construction Robotics is hoping to introduce the robots in Britain within the next two years.

According to their website, Construction Robotics (CR) was established with the goal of advancing construction through the use of robotics, automation and the same principles used in manufacturing. CR aims to develop world leading robotics and automation equipment for the construction industry, starting with SAM100. Construction Robotics is focused on advancing construction through the use of new technology and the same manufacturing principles used for decades in other industries. By leveraging new technology CR believes there can be significant improvements to the way the construction industry operates.

Construction Robotics isn’t the only company working on bricklaying robots. Australian company Fastbrick Robotics has also developed a proof of concept for a commercial bricklaying machine called Hadrian X. From the computer aided design of a house structure, the Hadrian X robotic bricklayer will be able to handle the automatic loading, cutting, routing and placement of all bricks to build a complete structure. Delivery of the first commercial prototype of Hadrian X is due later this year.Meanwhile, technology is being developed to protect builders from some of the more dangerous side effects of working on a construction site.

“We are going to be going over to the UK in the coming months to meet with some companies and see if we can find a home for Sam there,” Scott Peters, the company’s president, told The Times .

Sme of Britain’s biggest construction firms have warned that the automation of the industry is likely to result in mass layoffs.

“Five years ago I’d have smiled wryly if somebody had said to me that robots would be able to put up buildings in the City of London,” said Alison Carnwath, chairwoman of Land Securities, at the the Institute of Directors’ annual convention.

“I tell you we’re not that far off, and that has huge implications.”

However, while SAM has the ability to pick up bricks, apply mortar and lay them, the robot needs to be heavily supervised. Human workers still need to set up the robot, supervise health and safety and assist with laying bricks at difficult angles, as well as clearing up, according to Construction Robotics. So while human brickies might be worried by the idea of a robot doing their job faster and better, but Professor Kohler insisted: “This will be a game-changer in construction.

“I think that in the next five to 10 years, we are going to see mobile robots on the construction site, but they are not going to replace humans. They will actually collaborate with humans, so the best of each kind of skills come together.”


Live Art Performance EMOTICON by Tom Estes for Communication Futures DRHA 2014 at The Old Royal Naval College.

Many of us recognize robotic automation as an inevitably disruptive force. However, in a classic example of optimism bias, while approximately two-thirds of Americans believe that robots will inevitably perform most of the work currently done by human beings during the next 50 years, about 80% also believe their current jobs will either “definitely” or “probably” exist in their current form within the same timeframe. Somehow, we believe our livelihoods will be safe. They’re not: every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation in the next several years.

Once confined to the pages of futuristic dystopian fictions, the field of robotics promises to be the most profoundly disruptive technological shift since the industrial revolution. Two centuries ago this year, 64 men were brought to trial in York, England. Their crime? They were skilled weavers who fought back against the rising tide of power looms they feared would put them out of work. The Luddites spent two years burning mills and destroying factory machinery, and the British government was not amused. Of the 64 men charged in 1813, 25 were transported to Australia and 17 were led to the gallows.

Since then, Luddite has become a derisive term for anyone afraid of new technology. After all, the weavers turned out to be wrong. Power looms put them out of work, but in the long run automation made the entire workforce more productive. Everyone still had jobs—just different ones. Some ran the new power looms, others found work no one could have imagined just a few decades before, in steel mills, automobile factories, and railroad lines. In the end, this produced wealth for everyone, because, after all, someone still had to make, run, and maintain the machines. But that was then. During the Industrial Revolution, machines were limited to performing physical tasks. The Digital Revolution is different because computers can perform cognitive tasks too, and that means machines will eventually be able to run themselves. When that happens, they won’t just put individuals out of work temporarily. Entire classes of workers will be out of work permanently. In other words, the Luddites weren’t wrong. They were just 200 years too early. And as large swaths of the population lose their jobs, the only viable solution might be for the government to institute a universal basic income, which would mean paying every resident a fixed amount of money to cover their needs.

A 2013 study by Oxford University’s Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by robots and automated technology in the next 10 to 20 years. Those individuals working in transportation, logistics, office management and production are likely to be the first to lose their jobs to robots, according to the report. In less developed countries, the potential for job loss is more severe. A2016 analysis from the World Bank estimated that roughly two-thirds of all jobs in developing nations around the globe are susceptible to replacement by automation. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX, recently declared that a universal basic income was a reasonable next step for the U.S. “There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,”Musk told CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

This idea of giving people money for nothing is a real adjustment for people. It goes against our basic values, a Protestant work ethic and all. That said, there is currently one privately-funded, short-term pilot program being run by the Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator, in California. The goal is to see how people react in the U.S., says Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Group. The program gives “unconditional” payments to selected residents of Oakland. The administrators write, “we hope basic income promotes freedom, and we want to see how people experience that freedom.” If it is successful, the plan is to follow up the pilot with a larger, longer-term program.

“I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of this at a national scale,” says Altman, in a blog post about the project. “50 years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate people.”



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The 14th Factory: Simon Birch And The Otherworldly Bedroom from 2001


Recreation of the 2001 bedroom space from 2001. Check it out at the 14th Factory now through April 30.

Over the next several weeks, the 14th Factory will be filming a documentary like no other. The 14th Factory is a monumental, multi-media, socially engaged documentary film following British artist Simon Birch’s creation of an interactive art space. The set is comprised of a 3-acre empty warehouse located in the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. The location has been transformed into the factory where Birch and his collaborators work and manufacture their art. The documentary films the viewer on a journey through 14 interlinked spaces comprised of video, installation, sculpture, paintings and performances.  The project documents Birch’s creation of this innovative experience in collaboration with a global community of sixteen interdisciplinary artists from China, Hong Kong, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

On March 11, Simon Birch quietly opened the 14th Factory in a three-acre Lincoln Heights warehouse complex in Los Angeles, just up the street from the abandoned Lincoln Heights Jail. It’s an ambitious artistic undertaking and, at $3 million, a costly one: Birch, a Hong Kong-based British artist, has transformed the space into a series of micro-exhibitions meant to take viewers on a “hero’s journey,” a reference to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. The goal is that we’ll all emerge from the multimedia installation—whose vague themes include transformation, East versus West, and the collapse of empires—victorious in one way or another.

The various large-scale immersions feature projections, paintings, sculptures, and, in one instance, a lush patch of real grass. But the most Instagram-worthy is a bedroom—one that happens to be an exact replica of the one in Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-winning film 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Here’s why this is so dope. Kubrick was notoriously cagey with his work. Once he finished a film, most of the elements that went into creating it (sets, costumes, props, storyboards, etc.) were promptly destroyed. Birch dreamt of recreating the room for the exhibition, but he had no set designs off of which to work; According to the South China Morning Post, Birch showed the project’s architect, a guy named Paul Kember, a series of stills from the film hoping he’d be able to recreate it. Then Paul goes, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Oh, Si, didn’t I tell you? My uncle and great-uncle—you know, Tony and John?—were draughtsman on that movie, and they literally—literally!—worked on that exact room! Isn’t that bonkers?!”


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You Don’t Need to Be a Rocket Scientist: Artistic Impressions Of Science


Markos Kay’s new short film features CERN-approved subatomic visualizations. But is this what it really looks like?

We’ve all heard the cliché, “a picture tells a thousand words”, but there is real value in using images to promote scientific content. Images help us learn, images grab attention, images explain tough concepts, and inspire. We are very visual creatures. A large percentage of the human brain dedicates itself to visual processing, in fact, half of all neural tissue deals with vision in some way. Our love of images lies with our cognition and ability to pay attention. Images are able to grab our attention easily, we are immediately drawn to them. Think about this blog, for example: did you look at the words first, or the image?

In a world where we are bombarded by stimuli, we often seek the easiest and most fluent way of acquiring and learning information. Reading can be a slow and time-consuming activity. It takes a lot longer to read a long sentence than to analyse a visual scene. For the average person, the principles of quantum physics are a cognitive obstacle course. Even more esoteric is the visualization of the movement of subatomic particles. Hoping to simplify and beautify the phenomenon of quantum physics, a new art project takes a swing at filtering the dynamics of atomic motion through abstract art. The project titled, Quantum Fluctuations, is the work of digital artist, Markos Kay. Kay’s innate interest in the intersection of arts and science contributed to the orchestration of a video documenting microscopic collisions.

Sometimes scientific findings, even the important ones, just don’t seem personal to us as individuals. People may not feel concerned about a certain disease or condition because they are not emotionally invested in it. Now, this isn’t because we’re all stone hearted monsters. It’s because sometimes these findings just aren’t reaching out to us in the way they ought to.

Markos Kay’s new short film features CERN-approved subatomic visualizations. But is this what it really looks like? Through the creation of his film and his extensive research, Kay learned that it is impossible to truly visualize quantum interactions. According to him, “they defy our ordinary macrocosmic logic, which is why I believe such knowledge can only be communicated through abstract mathematics and art.” This idea fuels the majority of his work. In 2011 he created the film The Flow that visually interprets the scientific theory behind layers of matter, and he is currently working with photographer Jan Kriwol to combine photographs of urban environments into anatomical renderings of the circulatory system.

Using virtual particle simulations, Kay meticulously renders the patterns and structures of processes at the subatomic level into a kaleidoscope of visuals with an eerie, cinematic soundscape. “For this project in particular, I looked at how scientists observe what happens during a particle collision, which involves measuring the energy of particles on sensors and comparing the findings with data collected from simulations,” Kay told Vice Creators. “It is perhaps the most indirect method of observation imaginable, a non-representational form of observation mediated by supercomputer simulations.”

Quantum Fluctuations hypnotically guides the viewer through the various processes of particle physics, each with its own soundscape and color scheme. Particle decay, for example, is marked by dark blues and browns and the somber, solitary echoes of an unanswered satellite signal. Each phase has a distinct purpose within the larger transformative process of particle collisions. “I am particularly interested in the idea of transformation of information which can be seen throughout the scientific narrative,” Kay says of his motivation for the film. “I hope to engage viewers with the complexity and beauty of quantum mechanics and evoke their imagination of what happens behind the scenes of our reality.”

We are seeing plenty of researchers and institutions taking advantage of images, especially through the microblogging service, Tumblr. Publishers, institutes, researchers, and schools are using Tumblr to promote scientific findings, with the help of vibrant and appealing images. Tumblr is also a great way to bring awareness to the research itself.

However, ‘artist impressions’ especially those validated by scientific institutions raise some interesting ethical questions, some of which are unprecedented, others well known from other contexts. ‘Artistic impressions’ may be informed by science but created with an unrelated technology and given a spin by the artist that does not represent the actual visuals.  These questions are often discussed within the framework of  the promotion of science with the aim of an increased understanding for the general public. But what are the ethics of Sci-art?. The basic concern of institutionalised science is to develop and implement science- but also to ensure that they continue to attract funding. Notably, discussions of ethical issues in Sci-art do not refer to existing discourses on art and morality from the field of aesthetics. The latter framework is primarily concerned with how the moral value of an artwork affects its artistic value.

It is assumed that a successful integration of these two frameworks will make possible an ethics of Sci-art that is adequate to its subject matter and relevant for practice. Such an integrated approach can give increased depth to understandings of ethical issues of presentation, inspire new ways of thinking about ethics in relation to artistic representations of science in general and give novel impulses to  assessment as the empirical starting point for connecting perspectives in art with those of science and  developing an ethics for Sci-art. The consideration of the effect of these artworks is vital in validating ethically problematical applications of art. It could be argued that the affective, visual qualities of artworks that present a false vision of science may spur the audience to adjust, revise or develop their personal understanding and ethical framework of science.

According to the paper Brain-Based Learning published in the American Journal of Opthamology in 1957 (summarized here), 50% of our neural tissue is directly or indirectly related to vision. The ethical importance of art has been discussed at least since the Ancient Greeks. Plato  was suspicious of the potential of poetry, painting and sculpture to sway people’s emotions, leading them away from the search for truth. Aristotle, on the other hand, emphasised the power of tragedy, in particular, to bring enlightenment through contemplation of an exemplary story. Although differing in their view of the value of art, they both evaluated it from what we would call a moralist point of view.

Moralists hold that art is subject to the same laws and norms as other activities in society. A moralist perceives the morality of art as having a direct impact on its aesthetic value. In other words: if an artwork is “morally defective”, it must be aesthetically flawed, too. The novel Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov is often mentioned as an example of the problem of moralism. The formally exquisite prose of the book stands in stark contrast to its storyline about an unrepentant paedophile. A moralist would have to condemn it as artistically flawed, despite its aesthetical qualities. Similarly, Andres Serrano’s aesthetically striking, large-scale photograph Piss Christ (1987), which was created by submerging a plastic crucifix in a tank of the artist’s urine, has been met with charges of blasphemy, but has also received critical acclaim. Moralists in the Platonic tradition view immoral art as dangerous because its aesthetic power might be seductive, whereas other moralists follow David Hume in arguing that art works with immoral contents will not be able to sway a morally conscious audience and will thus be aesthetic failures.

In the ethical criticism of art, moralism has long been considered an opposing tendency to autonomism, the view that ethical and aesthetic criticisms are separate. Moralism has traditionally been connected to the narrative and didactic power of art, whereas autonomism put more weight on formal aspects. Throughout the history of art, these two tendencies have existed side by side; now one taking precedence, now the other. The autonomist view can be found in the statement “art for art’s sake”, popular in Modernist art theory.The autonomy of art is directly connected to the idea of “artistic license”, that art should be free expression, unlimited by political and social conventions. R.W. Beardsmore  traced this idea back to Oscar Wilde’s demand that the critic ought to “recognize that the sphere of art and the sphere of ethics are absolutely distinct and separate” ( p. 191). An artwork can be ethically defect and still be aesthetically pleasing, and vice versa. Kieran Cashell points out that since autonomism does not acknowledge that works of art can validly possess ethical significance, it “is compelled to treat any works that do as hybrid deviations, as art mutations that cannot be considered purely artistic” (p. 28). This is an inherently formalist view.


In his ‘Biomorphic Live Art Action Painting Performance‘ at Nottingham Contemporary, artist Tom Estes questions ‘autonomy’ in abstraction and expressionism in painting.

Abstract Expressionism is the term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and  with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation. The movement’s name is derived from emotional intensity with an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic. Action painting, sometimes called “gestural abstraction”, is a style of painting which often emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished work or concern of its artist.For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

Autonomism comes up short when confronted with certain artworks whose moral and societal relevance is simply too great an aspect to be ignored. For instance, in The Reincarnation of St Orlan (1990–92) performance artist Orlan underwent a series of plastic surgeries to attain features from art historical models of beauty, including the brow of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. The surgeries were staged as performances; Orlan was placed in a cruciform position, reading themed poetry during the procedure, which was filmed in its entirety. This project is an uncompromising confrontation with Western ideals of beauty, and as such, it may serve to discourage women from undergoing such surgical procedures. A judgement of the artwork solely from an autonomist perspective (is the surgery performance and resulting facial and bodily features aesthetically interesting?) would miss the critical edge of this piece and, in the case of radical autonomism, would consider the work artistically poorer for containing such a politically charged message.

Paradoxically, moralists may sometimes be compelled to consider an artwork’s value in formalist terms. Daniel Jacobson, in “In Praise of Immoral Art”, emphasises how “the moralist”, when encountering “immoral” art, must either deny it any aesthetic value or continue somehow to accept it as art while remaining unmoved (or repulsed) by its offensive moral message. If the latter approach is chosen, what remains is a formalist judgement of the artwork separated from its content. Anthony Julius concludes that moralists and artists “cannot be reconciled, and that there is no third position available to harmonize the contrary perspectives” (p. 9).

Noël Carroll’s  “moderate” moralism, however, hopes to achieve this third way. He suggests that moral value is not always relevant to the aesthetic value of the artwork but that morally defective contents may interfere with the audience’s appreciation of it. In other words, the moral value of a piece may in some cases directly influence its aesthetic value, which he defines as the degree to which they absorb us. The intention of the artist is an important factor to Carroll: if an artwork does not evoke a moral response when one was intended by its producer, the design of the work is faulty, and the work itself, therefore, is an aesthetic failure. But, following this logic, a work of art that was not intended to have a moral impact may well be aesthetically and artistically successful without arousing moral feelings in the viewer. In Carroll’s view, artworks that do engage our moral feelings may thus be evaluated “in terms of whether they deepen or pervert the moral understanding” (p. 229). He argues that a moral artwork, when successful, can contribute to our moral education.

According to Jacobson’s “immoralist” view moral defects in art need not be aesthetical defects, even when relevant to the aesthetic judgement of the piece. They may actually increase its aesthetic value, rather than subtracting from it. Matthew Kieran argues “that morally defective imaginative experiences, including taking up attitudes and responding in ways that are morally problematic, are required to enable one more fully to understand things than one could otherwise have done” (p. 63). This view finds common ground with moralism in contradicting autonomism’s insistence that morality should not be taken into account.

Both Jacobson and Carroll’s views are examples of “ethical pluralism”, a term that refers to any view acknowledging “that conflict between mutually opposed yet equally reasonable attitudes arises because moral values are neither exclusively oppositional nor commensurate with each other” (p. 13, see also 10, 37). This relativist approach rests on the assumption that moral concepts do not apply equally to diverse situations. Another example of ethical pluralism is what Gaut has called “contextualism”, the view that, occasionally, the unethical aspects of a morally questionable work may contribute positively to its artistic value. This term is seen as preferable in that it does not share immoralism’s implication that moral defects “are automatically aesthetic merits”  (p. 45).Rather, the “deployment of whatever principle may be required in the particular circumstances” should be our guide (p. 46).

The above approaches showcase how the values of individuals influence their judgement of a work of art. How will these differing stances relate to Sci-art? Sci-art artists take widely different approaches, and their artworks, consequently, bring forth different ethical issues. On these grounds, a contextual position is the most productive perspective. A fundamental point is that these artworks should be treated locally, each artwork considered separately for its specific ethical relevance. In other words, the particular art work’s artistic context, its geographical and historical situation, its relation to the methods used, as well as its political and societal dimensions, should be taken into account in the analysis. However, in discussions of ethical issues there is a tendency of inferring from single artworks to the entirety of art.

Conceptually, a tradition that goes back at least to Plato has seen aesthetics and ethics as intimately intertwined, in the search for truth, beauty and goodness. However, in contemporary art, in contrast to the conventions of earlier times, the aim is rarely to give pleasure through the experience of harmonious beauty. Instead, artists seek to reflect some aspect of human existence, to provoke, critique or create immersive experiences. Although this can be done within the autonomist ideal, a large portion of contemporary artworks directly engage with issues in society, and most Sci-art works fall within this sphere. Some are explicitly political and activist, for instance targeting genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as in Critical Art Ensemble’s Transgenic Bacteria Release Machine, which combined two public fears, GM and bacteria, and sought to inform the public about both. The audience were left to decide for themselves, based on the information they were given, whether they wished to release crippled non-pathogenic gut Escherichia coli bacteria, transformed with DNA fragments, into the environment.

Ordinarily, we are made aware of our moral framework only when faced with difficult decisions, whether as individuals, as representing the interests of individuals (as is often the case for attorneys, next-of-kin, or GPs), or as a society (in which case politicians, various experts and NGOs tend to be key players). It can be argued that experiencing art can create an opportunity to critically examine or develop that moral framework. Although this need not be the raison d’être of the artwork, it can be an important factor for ethical validation. While discussions of art and morality from aesthetics scholars can serve to qualify and explain some of the responses to Sci-art, there is a good reason why these artworks are often discussed from the perspective of ethics: they touch upon a number of ethical issues customarily found within that discipline. But a work of art that is used to promote a particular agenda is in no way autonomous. Why did the CIA support abstraction? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Just as Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete, questions need to be asked about Markos Kay’s CERN-approved subatomic visualizations when it is impossible to truly visualize quantum interactions.


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Werner Herzog In Conversation: The Pratt Institute


Director Werner Herzog filming “Into The Inferno” on Yasur Volcano, Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

Werner Herzog is considered one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema Herzog has produced numerous films exploring and sometimes blurring the lines between documentary, experimental, and fiction film. The public are invited to a conversation between legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog and film and media curator Sally Berger for a compelling and candid discussion at The Pratt Institute School of Art. The evening will explore Herzog’s vast career and his innovative and uncompromising approach to the medium.

Werner Herzog led the beginning of the West German cinema movement along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Volker Schlöndorff. The West German cinema movement consisted of documentarians that filmed on low budgets and were influenced by the French New Wave of cinema. French filmmaker François Truffaut once called Herzog “the most important film director alive.”American film critic Roger Ebert said that Herzog “has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons, or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.” He was named one of the 100 most influential people on the planet by Time magazine in 2009.

Herzog’s films often feature heroes with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields, or individuals who are in conflict with nature. Besides using professional actors—German, American and otherwise—Herzog is known for using people from the locality in which he is shooting. Especially in his documentaries, he uses locals to benefit what he calls “ecstatic truth.” He uses footage of the non-actors both playing roles and being themselves.



Herzog’s films have received considerable critical acclaim and achieved popularity on the art house circuit. They have also been the subject of controversy in regard to their themes and messages, especially the circumstances surrounding their creation. A notable example is Fitzcarraldo, in which the obsessiveness of the central character was reflected by the director during the making of the film. Burden of Dreams, a documentary filmed during the making of Fitzcarraldo, explored Herzog’s efforts to make the film in harsh conditions.

His treatment of subjects has been characterized as Wagnerian in its scope, and Fitzcarraldo and his later film Invincible (2001) are directly inspired by opera, or operatic themes. He is proud of never using storyboards and often improvising large parts of the script. He explains this technique in the commentary track to Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

Herzog considers his prose and poetry writings, such as “Of Walking in Ice”, and “Conquest of the Useless”, as having more enduring value than his films.

Pratt’s School of Art and Film/Video Department share Herzog’s expansive vision that an artist’s work should cross boundaries and resist categorization without losing the maker’s own unmistakable voice. The Pratt Institute‘s Film/Video Department therefore present a special evening with filmmaker Werner Herzog, one of the most courageous, mythical, and influential artists of our time. Moderated by film and media curator Sally Berger, the discussion will launch the Pratt Institute School of Art (SoArt) Lecture Series.

The School of Art (SoArt) Lecture Series invites a prominent conversation-generating artist to the Pratt campus each year. For this inaugural lecture celebrating the recently formed School of Art, the school has partnered with the Film/Video Department to host Werner Herzog. The SoArt Lecture Series is supported by Pratt Presents.

WHEN:  Wednesday, April 12, 7 PM

WHERE:  Higgins Hall Auditorium, Pratt Institute, 61 St. James Street, Brooklyn, NY 11205

The event is free and open to the public; reservations required. Please visit to make a reservation.

For more information on Pratt Institute’s Film/Video Department visit

For more information on Pratt Institute’s School of Art visit



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Digital Collection: Kunsthalle Mannheim


The Kunsthalle Mannheim is a museum of modern and contemporary art, established in 1909 and located in Mannheim, Germany. The building designed by Hermann Billing was erected as a temporary structure to serve an “International Art Exhibition” of 1907, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the city. Originally meant to be torn down after this exhibition, the building was transformed into a municipal art gallery which since then housed the city’s art collections as well as temporary exhibitions – and up to 1927 those of the local Mannheimer Kunstverein as well as its administration.

The appearance of the Art Nouveau, Kunsthalle Mannheim building was redesigned for the opening in October 2013. This redesign was intended to transform the visible statement of the institution in order to strengthen and consolidate its international significance. Hagen & jäger accompanied the Kunsthalle in its biggest development process in its one hundred year history: In 2017 Gerkan, Marg and Partner designed the largest new building for modern and contemporary art in Germany.

“It is about rethinking the museum institution and going new ways in the daily routine,” says Dr. Ulrike Lorenz, describing the goal. “We want to be a magical place that attracts and changes people. A visit to a museum must always be a formative experience. ”

The Kunsthalle Mannheim used the concept of “new practicality” for a whole art direction and has an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures and graphics of the 19th and 20th centuries. Germany, it counts with top works from Edouard Manet to Francis Bacon and a unique sculpture focus on the most prestigious collections of German and international modernity to the present day.


Caspar David Friedrich, Evening with clouds, 1824, Kunsthalle Mannheim collection

Digital collection

With its digital strategy, Kunsthalle Mannheim is opening up new fields of activity and communication channels. The aim of this strategy is to make Kunsthalle Mannheim accessible worldwide, but also to appeal to a younger, tech-savvy audience.

“The experience of original art in exchange with others is something that no smartphone can or should replace,” explains Dr. Ulrike Lorenz, director of Kunsthalle Mannheim. “But we aim to use technology to prepare and guide our visitors—not only with background information, but with experiences, experiments, games, online courses, and other unique opportunities.”

Journey through the cosmos of the collection

Sensitive artworks can usually only be displayed for a few weeks, before being returned to a dark warehouse for years. The graphic works must go through a slow and closely monitored process. The Graphic Collection of Kunsthalle Mannheim is now online and contains around 30,000 light-sensitive works. These works—not the originals, but rather the digital versions—are now being gradually brought to light in high-resolution images. The first 1,500 masterpieces are already live, and more are being added every month.After the fragile sheets of paper have been carefully lifted from the large portfolio folders and archive boxes, they are meticulously photographed. The aim of this process is to convey not only the quality of the pencil, charcoal line, or the watercolor tone, but also to convey the look of the paper and how it has aged.


The multiyear “Sammlung Online” project is a part of Kunsthalle Mannheim’s digitalization efforts. The main goal is to make all the treasures in Kunsthalle Mannheim’s collection available to everyone around the clock. Audio clips, videos, and concise blocks of text—appropriate for all audiences—draw vibrant connections between paintings and sculptures, and between contemporary installations and works from the past: What inspired this artist’s working concept? Why did that artist use those particular materials in her or his work? What historic event does the painting treat? What does the restoration process reveal about a sculpture?

This digitally enhanced journey through the Kunsthalle’s collection is accessible, entertaining, and provides an in-depth examination of individual works of art.  Access the online collection is simple and can be explored by following various paths, both guided and independent: Individuals can search according to subject or artist, epoch or style.

The website and the original works in the museum form an indivisible whole. However, only in Kunsthalle Mannheim itself—face-to-face with the original—can you experience the true fascination of this unique combination.




Graphics online. Now on

Go behind the scenes and spend 40 seconds in the Graphic Collection

Visit the website and find out more about the digital strategy of Kunsthalle Mannheim.
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Discover art through a variety of experiences

With support of BW-Stiftung


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London’s Victorian Skyscraper: The Tallest One That Never Was


London’s skyline would look very different today if some of the plans for towers and skyscrapers that have been proposed in the past two centuries had gone ahead. In 1852 there were plans for a tower in Crystal Palace that would have been the world’s first skyscraper. The summit would have been 100 ft higher than the Shard, currently London’s tallest building. But it was never built.

If you took an omnibus along London’s Knightsbridge in the summer of 1851, you would see an astonishing sight. Glittering among the trees was a palace made of glass, like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was as tall as the trees, indeed taller, because the building arched over two of them already growing there, as if, like giant plants in a glasshouse, they had been transplanted with no disturbance to their roots. A shower of rain washed the dust from the glass, and made it glitter all the more. Nothing like this had been seen in London, ever. It was the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. The Great Exhibition was the brain-child of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Britain was at peace. The Chartists had meekly delivered their Petition to the House of Commons in three cabs, and gone home. Albert could write to his cousin King William of Prussia, that ‘we have no fear here either of an uprising or an assassination. England was experiencing a manufacturing boom. This was the time to show off, on the international stage.

There were some 100,000 objects, displayed along more than 10 miles, by over 15,000 contributors. Britain, as host, occupied half the display space inside, with exhibits from the home country and the Empire. The biggest of all was the massive hydraulic press that had lifted the metal tubes of a bridge at Bangor invented by Stevenson. Each tube weighed 1,144 tons yet the press was operated by just one man. Next in size was a steam-hammer that could with equal accuracy forge the main bearing of a steamship or gently crack an egg. There were adding machines which might put bank clerks out of a job; a ‘stiletto or defensive umbrella’– always useful – and a ‘sportsman’s knife’ with eighty blades from Sheffield – not really so useful. One of the upstairs galleries was walled with stained glass through which the sun streamed in technicolour. Almost as brilliantly coloured were carpets from Axminster and ribbons from Coventry.

There was a printing machine that could turn out 5,000 copies of the popular periodical the Illustrated London News in an hour, and another for printing and folding envelopes, a machine for making the new-fangled cigarettes, and an expanding hearse. There were folding pianos convenient for yachtsmen, and others so laden with curlicues that the keyboard was almost overwhelmed. There was a useful pulpit connected to pews by rubber tubes so that the deaf could hear, and ‘tangible ink’ for the blind, producing raised characters on paper. A whole gallery was devoted to those elegant, sophisticated carriages that predated the motorcar, and if you looked carefully you could find one or two velocipedes, the early version of bicycles. There were printing presses and textile machines and agricultural machines. There were examples of every kind of steam engine, including the giant railway locomotives…In short, as the Queen put it in her Diary, ‘every conceivable invention’.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park
Canada sent a fire-engine with painted panels showing Canadian scenes, and a trophy of furs. India contributed an elaborate throne of carved ivory, a coat embroidered with pearls, emeralds and rubies, and a magnificent howdah and trappings for a rajah’s elephant. (The elephant wearing it came from a museum of stuffed animals in England.)
The American display was headed by a massive eagle, wings outstretched, holding a drapery of the Stars and Stripes, all poised over one of the organs scattered throughout the building. Although the general idea of the Exhibition was the promotion of world peace, Colt’s repeating fire-arms featured prominently, but so did McCormick’s reaping machine. The exhibit that attracted most attention had to be Hiram Power’s statue of a Greek Slave, in white marble, housed in her own little red velvet tent, wearing nothing but a small piece of chain. This was of course allegorical. The building itself was the most breathtaking exhibit of all. Paxton’s innovative design used modules of glass and iron, that could be fabricated off site and in due course taken apart again, since the building was only temporary. Work began on 1 August 1850. By December 1850 more than 2,000 men were working on the site. By means of ingenious machines invented by Paxton, 80 men could fix over 8,000 panes of sheet glass in a week. Over 1,000 iron columns supported 2,224 trellis girders, 4,000 tons of iron, 30 miles of Paxton’s newly-invented guttering and 202 miles of sash bar. The 16 vast semi-circular ribs of the transept arch, made of laminated timber, took just one week to fix. The flooring was of boards set half an inch apart, so that machines could sweep the dust through the spaces at the end of each day, but in practice the trailing skirts of the women visitors did the job splendidly.


Eventually the building from the Great Exhibition  of 1851 was reconstructed in South London, but alas, not as a skyscraper

By the time the Exhibition closed, on 11 October, over six million people had gone through the turnstiles. Instead of the loss initially predicted, the Exhibition made a profit of £186,000, most of which was used to create the South Kensington museums. Those were Albert’s memorial. His Queen commissioned the statue of him, sitting under a gilt canopy opposite the Royal Albert Hall with a copy of the Exhibition catalogue on his knee. When the massive Great Exhibition of 1851 was dismantled, a number of plans for what to do with the temporary prefab structure included what would still be London’s highest skyscraper. Proposed by Charles Burton, the skyscraper would have stood at around 1,000 ft high, and thanks to its elevated location in Sydenham, south London, the summit would be 100 ft higher than the Shard, currently London’s tallest building. “Vertical railways” would have carried people to the summit for the views, while curiously, a giant clock would have been the centrepiece half way up. However, the investors favoured keeping their feet on the ground, and instead re-built the building in south London to be known as the Crystal Palace. Had the skyscraper been attempted, it is likely that the weight of the ironwork would have brought the whole thing crashing down – though a fire would eventually destroy the Crystal Palace. .



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From Paper To The Lab: A Space-Time Crystal Computer That Can Outlive The Universe


It may seem strange to think something can survive even the death of the Universe, but that could actually be possible as a result of the laws of quantum physics. Scientists are now suggesting a new blueprint for a device, known as a time crystal, that can theoretically continue to function as a computer even after the universe cools to absolute zero. Ordinary crystals are three-dimensional objects whose atoms are arranged in regular, repeating patterns similar to table salt. They adopt this structure because it uses the lowest amount of energy possible to maintain.

MIT physicist Frank Wilczek points out that the heat-death of the universe is, in principle, “very user friendly” for this kind of experiment because it would be cold and dark, there are other issues to consider.

“We focus on a space-time crystal that can be created in a laboratory,” says Li. “So you need to figure out a method to make a laboratory that can survive in the heat-death of the universe.”

Yes, one has to admit the idea something can outlive the Universe is fascinating indeed!

One would think that we should not expect to see a time crystal computer any time soon. However last month, a team of physicists from UC Berkeley said they’d created a blueprint for a new phase of matter called a time crystal. Their paper, in Physical Review Letters, turned what was once a pretty far out speculation into a practical recipe for cooking up a time crystal in a laboratory.

Indeed, since the preprint paper was published online last year, researchers at the University of Maryland and Harvard University have followed the UC Berkeley recipe and created time crystals of their own using two different mediums: lasers and trapped ions.

A time crystal isn’t something you can hold in your hands, and it isn’t something you can grow in your kitchen with some table salt and a glass of water. For a long time, the time crystal concept existed only on paper as a mathematical oddity. It’s only now that time crystals have been realized in a lab in (quantum) physical form.

Time crystals are an insanely complicated subject and not particularly relevant to 99 percent of the population (at least for now), which is probably why you haven’t heard much about them, despite the magnitude of this scientific breakthrough. Indeed, after spending a few hours discussing the matter with a handful of physicists who are on the front line of time-crystallography, I was still only able to grasp the subject at a relatively rudimentary level. Yet thanks to these physicists’ near infinite patience and input, I was able to distill the essence of a time crystal into the simplest, most accurate explanation I could muster, and it’s still pretty complicated.


In 2012, the Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek predicted that the periodicity of crystals could be extended into the fourth dimension- time. Image: A Virtual Installation called ‘Watchers’ by artist Tom Estes

Why spend all this time trying to understand time crystals? Well, despite being pretty esoteric, this breakthrough is a big deal—after all, it’s not every day that you come up with a practical recipe for an entirely new phase of matter, albeit one that is quite different from solids, liquids, and gases. Time crystals might one day have technological implications, too. For example, time crystals may form the basis for a nearly perfect memory unit for powerful quantum computers. Still, one of the most exciting things about time crystals is that because they’re so new and exotic, even physicists can’t get a grasp of their full potential yet.

First let’s ignore that extra dimension—time—and consider your run-of-the-mill 3D crystal. A crystal is basically just a number of atoms arranged in a periodic, or repeating, pattern in space. Before a liquid crystallizes, the space it occupies is homogeneous. In other words, if water, say, is in a full cup, you could sample the bottom, the top, or anywhere in the middle, and it would be the same, which is another way of saying that space exhibits symmetry. Yet when the water crystallizes, the atoms form rigid, set arrangements. The space occupied by the crystal has become periodic. The crystal has broken spatial symmetry because it exhibits repeating patterns in some directions—anyone who’s grown salt water into sodium chloride crystals has seen them push up— rather than being the same in all directions.

Just like physics allows for the spontaneous formation of crystals, whose periodicity breaks the symmetry of space, so too should it allow for the spontaneous formation of time crystals, whose periodicity break the symmetry of time. According to Wilczek, this would show itself in the periodic behavior of various thermodynamic processes, such as a rotating ring of ions in their lowest energy state. This would act like a sort of naturally occurring pendulum that could be used to measure time, or as Wilczek told the MIT Technology Review in 2012, “the spontaneous formation of a time crystal represents the spontaneous emergence of a clock.”

Wilczek’s idea was visionary in its originality and elegant in its simplicity, but ultimately he got the details wrong. One of the most glaring problems was that his time crystal approached something that looked suspiciously like perpetual motion—after all, where did the system in its lowest possible energy state (meaning energy cannot be extracted from it) get the energy to produce the periodic motion in the first place?

On an even more fundamental level, it wasn’t entirely clear just how physicists could go about turning this mathematical oddity into an experiment that could be tested in a lab.

In 2012, the Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek predicted that the periodicity of crystals could be extended into the fourth dimension: time. Wilczek imagined a system in its lowest possible energy state, which would effectively render it frozen in space like a normal crystal.

But if the atoms in that system were to move from their original position in some way, he argued, it would break time-translation symmetry, which is essentially the idea that each instant in time is the same as any other instant in time. For example, if you were flipping a coin, the chances of it landing on heads or tails is 50/50—flipping the coin in 10 seconds or 10 nanoseconds doesn’t change the probability of it landing on heads or tails.

So just like how in the previous example the water was the same throughout the space it occupied (spatial symmetry), objects exist through time in a similar way, which means that just like the atoms in a spatial crystal occur at regular intervals in space, the movement of the Wilczek’s 4D crystal occurs at regular intervals in time (aka periods).

To take up the coin example again, when the time crystal breaks time-translation symmetry that means that it is making a particular period in time special, which would be like having a 50/50 chance with the coin now, but knowing that if you waited a certain interval of time, say 10 seconds, those odds would change to 75/25.

Just like physics allows for the spontaneous formation of crystals, whose periodicity breaks the symmetry of space, so too should it allow for the spontaneous formation of time crystals, whose periodicity break the symmetry of time. According to Wilczek, this would show itself in the periodic behavior of various thermodynamic processes, such as a rotating ring of ions in their lowest energy state. This would act like a sort of naturally occurring pendulum that could be used to measure time, or as Wilczek told the MIT Technology Review in 2012, “the spontaneous formation of a time crystal represents the spontaneous emergence of a clock.”

It wasn’t until 2016 that a group of physicists working at Station Q, a Microsoft research facility at UC Santa Barbara, figured out a way to correct the theoretical problems with Wilczek’s time crystals and provided the stepping stone to actually make them. The group, led by physicist Chetan Nayak, built on prior research from Princeton University, which found that time crystals can spontaneously break a fundamental symmetry called time-translation symmetry to exhibit periodicity over time.

According to Nayak and co’s research, the spontaneous break with time-translation symmetry that defines a time crystal should occur in a type of quantum system known as a Floquet many body localized driven system. This is basically just a fancy way of describing a system that is intrinsically out of thermal equilibrium. In other words, these systems never heat up, and cannot be characterized by any temperature, since the very idea of temperature supposes equilibrium.

A rough approximation of this idea might be to imagine a pot that has a burning match on one side and an ice cube on the other. If someone asked you what the temperature of the pot was, you’d be hard pressed to give an answer. The side with the match is hot and the side with the ice cube is cold—in other words, the system is out of equilibrium. Once the match went out and the ice cube melted, however, the system would be in equilibrium and you could determine a temperature for the pot.

As the Station Q physicists discovered, these non-equilibrium Floquet systems are able to host new states of matter that wouldn’t be possible in equilibrium systems, like the glass of water that turns to ice crystals. Whereas, say, equilibrium systems like liquids and gasses can spontaneously break natural spatial symmetries, by considering a non-equilibrium system, the Microsoft and UCSB researchers were able to predict spontaneously broken time-translation symmetry, aka a time crystal.

Put simply, Wilczek’s original idea would’ve required the continuous time-translation symmetry to break down in order to produce a time crystal. In Nayak and co’s model, the system breaks the discrete time-translation symmetry of a periodically driven system.

Although they didn’t provide a fine-grained plan for creating an experimental time crystal, Nayak and co’s theory revealed something incredibly interesting about their nature. When a time crystal is driven, or pushed, at a certain period or frequency, it doesn’t respond at the same frequency that it was driven—in other words, if a laser is pulsed (the driving mechanism) at a chain of ions (the medium of the time crystal) every ten seconds, those ions will exhibit a period not of ten seconds, but twenty, thirty or some other multiple of the original period.

To help explain why this was so remarkable, consider this analogy.

Imagine three people playing jump rope: Bob and Rob hold the end of the rope and Alice jumps in the middle. Every three seconds, Bob and Rob’s arms make one full rotation, the rope goes around once and their arms return to their original position, which establishes the time-translation symmetry where the period is three seconds.

 Now, to make a time crystal in this analogy, you have to break this time-translation symmetry by having the system respond at a different frequency. What that would mean is that Bob and Rob’s arms make multiple full rotations, but the rope only makes one full rotation. Put differently, Bob and Rob’s arms might make four full rotations, but Alice only has to jump over the rope once—which is pretty damn weird.The question, then, was how to realize this mathematical oddity in a physical experiment. Enter Norman Yao and his team at UC Berkeley.

Whereas Nayak’s group was responsible for clearing up the theoretical problems with Wilczek’s idea, Yao and his colleagues provided a nuts and bolts guide to actually creating a time crystal in a laboratory.

Wilczek’s idea was visionary in its originality and elegant in its simplicity, but ultimately he got the details wrong. One of the most glaring problems was that his time crystal approached something that looked suspiciously like perpetual motion—after all, where did the system in its lowest possible energy state (meaning energy cannot be extracted from it) get the energy to produce the periodic motion in the first place?

On an even more fundamental level, it wasn’t entirely clear just how physicists could go about turning this mathematical oddity into an experiment that could be tested in a lab.


MIT physicist Frank Wilczek says: “First you need an ion trap, a device which holds charged particles in place using an electric field. Next, you apply a weak static magnetic field, which causes the ions to rotate. Quantum mechanics means that the rotational energy of the ions must be greater than zero, even when the ring is cooled to its lowest energy state.” Normally, this behavior would violate thermodynamic laws but superconductors allow electrons to rotate continuously.”

As the Universe accelerates, it cools, eventually dissipating all its energy until everything is cold, dark, and as far as life is concerned, dead. But crystals, such as table salt, could be translated into the fourth dimension of time.Wilczek theorizes that a working time crystal could be made into a computer, with different rotational states standing in for the 0s and 1s of a conventional computer.

“To make it interesting you want to have different kinds of ions, maybe several rings that affect each other,” he says.

“You can start to think about machines that run on this principle.”

Crucially, they would also have to be in their lowest possible energy state as they do so, meaning that they would naturally continue to rotate even after the universe has succumbed to entropy and cooled to a uniform temperature – a state known as heat-death.

While such behavior would normally violate the laws of thermodynamics, nonstop rotation is allowed in the case of electrons in a superconductor, which flow without resistance. Wilczek had originally suggested that a superconductive ring could serve as a time crystal if electrons could be made to flow separately rather than in a continuous stream, ensuring a repeating pattern, but he couldn’t figure out how to do so in practice.

Now Tongcang Li at the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, have an alternative suggestion that may be possible to construct.First you need an ion trap, a device which holds charged particles in place using an electric field.This causes the ions to form a ring-shaped crystal, as ions trapped at extremely low temperatures repel each.Next, you apply a weak static magnetic field, which causes the ions to rotate.

Quantum mechanics means that the rotational energy of the ions must be greater than zero, even when the ring is cooled to its lowest energy state. In this state, the electric and magnetic fields are no longer needed to maintain the shape of the crystal and the spin of its constituent ions. The result is a time crystal – or indeed a space-time crystal, because the ion ring repeats in both space and time.

“I’m very pleased with it,” New Scientists quoted Wilczek as saying.

“They’ve really come up with something that looks like a realizable experimental design,” he added.


Following the publication of the preprint of Yao’s paper last year, two teams at the University of Maryland and Harvard managed to experimentally realize a time crystal for the first time. The teams used entirely different setups, but both followed Yao’s recipe.

The Maryland team worked with Yao to create a chain of 10 ytterbium ions whose electron spins were entangled, much like the qubit systems being tested for some quantum computers. To keep the ions out of equilibrium, the researchers pulsed them with two lasers, one which was used to create a magnetic field and the other which was used to flip the spins of the electrons. Because the electrons were entangled, the spin flipping of one caused the spin flipping of another and so on, creating a repetitive pattern that broke the time translation symmetry needed for a time crystal (in this case, the period of the ion flipping was twice the period of the laser pulse).


Based on information provided by New Scientist


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