Short Life Housing: POP UP FUCK OFF!


“Post electro-rock and driving electronica inside the head of a giant baby…” that is ‘New Opera Hero’ confirmed for the delightfully named art show- Pop Up Fuck Off. The show apparently runs for one day only on March 28th, and then, flips off.

A whole load of London based artists brought together by Samuel Brzeski and India Roper-Evan are gathering to end the life of Broadway Studio in style.

Broadway Studios is dying, and in it’s wake will be piles upon piles of luxury flats. We are inviting you to Pop up before we all Fuck off. Art, music and performance throughout the afternoon and evening”

A history of the topography of artistic life in London over the last 500 years reveals a not unexpected dynamic – artists appear as nomads, moving around London districts in search of money, respectability, work or just fresh air. This movement reflects not only historical changes in both the social status of the artist from craftsman to bohemian to media celebrity, and artists’ professional relationships with patrons or dealers at the same time, but also changes in the character of those areas artists choose to settle in. In the 19th century artists could make an area fashionable just by their presence, as in the cases of Chelsea and Hampstead – artistic regeneration is not such a new concept after all.

The more astute property developers have long had an adage: “Follow the art”. It is a truth widely acknowledged that where artists gather, so developers will follow, and the renaissance of certain inner-city neighbourhoods – particularly of SoHo in New York or Hoxton in London – has been pioneered by the artistic avant-garde. Across the country – and especially in superheated London, where stratospheric land values beget accordingly bloated developments – authorities are allowing planning policies to be continually flouted, affordable housing quotas to be waived, height limits breached, the interests of residents endlessly trampled.


Quantum State by Tom Estes for POP UP FUCK OFF! The work suggests a portal like those found in science fiction and fantasy. Portals are often used in science fiction to move protagonists into new territory.  It usually consists of two or more gateways, with an object entering one gateway leaving via the other instantaneously.

In London’s property world the connection with art and artists is part of a process known as “cultural place-making”, engineered by developers over the past decade or so; wooing artistic partners to form more permanent unions, redolent of an earlier era of arts patronage. With last year’s World Cities Culture Report, commissioned by the Mayor of London, identifying culture as the defining essence of a city, it would seem to be in step with contemporary concerns.

However, spaces are becoming ever meaner and more divided, as public assets are relentlessly sold off, entire council estates flattened to make room for silos of luxury safe-deposit boxes in the sky.  Homes and communities are replaced with investment units, to be sold overseas and never inhabited, substituting community for vacancy. The more we build, the more our cities are emptied, producing dead swathes of zombie town where the lights might never even be switched on.

The system has spawned a whole industry of S106 avoidance, with consultancies set up specifically to help developers get out of paying for affordable housing at all scales of development. Section 106 Management, set up by solicitor-turned-developer Robin Furby, is one such company that offers a service to small-scale developers, promising “to establish the profitability of your project and thereby reveal unviable Section 106 obligations”. Its website displays a list of case studies proudly showing how much they have helped developers dodge, and boasting of planning permissions achieved “without any contribution towards affordable housing” at all, saving “tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds”.

So what exactly does it mean when a property developer pleads poverty? “If the profit margin for your scheme is pushed to below 17.5% by Section 106 payments, you should talk to us,” says the website. Other consultants promise to safeguard 20% profit margins and upwards, before any Section 106 contributions are even considered. If a scheme is declared “unviable”, it simply means “we’re not getting our 20% profit so why should we bother”.

“Council chief executives will allow schemes to be pumped up as much as they can go before they get political push-back from councillors,” says one planning officer from a London borough that has suffered from a recent a spate of towers. “And the worst schemes happen when there is no political resistance at all.”

It is a system that is all too open to political pressure, given that any officer who advises against a new development can be conveniently framed as “anti-growth”, heartlessly preventing a promised tidal wave of new public amenities from flooding into the borough. Based on negotiation and discretion, the result is entirely down to the individual planning officer’s ability to squeeze out as good a deal as they can get, a battle that all too often ends in the developer’s favour.

Bullied and undermined, planning authorities have been left castrated and toothless, stripped of the skills and power they need to regulate, and sapped of the spatial imagination to actually plan places. As one house-builder puts it simply, “The system is ripe for sharp developers to drive a bulldozer right through.” And they will continue to do so with supercharged glee, squeezing the life out of our cities and reaping rewards from the ruins, until there is something in the way to stop them.

However the recent discovery by Inside Housing that most of the 86 apartments in the ludicrously expensive One Hyde Park development have no one living in them – “a dormitory village in a built-up area,” as Stuart from Leyton tweeted – coincides nicely with the publication of a discussion paper from the Smith Institute making the case for a property speculation tax.

The use of ‘short life housing’, though useful in plugging a gap, means that as in previous centuries, artists have to keep on the move. Where Acme and Space sought to work with local government, the other alternative was the formulation of squats.Now outlawed, squats were less secure and stable than the charitable organisation of artist spaces such as Acme or Space. Squats also put artists onto a collision course with local councils who had different priorities for the regeneration or long-term viability of its housing stock. However, regardless of the elimination of squatting as an option, the the main issue persists. This is put into high relief by the success of the marketing of Shoreditch and other neighborhoods that were formerly the haunt of artists in London. While the developers cash in on artists ‘cool’ the benefits for the artists working with developers are as short-lived as the building stock available to them.

 PopupFuckOffPOP UP FUCK OFF! Artists include: Elod Beregszaszi, Richard Leppard, Matthew Rose, India Roper-Evans  Flora Deborah, Sophia Simensky Mita Solanky, Samuel Brzeski, Cecily Bates, Rodrigo Souto Eden Lazaness, Helena Mae Brzeski, Miriam Gould, Mary Jones, Amelia Prett, Thomas Wells, Millie Easton, Tom Estes, Cheryl Simmons, Sarah Peace, Sarah Miah, Be Inma Berrocal, Carmen Viñuela, Ele de Luis, Simone Strifele, Sean Worrall, Kathryn Madge, Soundboxed Collective, Daniel P Cunningham, Jamie Misselbrook, Elaine Johnson, Lauren Cooper, Hayley Don Hill, Xiaoqiao Li, Minami Wrigley, Bob Brown, Luke Sebastian Wilde, Robert Marney Arts, Rob Jones, Phillip Hawkey, Nalini Thapen, Sisters From Another Mister, Milda Lembertaite, Emma Barford, Graham Martin, Andrew Stys, Timothy Holt, Aerial Sparks, Julia Maddison, Glenn Fitzy Fitzpatrick, Alejandro Tamagno, Sedicente Feccia, Minesweeper Collective, Desdemona Varon, Gzillion Artist, Vanya Balogh, Susana Sanroman, Silvia Cruz Del Alamo, Vanja Karas, Yumi Yoshinaga,  Sinéid Codd, Russell Hill, Caroline Derveaux-Berté

Broadway Studios 28 Tooting High Street, London SW17 ORG

“The exhibition opens at 3pm and will run quite late with musical performances and other art works into the evening“.


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Live Long And Prosper: Vulcan Greeting Was Invented By Leonard Nimoy Himself And Has Very Personal Origins.


Since Leonard Nimoy passed away yesterday, tributes have been pouring in from around the web.  In Star Trek, the charactger Captain Kirk was impressed that T’Pau was the one ‘officiating’ at Spock’s wedding. Actress Celia Lovsky played T’Pau with grace, gravitas and a cool foreign accent

 The world lost Leonard Nimoy on Friday at the age of 83. “Live long and prosper”‘ is one of the most famous phrases in the history of entertainment, and most certainly the collection of words that comes to mind when you think of science fiction’s beloved Mr. Spock. The character Spock was, of course, half Vulcan. And along with that famous phrase came a famous Vulcan salute. The Vulcan salute first appeared in “Star Trek” in 1967 with the episode “Amok Time.” But where did it come from? It turns out it came from Nimoy himself and has very personal origins. He says in his autobiography that it is a priestly blessing that forms the Hebrew letter Shin. Shin stands for the word Shaddai, a name for God. Because of this, a kohen (priest) forms the letter Shin with his hands as he recites the Priestly Blessing.Shin also stands for the word Shaddai, a name for God. Because of this, a kohen (priest) forms the letter Shin with his hands as he recites the Priestly Blessing. In the mid 1960s, actor Leonard Nimoy used a single-handed version of this gesture to create the Vulcan hand salute for his character, Mr. Spock, on Star Trek.


In “Amok Time,” Spock is made to believe that he has killed Captain James Kirk. So when T’Pau responds “Live long and prosper, Spock,” he replies: “I shall do neither. I have killed my captain and my friend.” 

The letter Shin is often inscribed on the case containing a mezuzah, a scroll of parchment with Biblical text written on it. The text contained in the mezuzah is the Shema Yisrael prayer, which calls the Israelites to love their God with all their heart, soul and strength. The mezuzah is situated upon all the doorframes in a home or establishment. Sometimes the whole word Shaddai will be written. The Shema Yisrael prayer also commands the Israelites to write God’s commandments on their hearts (Deut. 6:6); the shape of the letter Shin mimics the structure of the human heart: the lower, larger left ventricle (which supplies the full body) and the smaller right ventricle (which supplies the lungs) are positioned like the lines of the letter Shin. A religious significance has been applied to the fact that there are three valleys which comprise the city of Jerusalem’s geography: the Valley of Ben Hinnom, Tyropoeon Valley, and Kidron Valley, and that these valleys converge to also form the shape of the letter shin, and that the Temple in Jerusalem is located where the dagesh (horizontal line) is. This is seen as a fulfillment of passages such as Deuteronomy 16:2 that instructs Jews to celebrate the Pasach at “the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name” (NIV).

Though he had a wide-ranging career that included acting on stage and screen, directing, and writing, Nimoy was (and will be) forever associated with Spock. 

In the Sefer Yetzirah the letter Shin is King over Fire, Formed Heaven in the Universe, Hot in the Year, and the Head in the Soul. The letter shin appears engraved on both sides of the head- tefilin. On the right side, the shin possesses three heads, while on the left side it possesses four heads. In Kabbalah we are taught that the three-headed shin is the shin of this world while the four- headed shin is the shin of the World to Come. The secret of the shin is “the flame [Divine Revelation] bound to the coal [Divine Essence].” A simmering coal actually possesses an invisible flame within it, which emerges and ascends from the surface of the coal when the coal is blown upon. The three levels: coal, inner flame, and outer flame, correspond to the secret of chash-mal-mal, as will be explained in the next letter, the tav.


Posted without comment from NASA astronaut Terry Virts aboard the ISS, this tribute to Nimoy is probably the most touching. It’s also worth pointing out that Leonard Nimoy was a Boston native, and that thi s photo was deliberately taken over his hometown and state. But of course that is only logical.

One of the meanings of the word shin in Hebrew is shinui, “change.” The coal symbolizes changeless essence, the secret of the verse: “I am God, I have not changed,” meaning that relative to God’s Essence absolutely no change has occurred from before Creation to after Creation. The inner flame is the paradoxical latent presence of the power of change within the changeless. The outer flame of the shin is continuously in a state of motion and change. As in the above-quoted verse, the changeless Essence is the secret of the Name Havayah. The power of change, as latently present within God’s Essence before Creation and thereafter revealed in the infinite intricacy and beauty of an ever-dancing flame, is the secret of the explicit Name of Creation, Elokim, the only Name of God which appears in the plural. The number of the letter shin, 300, unites these two Divine Names as the “flame bound to the coal.” In at’bash, the Name Havayah transforms to the letters mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik, which total 300. The five letters of Elokim (alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem) when written in full, also equal 300. The three heads of the shin of this world correspond to the three levels of the changeless, potential, and actual change as discussed above. In this world, the changeless is symbolized only by a black, dark coal, not as the revealed light of the flame. Nonetheless the endurance of the flame depends upon the changeless essence of the coal. In the World to Come, the changeless essence will reveal itself within the flame. This revelation of the future is the secret of the fourth head of the shin. In the flame of a candle one sees three levels of light: the “dark light” around the wick of the candle, the white flame encompassing it, and an amorphous aura around the white flame itself. Each of these three levels of revealed light manifests a dimension contained within the invisible flame present in the coal. In general the flame symbolizes love, as is said: “as mighty as death is love…the flame of God.” The dark light corresponds to the love of Israel, souls enclothed within physical bodies. The white light corresponds to the love of Torah. The aura corresponds to the love of God. These are the three essential manifestations of love as taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov. The fourth head of the shin of the future – the revelation of the essence of the coal itself – corresponds to the love of the Land of Israel and, as our Sages teach: “the Land of Israel will in the future spread to incorporate all the lands of the earth.


The salute, which Nimoy devised himself, was taken from a Jewish prayer. The split-finger gesture represents the Hebrew letter shin.

The Proto-Sinaitic glyph, according to William Albright, was based on a “Tooth” and with the phonemic value š “corresponds etymologically (in part, at least) to original Semitic (th), which was pronounced s in South Canaanite”The Phoenician šin letter expressed the continuants of two Proto-Semitic phonemes, and may   have been based on a pictogram of a tooth (in modern Hebrew shen). The Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, records that it originally represented a composite bow. The history of the letters expressing sibilants in the various Semitic alphabets is a bit complicated, due to different mergers between Proto-Semitic phonemes. As usually reconstructed, there are five Proto-Semitic phonemes that evolved into various voiceless sibilants in daughter languages. Shin (also spelled Šin (šīn) or Sheen) literally means “teeth”, “press”, and “sharp”; It is the twenty-first letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic/Hebrew ש, and Arabic ش‎ (in abjadi order, 13th in modern order). Its sound value is a voiceless sibilant, [ʃ] or [s]. The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Sigma (Σ) (which in turn gave Latin S and Cyrillic С), and the letter Sha in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts ( Ш).The South Arabian and Ethiopian letter Śawt is also cognate.

In gematria, Shin represents the number 300. Shin, as a prefix, bears the same meaning as the relative pronouns “that”, “which” and “who” in English. In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of “when”. This is a contraction of כּאשר, ka’asher (as, when). Shin is also one of the seven letters which receive special crowns (called tagin) when written in a Sefer Torah. See Gimmel,Ayin, Teth, Nun, Zayin, and Tzadi. According to Judges 12:6, the tribe of Ephraim could not differentiate between Shin and Samekh; when the Gileadites were at war with the Ephraimites, they would ask suspected Ephraimites to say the word shibolet; an Ephraimite would saysibolet and thus be exposed. From this episode we get the English word Shibboleth.  You can see the whole interview segment here:

Leonard Nimoy explains the Jewish story behind the hand-gesture he made famous through his role as Spock on in the Star Trek science fiction series.

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Simulated Landscape: Solar Reserve at the Lincoln Center, NYC


On a large 28-foot by 24-foot frameless LED wall, located near the Lincoln Center in New York, artist John Gerrard showed Solar Reserve, which is consider to be “a realistic video game type of art” that shows computer-generated images of a Nevada solar thermal power plant and its surrounding desert landscape.

Dublin-born and based artist John Gerrard has installed a solar power plant at Josie Robertson Plaza in Lincoln Center in New York City. Well, not exactly a solar plant. Gerrard works with realtime 3D as a medium.  Some claim the work Solar Reserve bears resemblance a realistic videogame, showing computer-generated images of a solar thermal power plant’s tower, surrounded by mirrors, in central Nevada. But other say the work has more in common with film or video-based art. Chelsea Wald writes in New Scientist that ‘there is nothing very game-like or even movie-like about his work, which might be better compared to scientific simulations. The dizzying simulated vision includes a tower surrounded by 10,000 mirrors which adjust their positions, in real time, according to the location of the sun. “From above, the plant’s 10,000 mirrors form a perfect disc, mimicking the layout of a sunflower,” said the artist to The Wall Street Journal.

Every hour, the installation moves back and forth from a ground view to an overhead one. “New York is this extraordinarily energetic city, and what I love about this site is that it’s these three exquisite, monochrome buildings,” Mr. Gerrard, 40 years old, told  the Wall Street Journal. “It’s quite intimidating to intervene at Lincoln Center.” Gerrard regards realtime 3D as a medium that enables him to work with time in new ways. Working with virtual worlds which include time as one of their dimensions allows time to become a sculptural component. He regards it as ‘a post-cinematic medium in which one can manipulate and interact with time in new ways.

“From above, the plant’s 10,000 mirrors form a perfect disc, mimicking the layout of a sunflower,” Mr. Gerrard said. “And from the front it looks like a lighthouse, with this illuminated tower.”

Every hour, “Solar Reserve” will gradually move back and forth from a ground view to an overhead one, recreating the movements of the mirrors as they pivot to follow the sun as well as the orbits of the sun and moon.


 “Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) 2014 ,the Ireland-based artist’s, 28-by-24-foot LED wall, situated between David Koch Theater and Avery Fisher Hall and framed by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts building.

Mr. Gerrard claims that it usually takes over 10,000 photographs to construct this simulated landscape. Such virtual technology is standard in the videogames industry as well as in the military for simulation exercises, yet it rarely crosses over into the arts.

“When people hear that this is created within a gaming engine, there is the sense that there is an automation, that we just press a button,” Mr. Gerrard said. “But this is as handmade as painting or sculpture. We have to build the entire terrain: the mountains and desert, the rocks, plants, pebbles.”

The work is “a sophisticated use of visual technology that urges you to engage with it over some period of time,” said Jed Bernstein, Lincoln Center’s president. “The presence of the object will be different at different times of the day.”

Simon Preston, whose Lower East Side gallery has represented Mr. Gerrard since 2008, called “Solar Reserve” “by far John’s most ambitious piece in terms of scale, content and the technologies used.”

Gerrard’s work concerns itself with the nature of contemporary power in the broadest sense, epitomising the structures of power and the networks of energy that characterized the massive expansion and intensification of human endeavour that took place during the twentieth century. Many works have featured geographically isolated industrial facilities that are a hidden part of the global production network that makes the luxuries of contemporary life possible. As Emily Hall wrote in ArtForum:

“[Gerrard’s] fine balance of concept, content, and material suggest a theme and variations on the theme of the virtual. The computer-generated landscapes bring to mind, of course, virtual worlds, video games, special effects – that is, ways of producing unrealities. Here the format manifests something quite real, albeit at the periphery of most of our worlds – the discomfort of this admission is part of the work’s impact – since for many of us, the arrival of food in our markets and the availability of oil are things we take on faith, if we think about them at all. Their existence remains provisional – more or less virtual – whether in life, on a gallery wall, or on a computer chip.”

Although liable to be mistaken for time-based media (video or film) works, Gerrard’s works are constructed as simulations or virtual worlds, using 3D Real-time computer graphics – a technology originally developed for military use, and now used extensively in the videogame industry. This choice of medium is closely tied to both the content, the form, and methodology of Gerrard’s work: The digital computer and its generalized capacity to model any system whatsoever is the crucial enabler, not only of the hyper-realistic rendering of his subjects, but also of the globally co-ordinated networks of production and distribution that the works explore. Gerrard’s work, although making use of advanced digital technology, has been noted for its refusal to be categorised as ‘new media art’.

Shane Brighton has suggested that the doubling of ‘the horizon of the image’s visual composition and the time-horizon of its unfolding duration’ serve to bring into focus human finitude and the limits of meaning, thus relating the work to a tragic mode. Gerrard himself says that ‘the medium moves beyond the realm of the consumable in a sense, and involves much more inhuman timespans, which cannot be watched like a film. It connects and intersects with other types of time, other types of endurance and other types of simultaneity’. However, the works also constitute Gerrard’s continuing reflection upon his own time: ‘these melancholic realms are in some way a road movie of the Twentieth Century, a revisiting of the extraordinary comforts and freedoms that I’ve experienced.

Gerrard’s work has been associated with the philosophical movement of Speculative Realism. Lufkin (Near Hugo, Colorado)was featured in Urbanomic’s 2010 intervention The Real Thing at Tate Britain, and his History of Nitrogen, co-authored with chemist Michael A. Morris, appeared in the seventh volume of Urbanomic’s journal Collapse (journal). British philosopher and editor of Collapse Robin Mackay titled his 2010 essay on Gerrard Speculative Liter(e)alism (in reference to the term ‘literalist’, which was used to describe what later became known as ‘minimalist’ works), and in the same volume Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani notes that the reconstructed surfaces of the artist’s virtual structures invariably refer to inhuman processes at the intersection of capitalist globalisation and earth history: ‘The agro industrial destiny of nitrogen (“Grow Finish Unit”), the terrestrial history of hydrocarbons (“Animated Scene [Oil Field]”), the politico-economic chronicle of prefabricated architecture and the widespread history of limestone extraction and the geochemical cycle of calcium (“Cuban School”) exemplify deep geo-cosmic histories of contingency silently plotting behind everyday terrestrial façades.’

The eerie hyperrealism that characterises the medium, and Gerrard’s choice of industrial subjects, has led some to compare his work with Charles Sheeler‘s ‘precisionism‘.[Gerrard’s interest in minimalism and postminimalism (in 1999 he wrote a postgraduate paper on sameness and doubling in the work of Roni Horn and Félix González-Torres) is evident in the physical presence of his installed objects, which are presented either as large-scale projections that often push the boundaries of existing technology, or as compact ‘artboxes’, designed in collaboration with Inseq, an industrial design firm in Vienna. Like Horn and Gonzalez Torres, Gerrard’s work has been described as somewhat undermining the masculine confidence and aggression of minimalism, as it makes explicit the relationship between the ‘specific objects’ of minimalism and processes of industrialisation and virtualisation in ‘the real world’. References to the photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher can also be read in Gerrard’s aloof treatment of industrial structures.

The production of Gerrard’s works is a highly labor-intensive, collaborative affair, with each work typically taking between six months and a year to complete. The artist works with a small production team in his Vienna studio who carry out the programming and modelling, including long term collaborator Werner Poetzelberger, alongside programmer Helmut Bressler and others. He also collaborates with industrial designers Inseq in Vienna to create the physical form of his works. He has said that the ‘system of working … is very similar to making films, in that a group of specialists is assembled under a director to make something … making these works is beyond the capabilities of any one person.’

Working initially from research documents, texts or striking images in the popular press, Gerrard uses the internet as a research tool, in what he calls ‘image wandering’. This subsequently leads to exploratory journeys: ‘Really, my technique is to be present on the landscape, and to spend some time travelling across it, being aware of it.’

Often the structures central to Gerrard’s works are discovered by chance during these trips. Once a structure is selected for a ‘portrait’, the artist takes a comprehensive set of several thousand photographs of the surface of the structure: ‘I function like a scanner, moving over the landscape, capturing the scene.’ These photographs are used in the studio as textures for a reconstructed, hand-built virtual 3d model of the structure, which in turn is then placed within a ‘virtual world’ that incorporates the passing of time and other environmental elements.

Recent works such as “Oil Stick Work”, “Cuban Schools” and “Infinite Freedom Exercise” have increasingly featured simulated human figures, produced using Motion Capture, and have experimented with the use of algorithmic components to produce action within the work that is unforeseeable to the artist himself.

The production space where Gerrard and his team work (Loquaiplatz 3 in Vienna) was designed by the artist in collaboration with A2 Architects in 2010. It also doubles as a kitchen and informal gallery, and is the site of Gerrards long-term collaboration with Austrian collective AO&, who take up seasonal food and discourse based residencies in the space several times annually. The space includes furniture designed by the artist and often installations of his works.

An earlier series of works by Gerrard feature virtual reconstructions of historical events or existing structures on the contemporary landscape. The artist still speaks of them as ‘portraits'; they draw on multiple media – photography, film, sculpture, land art – to create a new form. In 2006, Gerrard discovered several photographic images, from 1935, of a vast dust storm travelling across Texas, in what were becoming the agri-industrial heartlands of the US. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the exploitation of petroleum enabled an agricultural intervention on an hitherto unimaginable scale, resulting in a hundred million acres of this area being ploughed within a twenty-year period, thus destroying an ancient and stable grass ecosystem. The catastrophic result was a desertification of the landscape, and the creation of what came to be known as the Dust Bowl. The photograph became the basis for Dust Storm (Dalhart, Texas) [2007], a work that consists of a virtual portrait of the landscape as it stands today, upon which is placed a realtime animated 3D model of the historic storm, like a slowly unfolding sculpture. This work was first shown in Marian Goodman Gallery, NY in a project titled Equal, that is, to the Real Itself, curated by Linda Norden, in mid-2007.

This work led Gerrard to investigate further the backstory of the traumatised ‘dead zone’ of the Dust Bowl and its relevance for contemporary life. At the centre of this plot is the discovery of the function of nitrogen in synthesizing organic compounds, and the development of the Haber-Bosch Nitrogen-fixing process, exploited for the production of explosives, but which also enabled large-scale production of the nitrogen-based fertilizer upon which the world’s ever-growing population is now largely dependent. Gerrard explored this history in a text written for the catalogue of his Venice Biennale presentation of 2009, Animated Scene. The Venice install, curated by Jasper Sharp and Patrick Murphy, included Dust Storm (Dalhart, Texas) 2007, Grow Finish Unit (near Elkhart, Kansas) 2008, Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez/Richfield, Kansas) 2008. A related work, Sentry (Kit Carson, Colorado), 2009, was shown concurrently at the Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, as part of “Infinitum”, the final part of a trilogy of exhibitions mounted by Axel Vervoordt which began in 2007 withArtempo: When Time Becomes Art.

In subsequent years, Gerrard returned repeatedly to the midwest landscape, making a series of works all based on structures discovered within its vast expanse. The area across which the duststorm once passed is now home to new production units, whose enmeshing in automated networks of food production, reflected in their eerie ‘virtuality’ and geographical disengagement, is redoubled by the precise 3d modelling employed in the works. Gerrard shows how, with these new facilities, the sterile surface of this land has once again been returned to productivity, packed with remote-controlled batteries that power hungry cities.

Gerrard has stated that his visit to the Chinati Foundation at Marfa following the Goodman show, and in particular seeing Donald Judd‘s 100 Untitled Works in Milled Aluminium sensitised him to the recurrent forms of the pig production units he saw in the distance from the highway. Working with his partner Cesar Mejias Olmedo, he drove offroad to discover more about the structures, resulting in the first Grow Finish Unit work of 2008.

The Duststorm works are virtual recreations of duststorms from found photographs, placed upon reconstructions of the landscape as it stands today. Upon the Exhibition of the work at Art Chicago in 2008, famously tactiturn critic Alan Artner led his review of the Fair with the headline ‘A New Medium Emerges’, opining that ‘Not many times in life can anyone see an artist pioneer a significant new medium. But that is what we see in John Gerrard’s Dust Storm (Manter, Kansas)’. Artner continues:

Dust Storm unites a classic image from the Great Depression with a contemporary industrial landscape, setting them in a cosmological orbit that is completed over the full spectrum of a year. The exploitation of oil that goes back to the beginning of the 20th Century is presented as the catalyst of conditions that led to the ecological disaster of Dust Bowl. But nothing is didactic. The pity in the subject comes to viewers subliminally through a visual poem of complexity and power.”

Another critical response by Joseph Wolin, in Modern Painters states:

“The work’s panoramic view comes from photographs the artist shot on location, the image of the storm from 1930s archival photos of the Dust Bowl, which resulted from the confluence of cyclical drought and the reckless expansion of agricultural activity made possible by fossil fuel–powered farm equipment. But Gerrard devised the algorithm that defines the dark cloud’s roiling by looking at video of a dust storm in Anbar Province in Iraq, taken by an American soldier. In a strange reversal, Dust Storm makes our contemporary thirst for oil, and an attendant blindness to its effects on the world, animate a historic catastrophe in the panhandle of George W. Bush’s home state, a disaster that was likewise driven by oil, rapaciousness, and willful ignorance of the consequences.”

Gerrard’s project ‘Solar Reserve’ is an illusory desert landscape in the middle of the bustling urban center. “I want to cut a hole into this scene and put a world in,”Gerrard said. “An alternate universe.” The mastery of this medium that Gerrard and his production team have developed has enabled him to distance the work from any conspicuous emphasis on ‘new media’ credentials and their cultural associations. Chelsea Wald wrote in New Scientist that ‘there is nothing very game-like or even movie-like about his work, which might be better compared to scientific simulations. Gerrard sets the parameters and then simply lets the scene evolve … [the] team-oriented production model comes from the world of computer science, not art.’ While they use the same software that is employed for intensively interactive gaming environments, the works give the viewer no freedom of movement, and generally feature a slow path of movement that orbits a silent, isolated structure. In relation to this movement, Gerrard says that his understanding of this medium is ‘profoundly orbital. The works stage a world, in which certain set behaviors have been put in motion. One of them is what I call an orbital camera, a camera that moves, at walking pace, around the scene – the human presence: being there, the witness. And then of course you have the orbit of the year which is linked to the real and which forbids an easy, instant consumption of the scene, because it takes a full year to unfold in full. But then, crucially, this world, this reality, consists of one moment in time. Not an instantaneous moment, but the time during which I documented the scene’. So while viewers do not interact with the work in the same way they would with a video game, they are influenced by the environment the work proposes. This seems quite logical given the subject matter. However, the power to run New York City typically flows from the northern and western State of New York to the population centers in the southeastern part of the state. A list of power stations for New York include non-renewable sources such as coal, nuclear power station, gas-fired (or combined gas/coal) and Petroleum. Renewable sources include hydroelectric, wind farms and Biomass. There is no mention of solar power plants. Meanwhile the Nevada power plant depicted ‘Solar Reserve’  is in the Mojave desert- nearly 3000 miles away. Ivanpah, a joint project uniting NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and Bright Source Energy, can produce enough electricity to power just 140,000 west coast homes.  Gerrard’s work ‘Solar Reserve’ is billed as “a sophisticated use of visual technology that urges you to engage with it over some period of time,” due to the fact that the “The presence of the object will be different at different times of the day”. Most of the critical questions the work raises is if the use of the use of all these elaborate special effect in the middle of New York City is as relevant and necessary as the artist would like us to believe.  This dizzying simulated vision depicts a tower surrounded by 10,000 mirrors- which is itself a theatrical visual feast with a ‘feel good factor‘. The real-world, grandiose, $2.2 billion solar project is an engineering marvel.. that looks great and makes us feel great while obscuring the dirty industries that really power cities like New York. And I suppose that is the real pertinent point of the exercise. 

Solar Reserve by John Gerrard was at The Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza from the beginning of October till December 1st 2014.

Gerrard received a BFA from The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University.  He undertook postgraduate studies at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and Trinity College, Dublin, and in 2002 was awarded a Pépinières Residency at Ars Electronica, Linz,  In June 2009 he began a six month guest residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Following a nomination to the Junge Akadamie, Berlin by Dieter Appelt and Wulf Herzogenrath, During 2012 he is Legacy Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, working on a major new commission for Modern Art Oxford and the London 2012 Festival. Gerrard has participated in group shows including BEYOND at Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, Estonia (2011), 20/20, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Ireland (2011), EV+A, Limerick, Ireland, in collaboration with Peter Carroll. (2010), Infinitum at Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, (2009), Academia at L’Ecole de Beaux-Arts, Paris (2008), Equal, That Is, To the Real Itself, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Existencias at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (2007). Recent solo presentations of Gerrard’s work include Infinite Freedom Exercise, Manchester International Festival, Manchester, UK (2011), John Gerrard, Ivory Press, Madrid, Spain (2011), John Gerrard, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth, Australia (2011), Universal, Void, Derry, N. Ireland (2011), John Gerrard, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, UK (2010), Cuban School, Simon Preston Gallery, New York (2010), Sow Farm : What You See is Where You’re At, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland (2010), Oil Stick Work, Art on the Underground, Canary Wharf Station, London, UK (2009 / 10), Directions : John Gerrard, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, USA (2009), and John Gerrard, Animated Scene, 53rd International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Italy (2009).


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The Answer To Life May Be Hidden Away In A Car Park Seven Stories Underground


The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything may be hidden away deep in a car park seven stories underground.

Questions like why our world exists and what nothing is have occupied minds great and ordinary since the dawn of humanity and they continue to do so. What most people tend to forget about religion is that without it we would not have science. The first printed literature were the Books of Gods.

To understand what science is, just look around you. What do you see? Perhaps, your hand on the mouse, a computer screen, papers, ballpoint pens, the family cat, the sun shining through the window …. Science is, in one sense, our knowledge of all that — all the stuff that is in the universe: from the tiniest subatomic particles in a single atom of the metal in your computer’s circuits, to the nuclear reactions that formed the immense ball of gas that is our sun, to the complex chemical interactions and electrical fluctuations within your own body that allow you to read and understand these words. And yet for all our scientific progress, we have still only yielded  hypotheses rather than concrete answers.

Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. And of course in recent years science and technology have begun to catch up with science fiction. So many of the fantasies and illusions of the past are no longer a contradiction of reality, but instead an integral part of our everyday lives.


Let’s just say that reality ain’t what it used to be. Sub atomic particles may be pixels in a simulated reality. So images like the one above may only be a depiction of a numerical simulation rather than a real one. 

In his work EARTH (42), contemporary artist Tom Estes represents the entire world, everything we see around us, as a numerical simulation. Through his practice artist Tom Estes directly references the surreal wit of Sci-fi and horror and their related ideological fictions. Estes’ floor piece, EARTH (42), at an exhibition seven stories underground, displays The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything as a scrolling digital numerical text. The work was inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a comic science fiction series created by Douglas Adams that has become popular among fans of the genre(s) and members of the scientific community. Phrases from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are widely recognized and often used in reference to, but outside the context of, the source material. 

Estes’ work Earth (42) follows a long tradition of sacred art produced in an attempt to illustrate, supplement or portray in tangible form the principles of a literary international best-seller, such as, for example, The Bible. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be “42”. Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the Question was. When asked to produce The Ultimate Question, Deep Thought says that it cannot; however, it can help to design an even more powerful computer that can. This new computer is revealed as being the planet Earth- and that it will incorporate living beings into the “computational matrix” and will run for ten million years.

Dimension-hopping has never been so easy or so exhilarating.“The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” is an enjoyable sci-fi romp; a kind of Star Wars meets Monty Python. There is a strong twist of deadpan drollness that children of all ages get a charge from. It’s hard to dislike a book in which one of the heroes gets brain power from lemon juice. But here is the catch. As off-the-wall as all this sounds, a team of physicists at the University of Washington (UW) has since announced that there is a potential test to the Simulation Hypothesis. Ironically, it would be the first such observation for scientifically hypothesized evidence of intelligent design behind the cosmos. If we are living in such a computer program, there could be tell-tale evidence for the underlying lattice used in modeling the space-time continuum, say the researchers. This signature could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays. They would travel diagonally across the model universe and not interact equally in all directions, as they otherwise would be expected to do according to present cosmology.


“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

The extraordinary vision of the Simulation Hypothesis and it’s bizarre Twilight Zone twist, was first published by Hans Moravec in 1988, pushed the boundaries of imagination, science and digital-effects technology. In 2003, Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom published a paper that proposed the universe we live in might in fact really be a numerical computer simulation.  The mind-twisting Simulated Reality hypothesis suggests that reality could be simulated—for example by computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from “true” reality, and may in fact be such a simulation. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from “true” reality. The paper exemplifies the idea that a sufficiently cool outcome justifies all of the tortured narrative it takes to get there.

chinaOpen For example when ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ was released it was widely regarded as the worst film of all time, featuring a plot unrivalled in absurdity. The epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space was an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi “thriller” from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.  In the film residents of California’s San Fernando Valley are under attack by flying saucers from outer space. The aliens, led by Eros (Dudley Manlove) and his assistant, Tanna (Joanna Lee), intend to conquer the planet by resurrecting corpses in a Hollywood cemetery. What distinguishes Plan 9 from the other contenders for worst film of all time is the movie’s brazen sense of confidence. The idea was preposterous… but extremely entertaining. Likewise, other than some caveats, The Simulation Hypothesis lays the groundwork for some innovative and original science fiction. But let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct. An example of a popular application is found in telepresence videoconferencing.

The term telepresence was coined in a 1980 article by Minsky, who outlined his vision for an adapted version of the older concept of teleoperation that focused on giving a remote participant a feeling of actually being present at a different location. Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance of being present, or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location. Telepresence requires that the users’ senses be provided with such stimuli as to give the feeling of being in that other location. Additionally, users may be given the ability to affect the remote location. In this case, the user’s position, movements, actions, voice, etc. may be sensed, transmitted and duplicated in the remote location to bring about this effect. Therefore information may be traveling in both directions between the user and the remote location.

In a pioneering paper, the U.S. cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky attributed the development of the idea of telepresence to science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein: “My first vision of a remote-controlled economy came from Robert A. Heinlein’s prophetic 1948 [sic] novel, Waldo,” wrote Minsky. In his science fiction short story “Waldo” (1942), Heinlein first proposed a primitive telepresence master-slave manipulator system. The Brother Assassin, written by Fred Saberhagen in 1969, introduced the complete concept for a telepresence master-slave humanoid system. In the novel, the concept is described as follows: “And a moment later it seemed to all his senses that he had been transported from the master down into the body of the slave-unit standing beneath it on the floor. As the control of its movements passed over to him, the slave started gradually to lean to one side, and he moved its foot to maintain balance as naturally as he moved his own. Tilting back his head, he could look up through the slave’s eyes to see the master-unit, with himself inside, maintaining the same attitude on its complex suspension.”

The degree to which the virtual or artistic environment faithfully reproduces reality determines the degree of suspension of disbelief. The greater the suspension of disbelief, the greater the degree of presence achieved. One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.


 Earth (42) by contemporary artist Tom Estes. The work is thematically complex, preposterously absurd yet intelligently integrates popular culture with science, technology, religion, philosophy and ancient mysticism; the deadpan demeanor of  Zen-like drollness plays well here. 

 Before you dismiss this idea as completely loony, the reality of such a Sim Universe might take a quantum leap at solving a lot of eerie mysteries about the cosmos. To the adherents of Islam, continuous patterns are symbolic of their united faith and the way in which traditional Islamic cultures view the world. The order and unity of the material world, they believed, was a mere ghostly approximation of the spiritual world, which for many Muslims is the place where the only true reality exists. Discovered geometric forms, therefore, exemplify this perfect reality because God’s creation had been obscured by the sins of man. So the arabesques and geometric patterns of Islamic art are said to arise from the Islamic view of the world. To Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. To many in the Islamic world, they concretely symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of Allah and convey a spirituality without the figurative iconography of the art of other religions.

During the golden age of Islam, ancient texts on Greek and Hellenistic mathematics as well as Indian mathematics were translated into Arabic at the House of Wisdom. The works of ancient scholars such as Plato, Euclid, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta were widely read among the literate and further advanced in order to solve mathematical problems which arose due to the Islamic requirements of determining the Qibla and times of salat and Ramadan. Plato’s ideas about the existence of a separate reality that was perfect in form and function and crystalline in character, Euclidean geometry as expounded on by Al-Abbās ibn Said al-Jawharī (ca. 800-860) in his Commentary on Euclid’s Elements, the trigonometry of Aryabhata and Brahmagupta as elaborated on by the Persian mathematician Khwārizmī (ca. 780-850), and the development of spherical geometry by Abū al-Wafā’ al-Būzjānī (940–998) and spherical trigonometry by Al-Jayyani (989-1079)[6] for determining the Qibla and times of salat and Ramadan, all served as an impetus for geometric patterns in Islamic art.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr says in his book, Islamic Science,

ChineseEarthaudience“Altogether, in the domain of geometry, both plane and solid, Muslims followed the path laid out by the Greek mathematicians, solving many of the problems that were posed but remained unsolved by their predecessors. They also related geometry to algebra and sought geometric solutions for algebraic problems. Finally, they devoted special attention to the symbolic aspects of geometry and its role in art and architecture, keeping always in view the qualitative geometry that reflects the wisdom of the ‘Grand Architect of the Universe.’”

The outstanding Persian mathematician Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi was an early Director of the House of Wisdom in the 9th Century, and one of the greatest of early Muslim mathematicians. Perhaps Al-Khwarizmi’s most important contribution to mathematics was his strong advocacy of the Hindu numerical system (1 – 9 and 0), which he recognized as having the power and efficiency needed to revolutionize Islamic (and, later, Western) mathematics, and which was soon adopted by the entire Islamic world, and later by Europe as well.

Gematria is an Assyro-Babylonian system of numerology later adopted by Jews that assigns numerical value to a word or phrase in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person’s age, the calendar year, or the like. The best-known example of Gematria is the Hebrew word Chai (“alive”), which is composed of two letters that (using the assignments in the Mispar gadoltable shown below) add up to 18. Though gematria is most often used to calculate the values of individual words, psukim (Biblical verses), Talmudical aphorisms, sentences from the standard Jewish prayers, personal, angelic and Godly names, and other religiously significant material, Kabbalists use them often for arbitrary phrases and, occasionally, for various languages. Some identify two forms of gematria: the “revealed” form, which is prevalent in many hermeneutic methods found throughout Rabbinic literature, and the “mystical” form, a largely Kabbalistic practice.

FortytwoWith current advances in Science, observable consequences of the hypothesis that the observed universe as a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid can be explored, using the historical development of lattice gauge theory technology as a guide. The researchers assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences. The simulation scenario is first motivated by extrapolating current trends in computational resource requirements for lattice QCD into the future. With such results measured, physicists would have to rule out any and all other natural explanations for the anomaly before flirting with the idea of intelligent design. (To avoid confusion with the purely faith-based creationist ID, this would not prove the existence of a biblical God, because you’d have to ask the question “why does God need a lattice?”). If our universe is a simulation, then those entities controlling it could be running other simulations as well to create other universes parallel to our own. No doubt this would call for, ahem, massive parallel processing.

If all of this isn’t mind-blowing enough, Bostrom imagined “stacked” levels of reality, “we would have to suspect that the post-humans running our simulation are themselves simulated beings; and their creators, in turn, may also be simulated beings. Here may be room for a large number of levels of reality, and the number could be increasing over time.” If the parallel universes are all running on the same computer platform could we communicate with them? If so, let’s hope manic Agent Smith doesn’t materialize one day. The Matrix is tough to explain, but then how much explaining does an amusement park ride require? And as they say “never was a more true word spoken in jest”.

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CT Scan of 1,000-Year-Old Statue Reveals Mummy Inside


mummy3_large (1)

Sometimes, the third time is not the charm – even when Jet Lit juggling magic glowing balls in the air. Critics and audiences learned that this summer when the third film in the popular Mummy franchise — adventures that were vibrant, old-fashioned action romps with tongue firmly in cheek.  The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor raked in the dough worldwide but a recent CT scan of a 1000 year old statute has revealed a real-life mummy inside.

What looks like a traditional statue of Buddha dating back to the 11th or 12th century was recently revealed to be quite a bit more. A CT scan and endoscopy carried out by the Netherlands-based Drents Museum at the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort, showed the ancient reliquary fully encases the mummified remains of a Buddhist master known as Liuquan of the Chinese Meditation School. While it was known beforehand the remains of a person were inside, another startling discovery was made during the scan: where the organs had been removed prior to mummification, researches discovered rolls of paper scraps covered in Chinese writing.

This special examination recently occurred in the Meander Medical Center. Created by the architectural team, atelierpro the new Meander Medical Centre in is a completely new type of hospital. In this impressive health care institution the patient remains central and the connection with the surrounding nature is strongly felt throughout the building. This creates a healing environment where – partly thanks to the inclusion of only private rooms – patients can gain more rest for a fast recovery.

This would make a great Indiana Jones movie, but instead the leader of this study is the Amersfoort resident Erik Bruijn, an expert in the field of Buddhist art and culture and guest curator at the World Museum in Rotterdam. Gastrointestinal and liver doctor Reinoud Vermeijden and radiologist Ben Heggelman received the Chinese mummy at the hospital for internal examination on September 3rd. The mummy was part of the Mummies exhibition earlier this year and dates from the 11th or 12th century.

With an endoscope made specially available by Surgical Technologies in Didam, Vermeijden took samples of a yet unidentified material and examined the thoracic and abdominal cavities. He made a spectacular discovery – among all kinds of rotten material in the space where there had one been organs, he found paper scraps that are printed with ancient Chinese characters. Heggelman took a CT scan that beautifully shows how the mummy looks inside and took samples of bone material for DNA testing.

In this instance the mummified body is of the Buddhist master Liuquan, who belonged to the Chinese Meditation School. The discovery of the mummy is of great cultural significance. It is not only the only one of its kind, but also the only Chinese Buddhist mummy that is available for scientific research in the West.


Mummies with jump-in-your-seat moments of pure fright have more in common with Indiana Jones or Boris Karloff. However this nearly 1,000 year old statue received a CT scan revealing a mummy inside. 

Relics have long been important to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and many other religions. In these cultures, reliquaries are often presented in shrines, churches, or temples to which the faithful make pilgrimages in order to gain blessings. In Central West Africa, reliquaries used in the Bwete rituals contain objects considered magical, or the bones of ancestors, and are commonly constructed with a guardian figure attached to the reliquary.

In Buddhism, stupa are an important form of reliquary, and may be included in a larger complex known as a chaitya. A stupa (from Sanskrit: m., स्तूप, stūpa, Tibetan མཆོད་རྟེན་ chöten, Sinhalese: දාගැබ,Pāli: थुप “thūpa”, literally meaning “heap”) is a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the ashes of Buddhist monks, used by Buddhists as a place of meditation. A reliquary (also referred to as a shrine or by the French term châsse) is a container for relics. These may be the purported physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.

The term is sometimes used loosely of containers for the body parts of non-religious figures; in particular the Kings of France often specified that their hearts and sometimes other organs be buried in a different location from their main burial.

Stupas originated as pre-Buddhist earthen burial mounds, in which ascetics were buried in a seated position,called chaitya. After the parinirvana of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes divided and buried under eight mounds with two further mounds encasing the urn and the embers. Little is known about these early stupas, particularly since it has not been possible to identify the original ten monuments. However, some later stupas, such as at Sarnath and Sanchi, seem to be embellishments of earlier mounds.


Different architectural features that comprise Shwedagon Pagoda and similar Mon-style stupas, in Yangon,Myanmar. It is believed that the more objects placed into the stupa, the stronger the energy of the Stupa will be.

The stupa was elaborated as Buddhism spread to other Asian countries becoming, for example, the chorten of Tibet and the pagoda in East Asia. The pagoda has varied forms that also include bell-shaped and pyramidal styles. In the Western context, there is no clear distinction between the stupa and the pagoda. In general, however, stupa is used for a Buddhist structure of India or south-east Asia, whilepagoda refers to a building in East Asia which can be entered and which may be secular in purpose.

Stupas were built in Sri Lanka soon after King Devanampiyatissa converted to Buddhism, the first stupa to be built was theThuparamaya. Later on Sri Lanka went on to build many stupas over the years, some like the Jetavanarama inAnuradhapura being one of the tallest ancient structures in the world.


The research will be published in the monograph that will appear on Master Liuquan. The mummy has since been taken to Hungary where it will be on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Budapest until May 2015.

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Back To The Futurism: Capitalist Technoscience & Art As Grand Narrative


New work by international artist-composer Ryoji Ikeda is to premiere in the U.K. in a car park. The work Supersymmetry is his first large scale solo installation in London and explores music and visual art through mathematics and physics developed through a residency organsied at The Centre For Nuclear Research (CERN).

Ryoji Ikeda is bringing his Supersymmetry project to London’s Brewer Street Car Park in April for its UK premiere with The Vinyl Factory. Ikeda’s new project Supersymmetry presents “an artistic vision of the reality of Nature” though an immersive and sensory experience. This project is a series of new work conceived as an installation version of his performance work “superposition” (2012-) and as a platform to update the process and outcome of his residence during 2014-15 at CERN in Geneva, the largest center in the world for particle physics.

Considered by some to be Japan’s leading electronic composer and visual artist, (according to the artists own website) Ikeda has gained a reputation working convincingly across both visual and sonic media. orchestrating sound, visual materials, physical phenomena and mathematical notions into immersive live performances and installations. In addition to working as a solo artist, he has also collaborated with, among others, Carsten Nicolai (under the name “Cyclo.”) and the art collective Dumb Type. His work matrix won the Golden Nica Award in 2001.


Supersymmetry  is a complex, ambitious, large scale project with big production values. It is sleek and immersive installation of  disorientating mutating sound, text and visual data.

Jaw-droppingly striking, Ryoji Ikeda has created a thoroughly entertaining blockbuster and an almost entirely a sensory experience. Any lack in philosophical originality in Ryoji Ikeda’s project Supersymmetry is handsomely compensated by the plethora of visual and sonic treats courtesy of a crackerjack technical crew. A highly feasible eerie epic that is requisitely foreboding, Supersymmetry includes 40 DLP projectors, 40 computers, loud speakers. It was created in collaboration with Norimichi Hirakawa (programming, computer graphics), Tomonaga Tokuyama (programming, computer graphics, computer system design, technical management) and Yoshito Onish (programming, computer graphics). It also was created through multiple partners; co-developed with YCAM InterLab in cooperation with Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo. co-produced by the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM), Japan, and Le lieu unique, scène nationale de Nantes, France. Ryoji Ikeda StudioEquipment was in cooperation with Mix Wave,Inc., Bell-Park Co.,Ltd.

Ryoji Ikeda’s bio states that his work exploits the’causality of sound with human perception’.It’s a claim that makes sense when experiencing his music (especially in an installation or performance setting, where the bulk of his work has been for the past few years); Ikeda’s minimalist, rigorous electronica seriously plays with the listener’s head. Ikeda’s music is concerned primarily with sound in a variety of “raw” states, such as sine tones and noise, often using frequencies at the edges of the range of human hearing. Rhythmically, Ikeda’s music is highly imaginative, exploiting beat patterns and, at times, using a variety of discrete tones and noise to create the semblance of a drum machine. His work also encroaches on the world of ambient music; many tracks on his albums are concerned with slowly evolving soundscapes, with little or no sense of pulse. Ikeda says

“a high frequency sound is used that the listener becomes aware of only upon its disappearance”.

This project is a series of new work conceived as an installation version of his performance work “superposition” (2012-). In “superposition,” Ryoji Ikeda’s 65-minute multimedia performance, two performers — unusual for Mr. Ikeda’s work — sit at ends of a long table. They appeared to be demonstrating the uses and limits of data processing. They tap out a script in a kind of Morse code, at nearly the same speed but, of course, not quite. (The script contained statements like “Logic is not a body of doctrine but a mirror image of the world.”) They jam the computations of old IBM key-punch cards by imposing a crossword-puzzle-like graph over them. They roll marbles on a flat surface: The marbles moved around randomly, and then a computer program captured their positions, fixing them as points in relation to a central axis.

The sound and visuals, for the most part, are representations of digital data: sine waves, visualizations of code in black and white, or sometimes primary colors. It was high-contrast, high-resolution, pointedly loud or carefully soft, rhythmic, with intermittent puffs of white noise. If you weren’t inclined to it, you might have thought it antiseptic, nearly inhuman.

But there is always, apparently, an element of human interaction in Ikeda’s work. “Superposition,” if I understood it right, is about the tension between what can be graphed, plotted and perfectly represented, and what can’t. He’s interested in cold data — “superposition” is a concept from quantum mechanics — but more interested in how we can use it as a language, how we can make it talk or sing. He’s a kind of translator, converting principles into words, numbers into code, code into sound and image. Translation is an imperfect job, never finished. And so when Mr. Ikeda’s artistic will assumes the right proportions to his sets of data, producing the right tension, his work can feel much greater than the feat of digital programming you see or hear.

The residency where the installation version is being developed, is in two parts. The initial two months were at CERN, where the winning artist had a specially dedicated science mentor from the world famous science lab to inspire him in his work. The Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN is the international competition for digital artists to win a residency at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva. It is the first prize to be announced as part of the new Collide@CERN artists residency programme initiated by the laboratory. The aim of the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN prize is to take digital creativity to new dimensions by colliding the minds of scientists with the imaginations of artists. Supersymmetry draws on Ikeda’s  CERN residency near Geneva. CERN is currently testing “supersymmetry”, a theoretical mathematical model that helps explain why particles have mass. According to the Ars Electronica website:

“We seek to accelerate innovation across culture in the 21st century – creating new dimensions in digital arts, inspired by the ideas, engineering and science generated at CERN, and produced by the winning artist in collaboration with the transdisciplinary expertise of the Futurelab team at Ars Electronica”.

The second part is a month with the team and mentor at Ars Electronica Linz with whom the winner developed and made a new work inspired by the CERN residency. From the first meeting between the artists, CERN and Futurelab mentors, they all participated in a dialogue which was issued as a public blog of their creative process until the final work was produced. In this way, the public was  able to join in the conversation.

This final work will be showcased both at the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN, in Geneva and at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz. It will also be presented in the Prix Ars Electronica’s “CyberArts” catalogue.  As the winning artist Ryoji Ikeda recieves 10,000 Euros in prize money and rent, subsistence and travel funded from a designated limited fund that is in addition to the prize money. The awarding of this prize was through Ars Electronica and the funding of the creative residency was made possible through anonymous donors. The artists insurances for the residencies were funded by UNIQA Assurances SA Switzerland.

This new prize marks a 3 year science/arts cultural partnership and creative collaboration between CERN and Ars Electronica – which began with CERN’s cooperation with Origin – the Ars Electronica Festival in 2011.  The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions. The organiser were looking for digital artists who was be truly inspired by CERN, showing their wish to engage with the ideas and/or technology of particle physics and with CERN as a place of scientific collaboration, using them as springboards of the imagination which dare to go beyond the paradigm.


This mishmash of chin-stroking techno-scientific existentialism does not always make for the most coherent art, but it is at least an entertaining one and certainly no black mark on the Ars Electronica franchise. 

An intense exploration of the intersections between music and visual art through mathematics, quantum mechanics and logic, the work supersymmetry draws on Ikeda’s residency. In particle physics, supersymmetry is a proposed extension of space-time symmetry that relates two basic classes of elementary particles: boson and fermion, and predicts a partner particle in the Standard Model, to help explain why particles have mass. The Standard Model has worked beautifully to predict what experiments have shown so far about the basic building blocks of matter, but physicists recognize that it is incomplete. supersymmetry is an extension of the Standard Model that aims to fill some of the gaps. It predicts a partner particle in the Standard Model. These new particle would solve a major problem with the Standard Model – fixing the mass of the Higgs boson. If the theory is correct, supersymmetric particles should appear in collisions at the LHC of CERN, Geneva.

Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 21 member states. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.  The world’s largest particle physics research institute, CERN is currently testing ‘supersymmetry’, a theoretical mathematical model that helps explain why particles have mass and the basis for Ikeda’s work.

Ars Electronica Linz GmbH is an enterprise of the City of Linz which premiered in 1979. Ars Electronica Linz GmbH was incorporated in 1995; since then, it has been responsible for organizing and producing the Ars Electronica Festival and the Prix Ars Electronica, as well as for operating the Ars Electronica Center and the Ars Electronica Futurelab. Funding is provided by the City of Linz, the Province of Upper Austria and the Republic of Austria. Ars Electronica Linz GmbH is administered jointly by Artistic Director Gerfried Stocker and Financial Director Diethard Schwarzmair.

The Futurelab staff includes experts in a wide array of disciplines  such as media art, architecture, design, interactive exhibitions, virtual reality and real-time graphics. Here, innovative people reconfigure available knowledge, build bridges to art, and come up with concepts designed to facilitate our interaction with the world of today and tomorrow. It is  based at  Ars Electronica Linz GmbH is an Austrian cultural, educational and scientific institute active in the field ofnew media art, founded in 1979. Ars Electronica is based at the Ars Electronica Center, which houses the Museum of the Future, in the city of Linz. Ars Electronica’s activities focus on the interlinkages between art, technology and society. It runs an annual festival, and manages a multidisciplinary media arts R&D facility known as the Futurelab. It also confers the Prix Ars Electronica awards.

There’s a lot of college dorm techno-science mumbo jumbo on top but Supersymmetry really boils down to this-Artfully designed special effects. There’s no other way to put it- Supersymmetry is a delightful and elegant sensual experience. Trent Nathaniel Grover has included an Appendix about Ars Electronica in his book “Dream of the Techno-Shaman” (2008). He describes the institute’s activities as “a unique platform for exploring, discussing, tracking, and analyzing the interrelation between art, technology, and society”.  Such work, he argues, affirms the place of the human being at the center of techno-cultural processes, as “beneficiaries, victims, and, above all, creators and appliers of new technology”. Noting that the rapid pace of technological innovation has profound implications for culture and society, he presents the role of Ars Electronica as working to integrate developments in technology with art and society to the benefit of all, and contrasts this perspective with the Modernist call for “art for art’s sake”. Grover concludes by hoping that Ars Electronica “will be able to maintain its ongoing quest for innovation and expansion so that we can all benefit from and further involve ourselves in the integration of art, technology, and society”.

However this assessment seems somewhat dated, missing out on the whole social and philosophical phenomena of Post-modernism and Post-Structuralism. Furthermore it is itself based on a modernist ideology. The idea of modernity concerns the interpretation of the present time in light of historical reinterpretation. It refers too to the confluence of the cultural, social, and political currents in modern society. The term signals a tension within modern society between its various dynamics and suggests a process by which society constantly renews itself. The word “ modern ” comes from the Latin word modus , meaning now, but the term “ modernity ” has a stronger meaning, suggesting the possibility of a new beginning based on human autonomy and the consciousness of the legitimacy of the present time ( Blumenberg 1983 ). In Agnes Heller’s words, modernity means: “Everything is open to query and to testing; everything is subject to rational scrutiny and refuted by argument” ( Heller 1999 : 41). The first use of the term modern goes back to the early Christian Church in the fifth century when it was used to distinguish the Christian era from the pagan age. Arising from this was an association of modernity with the renunciation of the recent past, which was rejected in favor of a new beginning and a reinterpretation of historical origins. However, the term did not gain widespread currency until the seventeenth-century French “Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns ” on whether modern culture is superior to classical culture.

Postmodernism was a movement that rejected the modernist, avant garde, passion for the new. A late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism, Post-modernism represented a departure from modernism and is characterized by the self-conscious critique of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories.

“Poststructuralism” can be distinguished from “Structuralism” in terms of an important set of theoretical and historical differences that can be most easily understood by recognizing the difference between their theoretical objects of study: Poststructuralism takes as it theoretical object “Structuralism”, whereas Postmodernism takes as its theoretical object “Modernism”. Each movement is an attempt to supersede in various ways that which went before. The two movements can be distinguished by a peculiar set of theoretical concerns most clearly seen in their respective historical genealogies.

Structuralism is an aesthetic theory based on the following assumptions: all artistic artifacts (or “texts”) are exemplifications of an underlying “deep structure”; texts are organized like a language, with their own specific grammar; the grammar of a language is a series of signs and conventions which draw a predictable response from human beings. The objective of structuralist analysis is to reveal the deep structures of texts. The roots of structuralism lie mainly in structural linguistics, in particular the theories of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), whose Course in General Linguistics provides structuralism with its basic methodological model. Other major sources of structuralist aesthetic theory have been Russian Formalism (a school of literary theorists who flourished in postrevolutionary Russia) and structural anthropology (Claude Lévi-Strauss being a key figure in this area). Poststructuralism is a broad-based cultural movement embracing several disciplines, which has self-consciously rejected the techniques and premises of structuralism, particularly the notion that there is an underlying pattern to events. Nevertheless, it owes a great deal to the earlier theory, and has been variously described as “neo-structuralism” and “superstructuralism.”

Transmediale-2010-Ryoji_Ikeda-Data-Tron-1The Mother ship: Ryoji Ikedas Data.Tron was on show at transmediale 10

Poststructuralism ought to be seen as a specific philosophical response – strongely motivated by the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger – against the social scientific pretensions of structuralism. postmodernism can be recognized by two key assumptions. First, the assumption that there is no common denominator — in “nature” or “truth” or “God” or “the future” — that guarantees either the One-ness of the world or the possibility of natural or objective thought. Second, the assumption that all human systems operate like language, being self-reflexive rather than referential systems — systems of differential function which are powerful but finite, and which construct and maintain meaning and value.

Postmodernism aims at exposing how, in modern, liberal democracies, the construction of political identity and the operationalization of basic values take place through the deployment of conceptual binaries such as we/them, responsible/irresponsible, rational/irrational, legitimate/illegitimate, normal/abnormal, and so on … postmodernists draw attention to the ways in which the boundary between … [these] terms is socially reproduced and policed.

Matters become more complex when ‘poststructuralist’ thinkers began to systematically engage the term. An influential definition of postmodernism and one of the most debated comes from the poststructuralist thinker, Jean-François Lyotard, who in his celebrated The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Lyotard 1984, orig. 1979) analyzed the status of knowledge in the most advanced societies in ways that many critics believed signaled an epochal break not only with the so-called ‘modern era’ but also with various traditionally ‘modern’ ways of viewing the world. He writes in a now famous formulation:

I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse … making explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of the Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth (Lyotard, 1984: xxii).

By contrast, he defines postmodern simply as “incredulity toward metanarratives” (p. xxiv). In The Postmodern Condition, Lyotard was concerned with the grand narratives that had grown out of the Enlightenment and had come to mark modernity. In The Postmodern Explained to Children,Lyotard (1992: 29) mentions specifically:

“the progressive emancipation of reason and freedom, the progressive or catastrophic emancipation of labour …, the enrichment of all through the progress of capitalist technoscience”

Grand narratives, then, are the stories that cultures tell themselves about their own practices and beliefs in order to legitimate them. They function as a unified single story that purports to legitimate or found a set of practices, a cultural self-image, discourse or institution (see Peters, 1995). For example, Supersymmetry  is a complex, ambitious, large scale project with big production values. It is sleek and immersive installation of  disorientating mutating sound, text and visual data. Ryoji Ikedas project orchestrates sound, visual materials, physical phenomena and mathematical notions into highly immersive and sonic and aesthetic live performances and installations as a promotion of the scientific discoveries that underpin the work. Ikeda is comming from a broadly historical, materialist position. In  data.anatomy, a 3-screen video projection, he completely immerses the viewer in an intricate yet vast audiovisual composition derived from the entire data set of a car (see image below). This can  be seen in relation to the writing of Situationist Guy Debord who discusses The Spectacle. According to Guy Debord, the spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity”.


 “The spectacle is not a collection of images,” Guy Debord writes, “rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” Image: data.anatomy is a 3-screen video projection and completely immerses the viewer in an intricate yet vast audiovisual composition derived from the entire data set of a car.

However, earlier Philosophers such as Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard and Hartman all claimed to have found a way to transcend value judgement. Thinkers such as these have, by their rejection of conventional methods of constructing value judgements, succeeded in problematizing the whole area of aesthetics. Stuart Sim treats post-structuralism and postmodernism as forms of anti-aesthetics and contextualizes the movements within a longer running tradition of anti-foundationalism and radical scepticism in Western philosophy.

Futurism was a Modernist avant-garde movement founded in Milan in 1909 by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.  Marinetti launched the movement in his Futurist Manifesto, which he published for the first time on 5 February 1909 in La gazzetta dell’Emilia, an article then reproduced in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. It placed emphasis on speed and techonolgy. The founding manifesto did not contain a positive artistic programme, which the Futurists attempted to create in their subsequent Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting. This committed them to a “universal dynamism”, which was to be directly represented in painting. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings: “The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places. … The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with. Futurist music rejected tradition and introduced experimental sounds inspired by machinery, and would influence several 20th century composers.

In 1912 and 1913, Boccioni turned to sculpture to translate into three dimensions his Futurist ideas. In Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) he attempted to realise the relationship between the object and its environment, which was central to his theory of “dynamism”. The Futurists were fearcily patriotic. The sculpture represents a striding figure, cast in bronze now appears on the national side of Italian 20 eurocent coins.

Boccioni’s intentions in art were strongly influenced by the ideas of Bergson, including the idea of intuition, which Bergson defined as a simple, indivisible experience of sympathy through which one is moved into the inner being of an object to grasp what is unique and ineffable within it. The Futurists aimed through their art thus to enable the viewer to apprehend the inner being of what they depicted. Boccioni developed these ideas at length in his book, Pittura scultura Futuriste: Dinamismo plastico (Futurist Painting Sculpture: Plastic Dynamism) (1914).


Image: data.anatomy [civic] is a audiovisual installation created by  Ryoji Ikeda in collaboration with Mitsuru Kariya, the development leader of the new Honda Civic. The work is exhibited as a 3-screen video projection derived from the entire data set of the car.

Futurism influenced many other twentieth-century movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, ConstructivismSurrealism, Dada, and much later Neo-Futurism.  Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, having died out in 1944 with the death of its leader Marinetti. Nonetheless the ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture. Ridley Scott consciously evoked the designs of Sant’Elia in Blade Runner. Echoes of Marinetti’s thought, especially his “dreamt-of metallization of the human body”, are still strongly prevalent in Japanese culture, and surface in manga/animeand the works of artists such as Shinya Tsukamoto, director of the “Tetsuo” (lit. “Ironman”) films. Futurism has produced several reactions, including the literary genre of cyberpunk—in which technology was often treated with a critical eye—whilst artists who came to prominence during the first flush of the Internet, such as Stelarc and Mariko Mori, produce work which comments on Futurist ideals. The art and architecture movement Neo-Futurism is one in which technology is considered a driver to a better quality of life and sustainability values.

Technology is an amazing medium to work with. And the work being done by CERN is fascinating stuff. But rather than trying to reinvent or critique the role of science and technology, Ryoji Ikedas returns us to the philosophical limbo of Neo-Futurism. Ryoji Ikedas and organizations such as Ars Electronica, who are arguing from a broadly historical, materialist position, should nevertheless be made to declare their ideological commitments. The radical scepticism of Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard, and their followers,  point to a need for reassessment of the methods and objectives among critical theorists. Even within Modernist Aesthetics, the branch of philosophy dealing with such notions as the beautiful, the ugly, the sublime, the comic, etc., as applicable to the fine arts, establishes the meaning and validity of critical judgments concerning works of art, and the principles underlying or justifying such judgments. Ikeda shocks and awes with more than sufficient technical bravura. If only he was as smart as he clearly thinks he is. Art that is so nakedly in the service of corporate interests is not really art- it is advertising. And while the techno-science underlying the work is itself impressive, this installation won’t give your brain much of a workout;  But the spectacle will give your eyes and ears a nice buzz.

Ikeda was born in Gifu, Japan in 1966. The sound artist currently lives and works in Paris.

Ryoji Ikeda’s supersymmetry runs from 23 April – 31 May at Brewer Street Car Park

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm – 6pm (free entry)

Address: The Vinyl Factory Space at Brewer Street Car Park (Basement), London, W1F 0LA

Photos by Ryuichi Maruo, courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]


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Spotless Mind: MIT Neuroscientists Place False Memories And Reverse Negative Associations


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film about an estranged couple who have each other erased from their memories. Pretty fancy stuff, for a sci-fi romantic comedy. There’s nothing we can do to change the past, however new research from MIT, suggests there soon may be a way to change how we feel about it.

What follows will knock you silly, upending every single concept of storytelling that you’re probably used to. Neuroscientists have developed a technique to reverse the mechanism by which memories become associated with positive or negative emotions. Published in the August 27 issue of Nature, the “optogenetic” technique uses light to manipulate brain cells and control neuron activity.

Most memories have some kind of emotion associated with them: Recalling the week you just spent at the beach probably makes you feel happy, while reflecting on being bullied provokes more negative feelings. A new study from MIT neuroscientists reveals the brain circuit that controls how memories become linked with positive or negative emotions. Furthermore, the researchers found that they could reverse the emotional association of specific memories by manipulating brain cells with optogenetics — a technique that uses light to control neuron activity.

The findings, described in the Aug. 27 issue of Nature, demonstrated that a neuronal circuit connecting the Hippocampus and the Amygdala plays a critical role in associating emotion with memory. This circuit could offer a target for new drugs to help treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers say.

“In the future, one may be able to develop methods that help people to remember positive memories more strongly than negative ones,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the paper.

The paper’s lead authors are Roger Redondo, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoc at MIT, and Joshua Kim, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Biology.


 At its core, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could have been just another love story. Refracted through Kaufman’s wonderfully weird prism, it’s something truly memorable. It goes by like a fevered dream of love, but one you remember vividly, with profound pleasure

Shifting memories

All of us already generate false memories as human memory constantly adapts and molds itself to fit the world. Our imagination can trick us into thinking we’ve done something we’ve never really done and lead us to create such compelling, illusory memories. The reason our memories are so malleable is because there is simply too much information to take in. Our perceptual systems aren’t built to notice absolutely everything in our environment. We take in information through all our senses but there are gaps. So when we remember an event, what our memory ultimately does is fills in those gaps by thinking about what we know about the world. Reporting in Science, they say it could one day shed light into how false memories occur in humans.

Memories are made of many elements, which are stored in different parts of the brain. A memory’s context, including information about the location where the event took place, is stored in cells of the Hippocampus, while emotions linked to that memory are found in the Amygdala. Previous research has shown that many aspects of memory, including emotional associations, are malleable. Psychotherapists have taken advantage of this to help patients suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but the neural circuitry underlying such malleability is not known.

In this study, the researchers set out to explore that malleability with an experimental technique they recently devised that allows them to tag neurons that encode a specific memory, or engram. To achieve this, they label hippocampal cells that are turned on during memory formation with a light-sensitive protein called channelrhodopsin. From that point on, any time those cells are activated with light, the mice recall the memory encoded by that group of cells.

Last year, Tonegawa’s lab used this technique to implant, or “incept,” false memories in mice by reactivating engrams while the mice were undergoing a different experience. In the new study, the researchers wanted to investigate how the context of a memory becomes linked to a particular emotion. First, they used their engram-labeling protocol to tag neurons associated with either a rewarding experience (for male mice, socializing with a female mouse) or an unpleasant experience (a mild electrical shock). In this first set of experiments, the researchers labeled memory cells in a part of the Hippocampus called the Dentate Gyrus.

Two days later, the mice were placed into a large rectangular arena. For three minutes, the researchers recorded which half of the arena the mice naturally preferred. Then, for mice that had received the fear conditioning, the researchers stimulated the labeled cells in the Dentate Gyrus with light whenever the mice went into the preferred side. The mice soon began avoiding that area, showing that the reactivation of the fear memory had been successful. The reward memory could also be reactivated: For mice that were reward-conditioned, the researchers stimulated them with light whenever they went into the less-preferred side, and they soon began to spend more time there, recalling the pleasant memory.

A couple of days later, the researchers tried to reverse the mice’s emotional responses. For male mice that had originally received the fear conditioning, they activated the memory cells involved in the fear memory with light for 12 minutes while the mice spent time with female mice. For mice that had initially received the reward conditioning, memory cells were activated while they received mild electric shocks.

Next, the researchers again put the mice in the large two-zone arena. This time, the mice that had originally been conditioned with fear and had avoided the side of the chamber where their Hippocampal cells were activated by the laser now began to spend more time in that side when their Hippocampal cells were activated, showing that a pleasant association had replaced the fearful one. This reversal also took place in mice that went from reward to fear conditioning.

Altered connections

The researchers then performed the same set of experiments but labeled memory cells in the Basolateral Amygdala, a region involved in processing emotions. This time, they could not induce a switch by reactivating those cells — the mice continued to behave as they had been conditioned when the memory cells were first labeled. This suggests that emotional associations, also called valences, are encoded somewhere in the neural circuitry that connects the Dentate Gyrus to the Amygdala, the researchers say. A fearful experience strengthens the connections between the Hippocampal Engram and fear-encoding cells in the Amygdala, but that connection can be weakened later on as new connections are formed between the Hippocampus and Amygdala cells that encode positive associations.

“That plasticity of the connection between the Hippocampus and the Amygdala plays a crucial role in the switching of the valence of the memory,” Tonegawa says.

These results indicate that while Dentate Gyrus cells are neutral with respect to emotion, individual Amygdala cells are precommitted to encode fear or reward memory. The researchers are now trying to discover molecular signatures of these two types of Amygdala cells. They are also investigating whether reactivating pleasant memories has any effect on depression, in hopes of identifying new targets for drugs to treat depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the second feature from director Michel Gondry (Human Nature) re-teaming with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for this off-the-wall romantic comedy. Jim Carrey stars as Joel Barish, a man who is informed that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their relationship erased from her brain via an experimental procedure performed by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Not to be outdone, Joel decides to have the same procedure done to himself.

Unreliable memory

Just like in mice, our memories are stored in collections of cells, and when events are recalled we reconstruct parts of these cells – almost like re-assembling small pieces of a puzzle. It has been well documented that human memory is highly unreliable, first highlighted by a study on eyewitness testimonies in the 70s. Simple changes in how a question was asked could influence the memory a witness had of an event such as a car crash. When this was brought to public attention, eyewitness testimonies alone were no longer used as evidence in court. Many people wrongly convicted on memory statements were later exonerated by DNA evidence.

Xu Liu of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics and one the lead authors of the study on making changes to memory, said that when mice recalled a false memory, it was indistinguishable from the real memory in the way it drove a fear response in the memory forming cells of a mouse’s brain. “In the English language there are only 26 letters, but the combinations of letters make unlimited words and sentences, this is also true for memories,” Dr Liu told BBC News.

“There are so many brain cells and for each individual memory, different combinations of small populations of cells are activated.”

These differing combinations of cells could partly explain why memories are not static like a photograph, but constantly evolving, he  added.


Memory implantation is a technique used in cognitive psychology to investigate human memory. The high rate of people “remembering” false events shows that memories cannot always be taken at face value. Image: Digital installation ‘Annunciation’ by Artist Tom Estes. The title of the work is a Biblical term which means the announcing of ‘the incarnation’ or a materialization of the unrealized in a concrete form. The work therefore relates to multiple worlds; possible, fictional or desired worlds which though different from the one we live in, directly influences our own.

Silencing fear

Neil Burgess from University College London, who was not involved with the work, told BBC News the study was an “impressive example” of creating a fearful response in an environment where nothing fearful happened.

“One day this type of knowledge may help scientists to understand how to remove or reduce the fearful associations experienced by people with conditions like post traumatic stress disorder.”

But he added that it’s only an advance in “basic neuroscience” and that these methods could not be directly applied to humans for many years.

“But basic science always helps in the end, and it may be possible, one day, to use similar techniques to silence neurons causing the association to fear.”

‘Diseases of thought’

Mark Mayford of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, US, said: “The question is, how does the brain change with experience? That’s the heart of everything the brain does.

He explained that work like this could one day further help us to understand the structure of our thoughts and the cells involved.

“Then one can begin to look at those brain circuits, see how they change, and hopefully find the areas or mechanisms that change with learning.”

“The implications are potentially interventions for diseases of thought such as schizophrenia. You cannot approach schizophrenia unless you know how a perception is put together.”

David Anderson, a professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, says the study makes an important contribution to neuroscientists’ fundamental understanding of the brain and also has potential implications for treating mental illness.

“This is a tour de force of modern molecular-biology-baed methods for analyzing processes, such as learning and memory, at the neural-circuitry level. It’s one of the most sophisticated studies of this type that I’ve seen,” he says.

Erasing Memories

Mice have previously been trained to believe they were somewhere else, “a bit like the feeling of deja-vu we sometimes get”, said Rosamund Langston from Dundee University.

A possibility in the future is erasing memories, she told BBC News.

“Episodic memories – such as those for traumatic experiences – are distributed in neurons throughout the brain, and in order to make memory erasure a safe and useful tool, we must understand how the different components of each memory are put together.

“You may want to erase someone’s memory for a traumatic event that happened in their home, but you certainly do not want to erase their memory for how to find their way around their home.”

“If you want to grab a specific memory you have to get down into the cell level. Every time we think we remember something, we could also be making changes to that memory – sometimes we realize sometimes we don’t,” Dr Liu explained.

“Our memory changes every single time it’s being ‘recorded’. That’s why we can incorporate new information into old memories and this is how a false memory can form without us realising it.”

Susumu Tonegawa, also from RIKEN-MIT, said his teams’ work provided the first animal model in which false and genuine memories could be investigated in the cells which store memories, called engram-bearing cells.

“Humans are highly imaginative animals. Just like our mice, an aversive or appetitive event could be associated with a past experience one may happen to have in mind at that moment, hence a false memory is formed.”


A neuralyzer is a device from the film Men in Black. It about the size of an average cigar tube that gives a bright flash which erases the memories of the past hours, days, weeks, months or years, depending on the chosen settings.

The Dangers

The ability to plant memories raises some serious moral concerns. We all have resistance mechanisms preventing us remembering unpleasant things. But they are still ours, stored and sorted in our conscious and subconsciousness and is therefore a part of who and what we are. They are part of our survival equipment so we do not make the same mistakes over again. When this memory is taken out of its locked drawer and is completely reformatted, without our consent, this is nothing short of Hackery. A psychological burglary which potentially can create a chaos in the whole cognitive and subconscious system.

In 1986 Nadean Cool, a nurse’s aide in Wisconsin, sought therapy from a psychiatrist to help her cope with her reaction to a traumatic event experienced by her daughter. During therapy, the psychiatrist used hypnosis and other suggestive techniques to dig out buried memories of abuse that Cool herself had allegedly experienced. In the process, Cool became convinced that she had repressed memories of having been in a satanic cult, of eating babies, of being raped, of having sex with animals and of being forced to watch the murder of her eight-year-old friend. She came to believe that she had more than 120 personalities-children, adults, angels and even a duck-all because, Cool was told, she had experienced severe childhood sexual and physical abuse. The psychiatrist also performed exorcisms on her, one of which lasted for five hours and included the sprinkling of holy water and screams for Satan to leave Cool’s body.

When Cool finally realized that false memories had been planted, she sued the psychiatrist for malpractice. In March 1997, after five weeks of trial, her case was settled out of court for $2.4 million. Nadean Cool is not the only patient to develop false memories as a result of questionable therapy. In Missouri in 1992 a church counselor helped Beth Rutherford to remember during therapy that her father, a clergyman, had regularly raped her between the ages of seven and 14 and that her mother sometimes helped him by holding her down. Under her therapist’s guidance, Rutherford developed memories of her father twice impregnating her and forcing her to abort the fetus herself with a coat hanger.The father had to resign from his post as a clergyman when the allegations were made public. Later medical examination of the daughter revealed, however, that she was still a virgin at age 22 and had never been pregnant. The daughter sued the therapist and received a $1-million settlement in 1996.

About a year earlier two juries returned verdicts against a Minnesota psychiatrist accused of planting false memories by former patients Vynnette Hamanne and Elizabeth Carlson, who under hypnosis and sodium amytal, and after being fed misinformation about the workings of memory, had come to remember horrific abuse by family members. The juries awarded Hammane $2.67 million and Carlson $2.5 million for their ordeals.

In all four cases, the women developed memories about childhood abuse in therapy and then later denied their authenticity. How can we determine if memories of childhood abuse are true or false? Without corroboration, it is very difficult to differentiate between false memories and true ones. Also, in these cases, some memories were contrary to physical evidence, such as explicit and detailed recollections of rape and abortion when medical examination confirmed virginity. How is it possible for people to acquire elaborate and confident false memories? A growing number of investigations demonstrate that under the right circumstances false memories can be instilled rather easily in some people.

Research into memory distortion by Elizabeth F. Loftus at Washington University goes back to the early 1970s, when she began studies of the “misinformation effect.” (Scientific American September 1997, vol 277 #3 pages 70-75). Elizabeth F. Loftus is professor of psychology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Washington. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1970. Her research has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and courtroom procedure. Loftus has published 18 books and more than 250 scientific articles and has served as an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of trials, including the McMartin preschool molestation case. Her book Eyewitness Testimony won a National Media Award from the American Psychological Foundation. She has received honorary doctorates from Miami University, Leiden University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Loftus was recently elected president of the American Psychological Society.

Her studies show that when people who witness an event are later exposed to new and misleading information about it, their recollections often become distorted. In one example, participants viewed a simulated automobile accident at an intersection with a stop sign. After the viewing, half the participants received a suggestion that the traffic sign was a yield sign. When asked later what traffic sign they remembered seeing at the intersection, those who had been given the suggestion tended to claim that they had seen a yield sign. Those who had not received the phony information were much more accurate in their recollection of the traffic sign.

Loftus has now conducted more than 200 experiments involving over 20,000 individuals that document how exposure to misinformation induces memory distortion. In these studies, people “recalled” a conspicuous barn in a bucolic scene that contained no buildings at all, broken glass and tape recorders that were not in the scenes they viewed, a white instead of a blue vehicle in a crime scene, and Minnie Mouse when they actually saw Mickey Mouse. Taken together, these studies show that misinformation can change an individual’s recollection in predictable and sometimes very powerful ways.


A neuralyzer, sometimes spelled as neuralizer, is a device seen in the Men in Black franchise. It is one of the signature tools and considered standard issue

Misinformation has the potential for invading our memories when we talk to other people, when we are suggestively interrogated or when we read or view media coverage about some event that we may have experienced ourselves. After more than two decades of exploring the power of misinformation, researchers have learned a great deal about the conditions that make people susceptible to memory modification. Memories are more easily modified, for instance, when the passage of time allows the original memory to fade.

It is one thing to change a detail or two in an otherwise intact memory but quite another to plant a false memory of an event that never happened. To study false memory, Loftus first had to find a way to plant a pseudomemory that would not cause our subjects undue emotional stress, either in the process of creating the false memory or when we revealed that they had been intentionally deceived. Yet she wanted to try to plant a memory that would be at least mildly traumatic, had the experience actually happened.

Loftus and her research associate, Jacqueline E. Pickrell, settled on trying to plant a specific memory of being lost in a shopping mall or large department store at about the age of five. They asked their subjects, 24 individuals ranging in age from 18 to 53, to try to remember childhood events that had been recounted to the pair by a parent, an older sibling or another close relative. Loftus and Pickrell prepared a booklet for each participant containing one-paragraph stories about three events that had actually happened to him or her and one that had not. She constructed the false event using information about a plausible shopping trip provided by a relative, who also verified that the participant had not in fact been lost at about the age of five. The lost-in-the-mall scenario included the following elements: lost for an extended period, crying, aid and comfort by an elderly woman and, finally, reunion with the family.

After reading each story in the booklet, the participants wrote what they remembered about the event. If they did not remember it, they were instructed to write, “I do not remember this.” In two follow-up interviews, participants were told there was interest in examining how much detail they could remember and how their memories compared with those of their relative. The event paragraphs were not read to them verbatim, but rather parts were provided as retrieval cues. The participants recalled something about 49 of the 72 true events (68 percent) immediately after the initial reading of the booklet and also in each of the two follow-up interviews. After reading the booklet, seven of the 24 participants (29 percent) remembered either partially or fully the false event constructed for them, and in the two follow-up interviews six participants (25 percent) continued to claim that they remembered the fictitious event. Statistically, there were some differences between the true memories and the false ones: participants used more words to describe the true memories, and they rated the true memories as being somewhat more clear. But if an onlooker were to observe many of the participants describing an event, it would be difficult indeed to tell whether the account was of a true or a false memory. Of course, being lost, however frightening, is not the same as being abused. But the lost-in-the-mall study is not about real experiences of being lost; it is about planting false memories of being lost. The paradigm shows a way of instilling false memories and takes a step toward allowing an understanding of how this might happen in real-world settings. Moreover, the study provides evidence that people can be led to remember their past in different ways, and they can even be coaxed into “remembering” entire events that never happened. Studies in other laboratories using a similar experimental procedure have produced similar results such as those conducted by, Ira Hyman, Troy H. Husband and F. James Billing of Western Washington University.


Total Recall is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. Image: Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker dissatisfied with his place in life. On the way to work he sees an advertisement on the subway for ReKall, Inc., a facility that implants fake memories of ideal vacations (1990).

In the lost-in-the-mall study, implantation of false memory occurred when another person, usually a family member, claimed that the incident happened. Corroboration of an event by another person can be a powerful technique for instilling a false memory. In fact, merely claiming to have seen a person do something can lead that person to make a false confession of wrongdoing.

This effect was demonstrated in a study by Saul M. Kassin and his colleagues at Williams College, who investigated the reactions of individuals falsely accused of damaging a computer by pressing the wrong key. The innocent participants initially denied the charge, but when a confederate said that she had seen them perform the action, many participants signed a confession, internalized guilt for the act and went on to confabulate details that were consistent with that belief. These findings show that false incriminating evidence can induce people to accept guilt for a crime they did not commit and even to develop memories to support their guilty feelings.

Research is beginning to give us an understanding of how false memories of complete, emotional and self-participatory experiences are created in adults. First, there are social demands on individuals to remember; for instance, researchers exert some pressure on participants in a study to come up with memories. Second, memory construction by imagining events can be explicitly encouraged when people are having trouble remembering. And, finally, individuals can be encouraged not to think about whether their constructions are real or not. Creation of false memories is most likely to occur when these external factors are present, whether in an experimental setting, in a therapeutic setting or during everyday activities.

The precise mechanisms by which such false memories are constructed await further research. There is still much to learn about the degree of confidence and the characteristics of false memories, and what types of individuals are particularly susceptible to these forms of suggestion and who is resistant. In 1998 Herrmann and Yoder published an article arguing for the cessation of memory implantation research with children. The criticisms referred to several studies investigating the suggestibility of children written by Ceci and colleagues. Herrmann and Yoer argue that the methods used can have negative implications for the children used such as lessen their respect for authority, be damaging for their concept of self (feel incompetent when it is pointed out that their memories are wrong) and cause stress. Ornstein and Gordon replied to Herrmann and Yoder’s article saying that although people conducting research with children have an ethical responsibility there is much to be gained from memory implantation research and “the benefits outweigh the potential risk for children involved”. Which of course doesn’t sound very ethical at all.

The Final Cut (2006) is set in a world with memory implants, Robin Williams plays a cutter, someone with the power of final edit over people’s recorded histories. His latest assignment is one that puts him in danger.

The research was funded by the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the JPB Foundation.


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