Vision Machine

This brief focusses on two pieces of writing – an extract from Paul Viro’s ‘The Vision Machine’ and Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The Secret of the Machine’ which both touch on the development of machines and technology. We have to produce a single image inspired by these pieces as well as other research we will carry out individually. This image will form a book of the whole class’s response to this project which will be sold in the Second Years’ show of work in the town centre based on the theme of ‘Man and Machine’. (I’m not sure if we get any commission for sales of the book.)

My reactive thoughts to this brief were of the song Karn Evil 9 by Emerson, Lake and Palmer (whose album artwork for Brain Salad Surgery was produced by H.R. Giger) as it depicts what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world in which a carnival is held with a variety of bizarre displays such as a “supersonic fighting cocks”, “behind a glass stands a real blade of grass” (hinting at its rarity in a post-apocalyptic world) and “Gypsy Queen in a glaze of vaseline, Will perform on guillotine”.  Naturally – being written by a prog rock band – the song is half an hour long and split into 3 impressions, in which the 3rd a dialogue takes place between Greg Lake (the lead singer) and the computer of Lake’s (space?)ship which has seemingly taken control of what’s left of the world.

The record sleeve opens centrally to reveal the image on the right.

The record sleeve opens centrally to reveal the image on the right.

Lake declares:

“No computer stands in my way
Only blood can cancel my pain
Guardians of a new clear dawn
Let the maps of war be drawn.”

meaning that he won’t let a machine blight his efforts, Lake goes on to say

“Rejoice! Glory is ours!
Our young men have not died in vain,
Their graves need no flowers
The tapes have recorded their names”

which states that he still relies on the machine to record soldiers’ names implying reliance on machines still. Their final conversation shows the computers cold ignorance towards the human race:

Lake: “I am all there is”
Bridge Computer: “Negative! Primitive! Limited! I let you live!”
Lake: “But I gave you life”
Bridge Computer: “What else could you do?”
Lake: “To do what was right”
Bridge Computer: “I’m perfect! Are you?”

which reminded me of the last verse of Kipling’s poem:

“But remember, please, the Law by which we live,

   We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
   If you make a slip in handling us you die!
We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings—
   Be humble, as you crawl beneath our rods!-
Our touch can alter all created things,
   We are everything on earth—except The Gods!”
It’s this explicit, unambiguous heartlessness which defines machines to me, whereas humans are compassionate beings who can empathise and adapt to situations. Maybe this is just because of the way we’ve programmed machines in the past. This could stem from the fact that we build machines as infinitely finite – being able to replace parts continuously but always have to produce a ‘2.0’ to gain any major progress – if we could build machines which learn, ‘think’ and ‘evolve’ they may grow into entities similar to ourselves.
As Hod Lipson discusses in this TED Talk:
These ‘self-aware’ robots adapt to and learn about their environment to gain ‘rewards’. Obviously this is early stages but it hints at the idea of machines progressing themselves and the thing I love about these types of developments in technology is that we can only speculate how far this can go. Lipson’s last words of this talk fittingly sum up this point: “And one of the things that I think is important is that we have to get away from this idea of designing the machines manually, but actually let them evolve and learn, like children, and perhaps that’s the way we’ll get there.
Moving on to Illustrators who have inspired something creative in me – Robert Filip is a vector artist whose work is sometimes based on machines and technology.
Machine Tree Tech Info GraphicMachine park
The piece above is called Machine Park and really caught my eye as I’m naturally drawn towards busy masses of illustration and the interlinking machinery works perfectly to create a sense of movement and connectedness.

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