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Nanotech Aesthetics Abstract

JeremyTurner writes "Here is an abstract I proposed in 2003 about MNT's potential impact on the contemporary artworld. I was hoping to get some feedback from Nanodot users about the subject and advice as to the types of venues and resources that are currently available for me to publish this abstract and develop the research in further detail. THE ABSTRACT:



This paper will focus more on the "imagining" side of the aesthetic impact of Drexlerian MNT (Molecular Nano Technology) than the "imaging" side of NanoScale technical illustration more common with contemporary discussions about Nanotechnology in relation to Arts and Culture. Speculations in this paper are the result of the authorís direct experience working as an interdisciplinary artist, curator, art-historian, archivist, critic and writer.

In general, this paper will imagine possible scenarios where full-blown MNT would affect general aesthetic trends and lifestyles in the Artworld and outline their eventual weaving into the fabric of post-cultural society.

This paper will hypothesize that with the aid of a Drexlerian Universal Assembler system firmly in place, society will increasingly become liberated from the material constraints of subsistence and the pressures of obsessive cultural commodification.

In fact, it is hinted at the end of Eric. K. Drexlerís ìEngines of Creationî, that once these material obstacles have sufficiently been overcome, the last ambitions left to fulfill in a prolonged and Trans-human life will predominantly resemble Performance Art. Also, with the advent of truly creative AI systems, Artists would likely become less dependent on the antiquated Romantic notion of ìIsolated Artistic Geniusî and will learn to adapt to working with various Conceptual Arts Think-tanks set up by humans, bots and avatars.

The first chapter will state the claim that the High-Modernist practice of Conceptual Art will become (via MNT) analogous to an Artisan/Guild movement ñ ìArtisan Think-tanksî – where the craft of ideas becomes the main crafting of physical material. Conceptual Art itself will move from the immateriality of the idea realm and will develop the means to manifest their abstract ideas (and ideals) directly into material form. It is with the advent of full-blown MNT that society learns to blend the accessibility of the Arts&Crafts movement with the more refined demands and tastes of High Modernist Art.

The next chapter will elaborate this claim in more detail by making specific references to famous historical Conceptual Art movements and collectives such as Fluxus International and Hopefully from these elaborations on the cultural benefits of Drexlerian MNT, the reader will recognize the great potential and legitimization of the Conceptual Art paradigm coming into the foreground of mainstream aesthetic and recreational discourse.

This will lead to the following chapter which will illustrate how the much-anticipated Era of the Singularity could herald the full integration of a Fluxus type lifestyle into the everyday working routines of the "non-artist" population.

Going into even further detail, the next chapter will speculate that the medium of "performance" art itself will eventually merge directly with the discrete object/commodity proposed by the famous High Modernist advocates, Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried.

The conclusion of this paper will include a forewarning (partially in jest) that any emergent Mannerist trends that might happen in MNT-derived art might result in an actual physical and post-aesthetic catastrophe (i.e. Assembler Chaos for Artís Sake). To summarize, this paper will call for the official formation of an Arts/Culture wing of the Foresight Institute.

DESCRIPTORS: MNT, culture, aesthetics, singularity, Modernism, Conceptualism, High Art, Artisanship, ideas, Drexler, Mannerism, Materialism, Transhumanism, Posthumanism, AI, artificial intelligence, life extension, imagination, inspiration, leisure, commodification, society, accidents, implications, immortality, consequences, benefits."

5 Responses to “Nanotech Aesthetics Abstract”

  1. Mr_Farlops Says:

    Patronage for the arts

    So I guess my question is, will these new technologies strongly alter the balance between certain kinds of work versus other sorts of work. Can a population of a certain size, even with MNT, support millions of artists? Or, as has been the case for most of recorded history, will there still be a shortage of patronage for starving artists?

    Obviously MNT will change the values of some things versus other things, but I still think there will be a scarcity. It may not be of materials, it may not be of robot labor, but there will still be scarcity of talent, inclination, time, land, and even intellectual property. I don't think opportunity cost will simply vanish forever.

    Look at our society now. We have enormous material abundance already, and arguably still a large amount of leisure time to spend on our own concerns, yet there still isn't enough patronage to allow someone to quit their day job and become a sculptor full time.

    Now why is that? Will MNT really change this?

  2. JeremyTurner Says:

    Re:Patronage for the arts

    Hello Mr. Farlops, Thanks for replying my post. I am glad to finally get some written feedback on my proposed paper about Nanotech Aesthetics. As a "Starving Artist" in contemporary society, I actively share your concerns for a more fiscally responsible world where Artists can finally have material and direct social rewards for the amount of time and labour spent on developing, researching and producing art. I hope as much as you do that MNT might become the promised technology that could enable the creative individual to devote time and energy to focusing solely on aesthetic pursuits. It has not entirely happened yet but I can say I feel much more empowered as an Artist since the proliferation of recent technologies today then I did even 10 years ago – the cheapening of technology has allowed me to become 1000 times more prolific as an artist and has even allowed me the luxury to write about art on the side as well. And I say this as someone who is officially considered to be living barely above the poverty line (according to Canadian standards). I wish I had a clear answer to your question and in fact, my roomate earlier today brought up virtually the same question as yours. The question you have both raised seems exponentially urgent as the pressures to make rent are becoming very tense at the end of this month. I can say that discussing these issues now is very productive and I hope that such questions will eventually lead to the formation of an Arts/Culture wing of the Foresight Society because we will need some foresight about the social/cultural effects resulting from the implementation of MNT and if there will be any coherant consulting or governing body that leads to the fiscal policies for artists in the future – it will likely be members of the Foresight Institute and/or its memetic descendents themselves that will be in charge of the distribution of material resources and access to those resources. I am hoping that the Scientific, Political and Economic community within the Foresight Institute also contributes constructive feedback to the questions being raised regarding the potential creative liberation offered by MNT. Even in the most economically difficult of times (Canada is still in a deep recession), I think it is beneficial to try and discover the optimistic potential of such technologies as MNT before it gets completely taken for granted and allocated strictly towards security and defense. I understand the need for security restrictions to be in place when something as powerful as a molecular assembler can be handed in trust to the most eccentric of individuals. I think this may be just as great a concern regarding the fiscal realities of a potentially uneven hierarchy of patronage among the spectrum of economic classes – the "haves" and "have-nots" have sufficient access to the benefits of MNT. This equally troubling question is will the criteria for the creative possibilites of MNT-based artwork be extremely restricted in order to provide the necessary security guarantees to prevent a disaster resulting from mass abuse of this medium? To address the quality of artistic production since the advent of recent technologies, I must also add that I think in the Western World, our current level of material abundance has led to some amazing cross-discplinary artistic initiatives such as Fluxus and the birth of non-commodified art practices. I would also argue that there never is or was a scarcity of talent in this world at any time in history. If there is scarcity in that department, it is more a scarcity of media hype and publicity given to draw attention to and promote such talent. I think the internet, for example, has managed to bring some of this creative talent into the forefront of mainstream appreciation (this is a subjective opinion – you may disagree). Anyhow, I look forward to additional feedback you or others might have. I have not entirely answered the question yet but I think this discussion is heading down the right path. Cheers, Jeremy.

  3. qftconnor Says:


    Hi Jeremy -

    Here are a few things which crossed my mind while reading your abstract. Perhaps some of them will help you develop your research.

    …the fabric of post-cultural society.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "post-cultural". Do you mean "post-human"? If you truly mean post-cultural, then is there really any "fabric" left into which "trends and lifestyles" could be woven? This idea needs semantic clarification.

    …once these material obstacles have sufficiently been overcome, the last ambitions left to fulfill in a prolonged and Trans-human life will predominantly resemble Performance Art.

    Are you postulating that scientific research will either be extinct or else will "predominantly resemble Performance Art" (which is perhaps the same thing ;) )? What about mathematical research? What about spiritual/religious goals?

    …the craft of ideas becomes the main crafting of physical material. Conceptual Art itself will move from the immateriality of the idea realm and will develop the means to manifest their abstract ideas (and ideals) directly into material form.

    Loosely speaking, this sounds like a prediction that Conceptual Art will turn back into Abstract Art, much of which seems (to me) to be an attempt to "manifest … abstract ideas" in "material form". Don't we see this at least as far back as Dove and Kandinsky? What features (if any) of MNT give this a new twist?

    I'm sure that as you flesh out your abstract, you'll incorporate considerable historical background. It seems to me that it might be a good idea to touch upon previous forms of experiential art in some detail. You might look into the relation of your ideas to participatory theater (for example, the work of playwright Richard Schechner), and to simulated environments (for example, Cerebrum, an effort in the late 1960's to create an artificial, surreal environment inside a Lower Manhattan building). These appear relevant as very preliminary forerunners of an "integration" of your ideas into the "everyday working routines of the "non-artist" population", though obviously far short of a "full integration".

    Although it's somewhat tangential to your main thesis, you might also discuss briefly the relation of your ideas to the entirely new forms of art which may emerge as technology develops. For example, sight and smell obviously create very different subjective sensations. Perhaps we will learn to alter the brain in such a way as to couple artificial sense organs to entirely new subjective sensations. Or maybe we'll extend the subjective range of an old sense, for example by creating new colors (not just new shades of red, green, etc.). Such new senses could provide the basis for new forms of art.

    Good luck with your research, and with your art.

  4. JeremyTurner Says:


    Hello Qftconnor, Thanks for all the great feedback about the abstract. You definitely have fueled the need for me to elaborate more on where I specifically stand semantically and historically. First of all, I should definitely find a more semantically accurate word than "post-cultural" (I wrote my first draft of the abstract under heavy deadline pressure). At the time of writing my draft, I was thinking of "Post-Cultural" as a historical period where Culture (with a capital "C") is no longer as exclusive a field and self-conscious of its contributions apart from scientific research, religion etc. I was proposing that all these practices could become truly cross-disciplinary and that everything could be seen as a kind of of "performance art" – a time where the mundane becomes interesting and dramatic – theatrical, even (I will definitely go in depth with regards to living theatre and Happenings etc). So to answer your next question, yes, even Mathematics and Scientific Inquiry will resemble a kind of performance art until such a point where "performance" itself no longer becomes self-conscious…I am not sure though if a "Post-Performance" oriented society would be more or less interesting though…perhaps if things become too "Post-Cultural" and "Post-Performance" in the future than all creative activity will be taken for granted? I would personally rather see society go through its "performance motions" for spiritual/religious fulfillment as you suggest than for the sake of mundane routine. I definitely would like some subjective opinions on these questions. In terms of the manifesting of abstract ideas into material form – I would say that yes, the dream of doing such a thing began in earnest with people like Kandinsky and the Blau Reiter group and then perhaps things sobered up a little when he taught at the Bauhaus. I can imagine that had MNT broken into mainstream society a century ago then organizations like the Bauhaus would have turned their abstract fantasies into a portion of the Bauhaus production line. Abstract shapes and pigments via MNT could finally be truly kinetic and have material validity outside of merely being a pictorial respresentation of the imagination (within reason). However, I was not necessarily thinking that far back in history when I proposed my abstract. The only other "classic" artist on my mind when I first wrote the draft was the conceptual art founder, Marcel DuChamp. I would find it quite hilarious if some MNT-era artists began to perfectly reproduce "readymades" based on other everyday objects they saw and experiences. Some conceptual artists like Kim Adams today already have the financial means to realize big sculptural projects like customizing cars and making chrome abstractions. Imagine if MNT could allow someone to do the same level of high-budget production without the high-budget? What has happened with music recently is a good example. A basement composer can now churn out hundreds of their own CDs using composition software. No need to notate massive scores and hope to get sufficient patronage to play them anymore. The abstract (the musical idea) can easily become disseminated as a piece of material product. And yes, I will definitely be bringing up virtual environments as this is my other major interest in my research – avatar environments. The url I listed as my homepage is actually a clip of a documentary I made of an avatar community. I will definitely look into Cerebrum. You might be interested in my interview with Myron Krueger in – my personal fave of that period is "Critter" (I wish I was old enough to have experienced that piece directly). Yes, at least as footnotes, I will go on some basic tangents to address the cross-medium possibilities that MNT might offer…I will definitely focus on what I know and can easily research though…however, this is where constructive input like yours fits in. Do you have any papers written about the topics you have dicuss? I would like to research your ideas further. Cheers and thanks, Jeremy.

  5. Anonymous Coward Says:

    Development on Jeremy's research

    Hey Jer, This is Pat. First something on research methodology: I was just looking at your thesis research question again. You said you're interested in the "imagining' side of MNT with regards to its relation to arts and culture. Here the issue of positioning your research is important. It becomes crucial to distinguish whether you're looking at how MNT will 'change' arts and culture. Or how arts and culture together with MNT will start to modify each other's ontology, but without privileging either entity. The former position is thus one that works with a classical cause and effect model where MNT almost becomes a fixed concept that manifests itself in arts and culture. The latter position is more interested in the encounter(s) that occurs with the two entities coming together. In as such the latter position generates a "third entity" (so to speak) which emobodies the becoming-(each)-other of the two entities. This third entity is without name or even "materiality" – it is a force that affects but do not have itself a stable ontology (and causation). The latter position in itself, as the activity of research, becomes involved with the already stated occurences between MNT and arts and culture. The thesis thus does not posit itself exteriorly, but is as such an "effect" of the deformation and formation, the becoming-other, in the MNT-arts&culture ocassion. (These will thus become complicit with you stating of how this research is from your experience of an artist, curator, historian, critic and writer.) The second thing I like to discuss is the problematic that you have posed in your model of how conceptual art's future (and material form) to be entirely effected by MNT. This relates to the above writing on positioning and methodology. Your statement thus still assumes a division between mind and matter, or mind and body, subject and object. This model of framing future conceptual art's production and materialization does not offer anything to what you stated later in your proposal to want to invoke the "era of singularity". It also does not offer the era of multiplicity anything as well. It just states, or rather confine future conceptual art into Idea versus object division. Have you thought about arguing for a case of how MNT can offer conceptual art a "way of being" that does not rely on causation and effect, or Idea producing Objects? That perhaps the materiality that MNT exists within provides a diagram of how conceptual art is already material from the start? Or perhaps that MNT is not used as simply a "tool" to help realize those ideas, but is in fact contributive to the formation of ideas even at the conceptual level? Cheers and good luck with all! Pat p.s. check out this site… PhD in Media Arts:

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