Machine Autobiographies for Art Making


The terms ‘interference’ and ‘noise’ are often used interchangeably. ‘Interference’ however, assumes a subject – object relationship into which another can intrude and it is this relationship itself which differentiates it from ’noise’. In a system of transmission from one entity to another, any data outside the intended message is noise. It is data without meaning but only to the users of the system. Noise, read differently is the data given by the machines about themselves. In other words the difference between interference and noise is a question of meta-physical stance. This is particularly significant in its relation to histories of media and technology. Friedrich Kittler describes a parallel written media history authored by machines themselves.

The cut of the stylus to the wax cylinder, the colour of celluloid crystals. This mark making forms a corpus of written history which exists alongside the human “commentary” on such history. It is this inscription that forms an alternative to media history as a mere eulogy of technology. This inscription is also an incantation which brings forth worlds, which gives (das gibt).

These other histories, inscribed as they are into ancient and contemporary media are gradually losing their voices to decay in the same way that the European climate once silenced papyrus.

This paper will consider the implications of producing artworks which adopt these dying histories. By taking machine noise as a source material, this paper will ask how visual artworks (and in particular data visualisation combined with analytical CV techniques) can articulate their alternate version of the past.