There was a moment in my life, after almost two decades spent in the anguish of being unable to take a normal breath, when Stanislav Libensky’s “Red Pyramid” became my entire universe. It seized my attention and suspended me in mercy above the tight, dim asylum of illness. Instead, I was captured by the optical gravity of that sculpture. It had an absolute weight to it that seemed immoveable in time and space. Just thundering with mystery. That is what got me. The unanswered question. Maybe the unanswerable question. Either way I had a feeling of relief. A return to being human.
I had spent a lot my life being a non-human by then. For me it was a quietly crushing illness that strangled me and reduced my senses by two that defined my experience as such. It was an emotionally disfiguring experience, trying to live life through a straw of sorts while pretending, day to day, with all of my might, that all was well. After all, one must appear normal to pay the bills. So hide that panic and the pain. Smile and nod. It is an old story and we're awash in it still. While my feelings of strangulation, shame and otherness came from my physical reality, people of all stripes suffer under all manner of absurd bigotries these days. Good people respond to these facts by advocating for a simple respect for the personhood and wholeness(think Universal Healthcare) of all. Maybe someday. We can hope and work for that world. We're in the thick of it now. And in that same now, emerging from stage left; Invented, Super Intelligent Machine Minds. ACTUAL non-humans are arriving to say “Hold my beer.” And it won't be a request.
People who downplay Artificial Intelligence are failing to understand that it isn’t going to change the world. AI is going to literally change us. The divisions it will sow will overtake all others by adding a new branch to the evolutionary tree, leaving homo sapiens behind for whatever synthetic descriptors we choose. This is going to happen. The questions that will come to matter, I expect, will regard how much of and what parts of our historic humanity we desire to maintain. And, of course, in the near term, who gets to remain human and who doesn’t. And whether or not the others will once again walk in shame, fear and deprivation.
Since my "Libensky revelation" a great deal of my life and mind has been turned toward the design language that the optical qualities of glass speak in. He and his wife, Yaroslav Brychtova created works that embodied Brutalist mystery and dazzled with geometric paradoxes. My own works have linked glass's visual traits with cosmology and futurism. They can be unrelatable because they sync up nicely with the deep remoteness I felt as an unrecognized and unwelcome sick person. Not unrelatedly, though, my works also happen to fit this moment in time. The arrival of AI.
Regarding Information Technology, code is the word. It is the eternal surfer riding evolving waves of physical systems on which it is expressed. From crude counting machines to quantum bits, code and those physical systems are all patterns. Figuratively then, my works deal in patterns. Sometimes of a singular mood. Sometimes of multiple, conflicting patterns interrupting one another in an asymmetry that represents dynamic struggle. As our real-world information systems wage that struggle and evolve, their power to answer questions grow. In fact, we envision them not only answering questions we are incapable of answering, but making the leap into novel inquiries of their own. We’re getting awfully close, then, to self-consciousness. Thinking, reflecting minds.
As artists, how might we express thought, soul and mind? How about mystery, clarity, and self? Here, we return to the design language of glass. Refraction. Opacity. Transparency. Reflection. Depth. These visual elements lend themselves naturally to the expression of intangible facts. This might all seem unimportant other than the fact that we are going there. Machine minds will be advanced thinkers, capable of surpassing us and having opinions about us. At the same time, some humans will undoubtedly choose to merge (or submerge) with these technologies in attempts to augment themselves and/or compete with our superior creation. Whatever future we have will not be human in the way that we are. I spent decades without two of my senses and inundated by a feeling of non-humanity. I am fascinated with the machine personalities that will arise and with what those of us who augment will become, even as I look to the cosmos and wonder aloud where these augmentations will carry us. I have no definitive opinion of whether this will be good or bad. So, the figurative language of my works, aside from the glass qualities, reflect the range of possibilities from dire to optimistic. Either way, it is more than worth looking into.
Matt Vinci 2023