Dane Worrallo - Generating the Life impulse: The Artificer's/Alchemists/Artist's Task
Twice Upon A Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses
Conference held at the Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR), 26-27 June 2014
Dane Worrallo - Generating the Life Impulse: The Artificer's/Alchemist's/Artist's Task
To change inert matter into living substance has been one of the tasks of alchemists, artists, and artificers in their experiments and constructions throughout history. The “spark” that bestows or creates life is a power that was reserved in early civilisation for priests or the miracle makers, who alone maintained the borders between life and death for millennia, while the artist was charged with carving life into marble and clay; to literally turn the living into stone. The experiments of early alchemists, especially in their creation of automatons, started to bring in experimentation with material and substance to create entities that were not just life-like, but had life of themselves. The Enlightenment materialist Julien de La Mettrie went one step further in his writings to suggest that the human life comes from the complex arrangement of matter, and not from any sort of soul gifted to us by an outside agent. Post-industrial revolution, the works of artists such as Picasso, Duchamp, Trova, and Tinguely brought about a liberation of the artist’s role and a convergence with the task of the alchemist; the gears, drives, levers and crankshafts that set machines into motion were instead being used to create work that generated movement, action and response that anticipated the creation construction of life via non-anthropomorphic means. Now, with attempts to create life reserved for A.I. research in solid state systems (the moving parts of the industrial revolution all replaced by devices only changing at the quantum level), I will argue for re-establishing the link between the alchemists and artists when the materials are digital and less tangible, but the curiosity and experiments are no less ambitious. Perhaps it is time to consider a new type of A.I…Alchemical Intelligence: To generate new kinds of life and activity not limited to representing the human form, or indeed, any form at all.