Participants: Natalia Grekhova, Alexey Korzukhin, Olga Inozemtseva, Vladislav Bulatov
We are inviting you to the universe of one of the most interesting art collectives, working at the intersection of art, science and technology.
"Where Dogs Run" is an art group formed in 2000 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Members of the creative association "Where dogs run" live and work in Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg. The works of this group do not fit only into the definition of "high-tech" and "technocratic" - the sculptures, objects, installations, videos and actions, created by the artists, speak of illusions, hopes for technocratic utopias or scientific discoveries. Today we are speaking to Olga Inozemtseva, Alexey Korzukhin and Natalia Grekhova.
Their artistic practice lays primarily in a field of technological art and uses a wide range of multimedia: video, robotics, hybrid installations, performance and DIY packages. The group combines innovative visual techniques with scientific research instruments and low tech aesthetics. Through the technological processes, the artists explore how the mythological and the daily interweave with each other, and examine possible mechanisms that could allow new forms of human interaction with different forms of reality.
Most projects by Where Dogs Run deal with serious scientific problems: the problem of three-body system, Mandelbrot set, machine learning, natural language processing, virtual modeling. They are often done in collaboration with scientists (P. Sternberg State Astronomical Institute and V. Sobolev Institute of Astronomy at the St.Petersburg State University) or commissioned by organizations promoting science (e.g. Dynasty Foundation, Museum of Science at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Science).
Below we have collected the brightest works of past years:
"Zero City" is a number of elevator shafts of different length. Their spatial structure resembles a city where the role of each building is to move in a vertical direction. All the elevators are programmed the same way and act as a pack carrying out the general task despite the absence of a single control center.
Zero City turns out a four-dimensional coordinate structure which endlessly measures itself and its boundaries in order to find ways how to increase the time as the main source for "nothing".
From the other side, perhaps, "Zero City" is a just metaphor that describes human consciousness that left its body and dispersed in the world of digital hierarchies where elevators can carry only emptiness reacting to an outer impulse or standing still in its absence.
If we consider the Revelation to John as a veritable scenario of the Apocalypse its realization (the reality always differs from the scenario) can look in the following way.
There is a world where one part of the survived passed into a new form of life; the other part lost almost completely knowledge and technology. People who didn't pass into the new state maintain the system of digital God-manhood taking care of bio-creatures. A part of the "not passed" worships the cult of Internet as a receptacle of everything which existed in ancient times.
In an empty white room some potatoes are hanging under the ceiling. The distance between the potatoes and the ceiling is not big and, probably, is not even visible for everybody. The shadows on the ceiling help to realize it. The potatoes are on the verge of fall and sticking to the ceiling. The verge is very subtle and, in principle, falls and sticking are possible (the process of electromagnetic levitation). There are magnets in the potatoes, which maintains them in a state of levitation. But the foreign body hidden inside the vegetables accelerates the decay process. That is why the potatoes will start to rot slowly and to fall but the magnet which maintained them under the ceiling will be still in a state of levitation. The fallen potato is replaced by a new one.
Evaporation of the Constitution of Russian Federation
We translate the text of the Constitution of the Russian Federation into Morse code, and we transmit it with the help of drops of water, pauses between them, and hot irons. A drop falls only if the iron is sufciently hot. The goal of the process is to transmit information in the form of steam. The text of the Constitution is displayed on the screen so that the viewers can see the information that is being evaporated at the moment.
It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish good and evil today. The differentiation between good and evil is easily substituted by instrumental protection from troubles and disasters. Contemporary man lives in the era of highly technological "Middle Ages" when belief in divine or technology or anything else still appears to be a fundamental principle of a worldview. Does he want to carry a burden of differentiation between good and evil?
The main idea of our project is to transfer the functions of distinguishing between good and evil from human to robotic device. We are planning to create and implement a new kind of household appliances called "Robocenser".
The following text is repeated cyclically during a demonstration of the helmets: Given to us in our sensations, virtual reality has made our life wonderful and beautiful. We invite you to the harsh world of real reality. In order to make this incredible voyage, you will need a little skill and AVH-1. Anti-virtual helmet 1 limits the field of vision, thereby depriving the visuonaut of the presence effect, i.e. it allows him to look at the world as if from the outside. Having familiarized oneself a little with the unusual situation, one can proceed to a fuller immersion in reality.
It's tie to try on AVH-2. This simple device allows one to look simultaneously forward and backward when moving in space for the world is multi-dimensional.
Not difficult enough? Then it's time to look at reality through the eyes of a fish. AVH-4, while sacrificing the binocularity of vision, widens the viewing angle of the visuonaut to 270 degrees.
Do you feel in your element in the real reality? This means you are a capable, talented visuonaut and you will now definitely need AVH-3, AVH-5, and AVH-5.1.
But do not get carried away! Remember, real reality is not to be trifled with!
Starting the interview, artists underlined "We have no hope for technocratic utopias. We rather define our approach as technological sarcasm..." Enjoy!
"Where dogs run" - where does such an interesting name come from?
- This is part of a line from the text of the Zoroastrian legend about the souls of a thousand males and a thousand bitches crossing the bridge to the other side.
How do you choose topics for your projects?
- We do not choose topics, they come by themselves.
Do you have any special rituals before work?
- There are no special rituals. We just clean up the workplace, lay out everything, that might be needed, and start work.
You have created a Biostation - a platform for artists, curators, and researchers, working in the field of scientific and technical art and culture (Science & Technology art and Humanities), based on scientific laboratories of the Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and St. Petersburg Techno-Art Center, can you tell us more about this initiative?
- In the story of the Biostation, we acted as curators, and that is an unusual role for us. The Biostation originated as a joint project of the Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the St. Petersburg Techno-Art Center and our group.
This became a new stage of cooperation between the art community and the Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The first two stages are the creation of two expositions of the Pavlov Museum in Koltushi.
They intertwined media and technological art with the history of the institute. Irina Aktuganova acted as the initiator and curator of these projects, they were implemented by the team of the Techno-Art Center. Many media artists took part in the reconstruction of the museum (Anastasia Alekhina, Dmitry Morozov, Boris Shershenkov and others), and we also made a special work for her "Inside the Black Box".
Then we first appeared in Koltushi and we were hooked by the atmosphere of this place. The park, the hills, the collapsing constructivist ensemble of the first academic campus in Russia, the yellow sky, the cinematic interior spaces that seem frozen in time, and, at the same time, the diverse life and work inside the laboratories. Two years later, the Biostation appeared - this is a platform, on one hand, distributed between the laboratories of the institute, and on the other hand, it has a small space base for meetings, communication, workshops, and so on, and there is also our workshop and a place where you can stay for a short time. The first season of the Biostation has now ended, let's see how (and if) it will continue its existence.
The program of the first season of the Biostation consisted of three parallel parts. The first part included artists and researchers coming for consultations, internships or something else that was necessary for the implementation of their own projects (there were various forms of cooperation and we can talk for a long time about the stories that happened here with the residents).
The second included a program of lectures, related, on one hand, to issues of physiology, neuromorphology, psychiatry and, on the other hand, to problems from the fields of culture, the art of philosophy. The third one is a series of practical intensives, some of which took place in the Institute's laboratories and were developed by laboratory staff, and some - in the space of the Biostation. As a result, you could learn how to make micron sections of the brain and see the localization of dopamine, feel how the exoskeleton controls your leg in response to your attempt to imagine the movement and work with performers to create a collective body; take part in experiments, related to the spatial localization of sound stimuli in the human brain, work on the laboratory equipment of experimental cinematography with real films from the archives and create your own film from them, make bio-antennas and electro-receptors and map the area using these cyber extensions; learn how to assemble an extractor and an alembic to extract body odors, collect the smell of chess pieces, that have been defeated during the game. We are lucky that amazing experts from different fields have joined our program, this has allowed.
After 24/02/22 we revised the lecture program (since it was addressed to a wide audience) and tried to update it. A parallel lecture program emerged. We are very grateful to all the speakers who participated in our program.
Many have revised their topics so that they can give something to listeners in this new reality or help them to find strength to continue their work; others have kindly agreed to participate free of charge to help us to use the platform for discussions that are related to the unprecedented state of people and society. Lectures arose, for example, about Ukrainian cybernetics, about ego, anxiety, awareness and empathy, about propaganda and caricature, about nuclear energy and Chernobyl, about smell in the context of social sciences and psychiatry, about inclusion as a possible approach to reinstalling culture, about attracting non-human agents to the arrangement of a non-totalitarian society and others. We are convinced that it is very important in the current situation to try to preserve and create new educational programs to somehow resist the capture of the field of knowledge by z-forces. We don't know yet whether we can find the resources to continue our work and to make the second season of the Biostation, but we hope that this will work out in some form. We would like to develop the olfactory line that we started in the first season, and work with mockumentaries since both directions seem to be relevant to us now as ways of expressing our thoughts.
Have you had to adapt to new international realities and how do they affect you?
- Our life, of course, has changed dramatically. And it could not be otherwise, because authorities of our country are doing terrible evil and there is no end to it in sight yet. Blackness has become a permanent background of our life. It is also clear that this will never change again. The meaning of continuing to work is very difficult to find, and when it is found, it is difficult to keep it up, it depreciates with every news report. Therefore, the question now is not how to adapt to the new international realities, the question is how to gain confidence in our right to continue working and how to remain in the international context, despite the Russian warship. We, citizens of the Russian Federation, are all on the same boat, regardless of what we do and how we treat it. In one second, it seems to us that this is absurd - to assume that since we have Russian passports, it makes no sense to continue working with bio-geo-memory. In the next second, it seems that it is so, because it is impossible to cancel reality. But then again, you come to the conclusion that with all the horror of what is happening, you should not stop being yourself, even voluntarily.
Could you share with our readers what project you are currently working on?
- We are currently working on two projects. One started as early as 2021 but is progressing slowly for several reasons. It is associated with an attempt to create a farm for growing artificial bio-geo-memory with the participation of magnetotactic bacteria. The second one is about how to start building a free cross-border cyber-state with the help of blue pixels.