Computational Art and Witnessing

Shai rapoport
5 min readMar 2, 2021


For this weeks blog I thought it would be best to post the conversation I had with George Kuhn a friend that studies with me, right after class:

[23/02 13:05] Sai Rapoports

Hi! wasn’t really able to follow all the things you said on teams, not sure I agree with you on it but would love to hear your thoughts again if you are willing to share (smile)

I guess what I am trying to point out is that art has a history and context, a tradition. It is not just a curious way of perceiving the world since this applies for many other disciplines as well and they are not considered as art, and for a reason (to me at least). In other words, there must be something that makes art what it is, and to me its not only the framing and suspension of disbelief, but also its sensuality, narrative structuring, tools, imagination. The work of forensic architecture plays on this border, which is fine. but then what bothers me is that it does enjoy the framing of the art. It is almost a trend of who is more politically engaged, who brings more evidence, who is closer to the truth. To an extant, these practices if not taking into account the context they are presented in, are abusing “art” and wrapping it to fit the journalistic, scientific consensus of expertise. As if other artistic processes are “less”, or “not enough”.​

The dimension that I am missing, and it is not a merely a rational but even more so emotional one, is the alienation, the imagery, the fantasy, playfulness. without is I feel a major part of our human experience of the world is just lost. And it is very sad since I feel its almost a question of survival.

[…] I want to know what you think. and Feel. xx

[23/02 13:25] George Kuhn

Thank you so much! I thought u raised some rlly interesting points

I agree with you that art emerges from a history however I think that the framing of ‘what is art’ is a shifting socio-political-economic thing. It is useful, imo, to look at Foucault’s treatments of the birth of the clinic and the prison. Both of these have less to do with what is unique or special about prisons or medical institutions than with the concerns of the populace and state and the way they relate to each other. Similarly the framing of what is and isn’t art is not tied to what is special or unique about art but instead with the world it emerges from. At the moment, for me, art is often the area of research practices that are chimeric in some nature or do not fit into any other categories. It’s the productive discontinuities with other structures that make a lot of these research projects ‘artistic’. This doesn’t deny the status of art to more conventional art practices (e.g. painting) which are included by their similarity to historically valid categories of art. I’m unconvinced that it is sensuality or playfulness that qualify a project as ‘fine art’, purely because these qualities are found in many areas typically not seen as ‘fine’ art (see particularly most films, as well as the large part emotion plays in the history of philosophy). I think that FA engages in fantasy and playfulness in the stories it chooses to tell, the way it chooses data and the way that data is represented. I think forensic architecture has a distinct directorial style and its use as evidence or journalism is more an affirmation of the key role of artistic themes in every other practice​

Also all just my opinion having thought about for like 5 minutes max so take it all with a massive grain of salt, and I’m not sure I stand by any of it

[23/02 14:15] Sai Rapoports

I agree with many things you are mentioning.. def that it is an area of research practices that are chimeric in some nature.. and do not fit

I also am trying to find out myself what makes an art piece effective- and sensuality or playfulness are currently suggestions I’m trying to look into further.. In my final project the major question is essentially what is the punctum (you prob know it, Barthes) of computational and digital art.

And yes, the stories which art chooses to tell and the way it does it is def key here. totally agree on that.. But that is why to me some of the projects Mattia brought (and also some others of Forensic Architecture) can be somewhat flat. This is of course my personal reaction to it, but I feel like I usually come very open as a spectator. I’m observing what I am feeling/seeing, what experience I am having, what meanings can I draw from it. Its more of the position rather then the passive “give it to me”. I am in a way actively looking at whats happening to me. And when I feel I am left with no more space to engage, no room for me to play around, to question, to let my head take things apart and rebuild them and take them apart again and so on- then I get the alert of “hey is this art?”

phrasing it differently, when its all sewed to perfection and given ready on a platter, layered and interesting as it can be, I tend to disengage OR shift my way of seeing it to a different mode of gaze. It usually occurs to me that I consume it more then I am producing.

[23/02 22:37] George Kuhn

I really don’t know any barthes so I’d be interested to learn more

I think that the idea of effectiveness is largely going to be contingent on what you want the art piece to do, so it seems like it will be a moving target

Which definitely isnt a bad thing for a project

On the point about how sewn up a piece is I think that’s very dependent on the person. For me personally I’m a big fan of the forensic architecture work because I feel that its very full of narrative and information while only showing a fraction of the information that surrounds us. The entire process feels like weaving to me (a collaborative storytelling practice requiring time investment and following the paths built into the materials). However i think that your point is interesting and reminds me a lot of approaches to psychoanalysis. The idea being that analysis should hit the ‘real’ and by doing this produce more questions in the patient than it answers. Answering questions directly is rarely productive within psychoanalytic practice, instead the goal is often to feed statements to the patient that catch in their head and around which they spin for a while. These sticking ideas serve as catalysts rather than ingredients or products of a deeper analysis performed by the patient themself.

I think there are striking similarities w a lot of contemporary art and I’m curious what could be carried across from the successes and failures so far (in both directions)