Leonardo 54:4 cover image. Photograph of a live cockroach on a restaurant menu titled "Entomophatron" on a bright teal background.
On the cover: Entomophatron menu. (© Marina McClure)

Leonardo, Volume 54, issue 4

August 2021



Artists' Articles

  • Memory Machines: Infrastructural Performance as an Art Method
    Get at MIT Press

    Through the Memory Machines performance tour conducted in a public library, the authors analyze multisensory methods including immersive performance and walking tours as probes into cultural infrastructures. Combining discussions of media theory and artistic practice, including collaboration with the 00100 Ensemble, the authors present infrastructural performance as an art method for creative infrastructural research.

  • Procedurally Generated Artworks Based on Multiple Sequence Alignment of Orthologous Gene Copies
    Get at MIT Press

    In this article, the author presents a novel approach to the procedural generation of artwork series based on multiple sequence alignment of orthologous gene copies. In the strategy developed, nucleotides present in a string of DNA (A, G, C, T) were each assigned to an existing artwork. New visual compositions were then created by collaging columns of pixels from each of the existing four artworks according to the arrangement of nucleotides after orthologous genes were aligned. The resulting outcome was a distinctive set of artworks in which visual differences were governed by nucleotide divergence at genes of interest due to evolutionary processes.

  • Representing Theoretical Physics Research in and on Ceramics
    Get at MIT Press

    A theoretical physicist and potter, the author presents his practice that fuses these two sides of himself. His art aims to circumvent the regular pitfalls of scientific public engagement, replacing a didactic approach with sensory stimuli from tactile objects, eliciting curiosity for science. The author presents the origins of his practice and focuses on several series of ceramic pots. He explains the design of their form and decoration, exemplifying the interconnections between physics, mathematics and some of his artistic influences. The paper concludes with a discussion of his experience presenting the work and its reception.

  • Soma-Based Nonphysical Instrument Design in Electronic Music Performance
    Get at MIT Press

    Attention to the role of the body and bodily awareness in human-computer interaction is increasing. Broader availability of cost-effective motion sensors in mobile and gaming applications has prompted a shift to body-centered design methods. This article examines the relevance of embodied sketching activities drawn from soma-based and sonic interaction design to digital musical instrument (DMI) development. It focuses specifically on the Telechord, a novel motion-controlled system that promotes methods for exploring connections between movement and sound. By emphasizing the felt aspects of movement-based design and performance, this approach places performer experience at the forefront, complementing technical efforts to enhance nuance and coherence in current DMI design research.

  • Endless Forms Most Beautiful: A Garden Shows That Cancer Is a Part of Life
    Get at MIT Press

    Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a crested cactus garden that embodies both an aesthetic and a medically transformative approach to cancer. The cacti in this garden have mutations in their meristem cells causing uncontrolled growths—which are, by some definitions, cancer. The garden was installed near the new Biodesign Institute C building on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Crested cacti and other fasciated plants are examples of organisms that live with cancer but do not die from it. These plants help to widen the framework for thinking about what cancer is and how to live with it and, ultimately, inspired a new center, the Arizona Cancer Evolution (ACE) Center, which investigates cancer across forms of life.

General Articles

  • Crypto Art: A Decentralized View
    Get at MIT Press

    Crypto art is limited-edition digital art, cryptographically registered with a token on a blockchain. Tokens represent a transparent, auditable origin and provenance for a piece of digital art. Blockchain technology allows tokens to be held and securely traded without the involvement of third parties. Crypto art draws its origins from conceptual art—sharing the immaterial and distributive nature of artworks, the tight blending of artworks with currency and the rejection of conventional art markets and institutions. The authors propose a collection of viewpoints on crypto art from different actors within the system: artists, collectors, gallerists, art historians and data scientists. A set of emerging themes and open challenges surfaces.

  • Perception as Media: Reconsidering the Arts and Neurotechnology
    Get at MIT Press

    Recent developments in neurotechnology raise the possibility of directly reading out—or sending input into—perceptual awareness. Using Marshall McLuhan's statement “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium” as a starting point, the author explores the potential for neural decoding and brain-computer interfaces to support a medium of awareness. This article intends to open a set of questions that reconsider ongoing issues in phenomenology and the arts. If art addresses the human condition, then it is arguably essential for art to address our growing integration with external—and increasingly internal—technology.

  • Harold Cohen and AARON: Collaborations in the Last Six Years (2010–2016) of a Creative Life
    Get at MIT Press

    This article documents Harold Cohen’s last phase of creativity from 2010 until his death in 2016, a period that witnessed an accelerated coevolution of Cohen’s relationship with the artificial intelligence program AARON on the one hand and his technological and artistic innovations on the other, culminating in a new art form featuring the void. Implications for the human and machine interface are discussed.

  • Illusory Planes in Fred Sandback’s Sculpture
    Get at MIT Press

    A remarkable feature often noted of artist Fred Sandback’s string constructions: The geometrical forms he created with string have a strong planar feel. Phenomenologically, viewers perceive the spaces between the strings as planes with some substance. The illusion is amodally completed, as in the well-known Kanizsa triangle, by minimal prompts, but in three dimensions. Instead of creating an illusory figure, then, Sandback creates illusory planes. By noting how the constructions are like “impossible” figures, one can see how bottom-up and top-down effects combine to complicate the illusion, and the works become about the construction of space rather than its reification.

General Note

  • Artistic Portraits of Strange-Face Illusions Produced through Eye-to-Eye Gazing in Dyads or Mirror-Gazing
    Get at MIT Press

    Strange-face illusions are apparitional perceptions of deformed faces, unknown people and monstrous beings produced by prolonged staring at one's own face in a mirror or when staring eye to eye at another person in a dyad, at low-level room illumination. In the authors’ experiment, portrait artists drew illusions they perceived during a 10-minute eye-to-eye gazing session while paired in dyads with naive participants. Dissociation was measured through standard self-report questionnaires. Results showed that portraits became more abstract and less figurative as the artists experienced higher levels of nonpathological dissociation. Statistically, a significant correlation was found between art-abstraction ratings and dissociation scores by judges and portrait artists, respectively. Findings are discussed in relationship to portraits à la manière de Scipione and Francis Bacon.

Technical Articles

  • An Optimized Nontoxic Electrolytic Etching Procedure for Fine Art Printmaking
    Get at MIT Press

    In their National Endowment for the Arts–funded project the authors sought to provide artists with an innovative method for creative expression using electrolytic etching techniques long used in the electronics and biotech industries. Using scientific methods, the electrolytic etching process was improved and then compared side by side with copper etched in ferric chloride after analysis with an AFM. The optimized electrolytic etching method proved to be superior to classical acid etching in intaglio printmaking.

  • The Computer-Based Generation of Fonts in the Style of Kandinsky
    Get at MIT Press

    This article presents a general framework for programmed automatic generation of artistic fonts. By parameterizing various font attributes, such as color and aspect ratio, the authors are able to generate artistically styled fonts in almost unlimited variations to suit any type of design requirement. The authors demonstrate their experiments on generating fonts in an abstract style similar to Kandinsky's, built on a collection of the artist's styled patterns. The approach generates fonts composed of vector strokes and is thus highly scalable, limited only by the computer hardware.


  • Advancing the Use of Games as a Model for Scientific Practice
    Get at MIT Press

    Science is similar to a game, as both involve rules-based participation in search of optimal outcomes. Supported by key texts in history and philosophy of science, the authors propose a game-based model for understanding scientific inquiry and practice, particularly through computational resources. They conclude that this model creates space for more speculative and reflective approaches to scientific practice and can contribute to the design and development of better scientific software, simulation and visualization.

  • The Immersive Guitar Project: Imagining Possibilities for Enriching Audience Experience through Architectural Innovation
    Get at MIT Press

    This article introduces The Immersive Guitar (TIG) Project, a proposed sonic performance installation that doubles as an intimate acoustic venue. The TIG Project responds to several needs, highlighting relations between place and performance, music and architecture. The needs concern a rarity of suitable, intimate spaces for acoustic performance and an appeal for more creative solutions in the provision of such spaces, which would afford novel ways of accessing performing arts experiences. This article introduces the proposition and provides project background and rationale.

Special Section: Pioneers and Pathbreakers

  • Bernard Stiegler, la technique, la culture et le temps: Une introduction à l’œuvre
    Get at MIT Press

    Décédé brutalement le 5 août 2020, le philosophe Bernard Stiegler aura eu une activité incessante et acharnée, une vie et une œuvre intenses et prolifiques, qu’il a transmises à ses contemporains et vers les générations futures. Soucieux d’un monde “non-inhumain,” de ses dits et écrits à ses actions et expérimentations, ses positions et propositions étaient étayées et son acuité en permanence vivace face à “la complexité de ce qui arrive”.

Special Section: Abstracts from the Spectra 2018 Symposium

  • Introduction: Abstracts from the Spectra 2018 Symposium
  • Abstracts from the Spectra 2018 Symposium Part 1: Keynote and Materiality

Special Section: STEAM Initiative on Education

  • The Main Course Was Mealworms: The Epistemics of Art and Science in Public Engagement
    Get at MIT Press

    The authors share an emerging analytical approach to designing and studying STEAM programs that focuses on how programs integrate the respective epistemic practices—the ways in which knowledge is constructed—of science and art. They share the rationale for moving beyond surface features of STEAM programs (e.g. putting textiles and electronics on the same table) to the discipline-specific ways in which participants engage in creative inquiry and production. They share a brief example from a public STEAM event to demonstrate the ways in which this approach can foster reflection and intentionality in the design and implementation of STEAM programs.

Leonardo Reviews

  • The Poetics of Noise from Dada to Punk
  • Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger and the Decade that Reinvented Philosophy
  • Les troubles du récit: pour une nouvelle approche des processus narratifs
  • Heirloom Fruits of America: Selections from the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection
  • E-Co-Affectivity: Exploring Pathos at Life’s Material Interfaces
  • Peanuts minus Schulz: Distributed Labor as a Compositional Practice/Le travail distribué comme pratique organisationnelle
  • London’s Arts Labs and the 60s Avant-Garde
  • Nothing But the Music: Documentaries from Nightclubs, Dance Halls & a Tailor’s Shop in Dakar
  • Leonardo Reviews Online

The Network