There’s a genuine painting that became a fake when its unscrupulous owner manipulated the artist’s signature. And the Chinese fake phones that are parodies you couldn’t possibly mistake for the real thing: from Pikachu to cigarette packets. There’s a machine here will let you manipulate your fake laugh until it sounds genuine. Fake’s contributing artists have left me with the distinct suspicion that the world I thought I knew is not the world.
Visiting the Science Gallery, Dublin for New Scientist, 14 April 2018
Looking at the world through algorithmic lenses may bring occasional insight, but what really matters here are the pratfalls as, time and again, our machines misconstrue a world they cannot possibly comprehend.
Visiting 😹 LMAO at London’s Open Data Institute for New Scientist, 2 February 2018
According to the curators, these exquisite allegorical frescoes by 18th-century artist Johann Wenzel Bergl are “recognizable as strategies of absolutist picture propaganda”. And Mark Dion’s installation capturing “the lifestyle and self-image of the prototypical ethnographer of colonial times”, isn’t even that, but alludes “to our own imagination of that ethnographer”. I left feeling rather as Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have felt if, instead of freely stepping through the mirror, she had been shoved through it from behind by a gang of goonish anthropologists.
Visiting mumok, Vienna’s museum of contemporary art, for New Scientist, 23 December 2017
Things break down when the press turns up – you might even say it’s a rule. Still, given their ubiquity, I’m beginning to wonder whether gallery-based VR malfunctions are not a kind of mischievous artwork in their own right. In place of a virtual sketch, a message in an over-friendly font asks: “Have you checked your internet connection?” At least Swiss artist Jean Tinguely’s wild mobiles of the 1960s had the decency to catch fire.
Losing my rag at the Royal Academy for New Scientist, 13 December 2017
Here’s something for the evening of Thursday 27 April 7-10 pm.
Designer and trouble-maker Leila Johnston has invited me to join Katharine Vega (chroma.space) and Dr Sean Power (Trinity College, Dublin) at the Site Gallery in Sheffield to ask whether art, science and belief are “branches of the same tree” as Albert Einstein once said, and what happens when some of those branches begin to crack?
Full details here.
Darren McFarlane, Scarus, Pomacanthus, 2012, oil on canvas. (University of Dundee Museum Services © the artist)
Even as geneticists like Ernst Mayr and Theodosius Dobzhansky were revealing the genetic mechanisms that constrain how living things evolve, Thompson was revealing the constraints and opportunities afforded to living things by physics and chemistry. Crudely put, genetics explains why dogs, say, look like other dogs. Thompson did something different: he glimpsed why dogs look the way they do.
For New Scientist, 1 February 2017
Visitors to Philippe Parreno’s vast installation at London’s Tate Modern, Anywhen, get a carpet to lie on while the vast Turbine Hall shimmies and pulses around them. And they’re going to need it: Parreno’s grey machine is triumphally futuristic, an interior so smart it has outgrown any need for occupants. Anywhen is thunderous, sulphurous, awful in its full archaic sense.
for New Scientist, 19 October 2016
Before modern chemistry, it was assumed that the properties of fundamental materials were innate and could be combined. By that logic, blending sulphur’s yellow and mercury’s sheen ought to have made gold. Mendeleev, a Russian chemist and inventor, spoiled that happy dream…
for New Scientist, 27 October 2015
“In terms of purposeful intent, the only agenda I have in mind for this piece is that it does some good.”
Interviewing the artist Andrew Krasnow for New Scientist
Transformations that would have been invisible to humans because they took place so slowly now occur in a single life. “We have to learn to see the Anthropocene…”
For New Scientist, a review of Nicholas Mirzoeff’s How to See the World