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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Marcos Novak

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

My work has always proceeded along two simultaneous avenues of inquiry: a broad philosophical and critical investigation regarding the role and impact of science and technology on culture, and an experimental and empirical investigation of the artistic horizons opened by new science and technology, regarding specifically those creative opportunities that could never before have been pursued, but that which new scientific insights and technologies bring within reach. At every step, I have tried to link the edge of technological and scientific inquiry to the edge of an avant-garde artistic sensibility, finding that at these cutting edges the distinctions between art and science cease to be important, and that the determined and persistent pursuit of questions, wherever they may lead, even and especially if they question the paradigms from which they emanate, is what joins the depths of these human endeavors, in spite of surface differences.

This stance has led me to numerous realizations years ahead of my contemporaries. In the late 70's and mid - 80's I articulated the idea of "computational composition" -- anticipating the generative use of computers in architecture and design that is now sweeping the world. In the late 80s, I helped organize CyberConf: The First International Conference in Cyberspace; my essay "Liquid Architectures in Cyberspace," in MIT Press's best-selling booj "Cyberspace: First Steps" revealed that I was literally the first design architect in the world to have anticipated virtual space and genuine architectural and urban space; at the Banff Center in Canada, as part of the groundbreaking "Art and Virtual Environments Project," I created "Dancing with the Virtual Dervish" combining virtual architecture in a fourth spatial dimension with a collaboration with live interactive performance of a dancer/choreographers. The architecture of the virtual environments in this piece where the first instances of what eventually came to be know as "topological architecture," such as the work of Frank Gehry, and the techniques of using isosurfaces to generate architecture from datafields of force or fields of force anticipated the "blob" architecture that is currently the rage the whole world over.

... The work I am currently doing that is most innovative and is most likely long term significance is following...

I am currently trying to understand the implications of nanotechnology and biotechnology for the music, the visual and spatial arts, and architecture. This consideration of the very small has led me to the seeking ways to understand ...

....

My current work is proceeding under the heading of what I call "transvergence." I have coined this term to describe the clusters of cultural impacts and creative conditions brought about by accelerating technological change. This work articulates and explores the realization that we are not only witnessing the "convergence" and "divergence" of media, disciplines, institutions, and so one, but a much more radical "transvergence" leading to widespread epistemic speciation in practically all areas of knowledge and expression, and to the continuous emergence of entirely new fields. On a global scale, the projects we most captivated by, and often most highly invested in, are projects that no longer progress along expected lines of development, but that are instead jumping across diverse and initially mutually alien territories.

One of the driving insights of this work is that technological advancements proceed from one technological plateau to another, with each plateau serving as a basis for convergence, divergence, and eventual transvergence. The digital is one such plateau/basis, but is neither the first nor the last in sight. Not so long ago, the digital was a contested frontier, but it has since moved from the margins to the center of nearly all disciplines. Other plateaus/bases have moved into the position that the digital once held. The digi~ and the info~ are now followed by the neuro~, the nano~, the bio~, and the robo~, with the opto~ and the quanto~ apparently not far behind.

Not only can we detect that these new plateaus are arriving and will soon produce their own sets of convergences, and divergences, we can also anticipate that, of the many projects each will enable, the transvergent ones will be of the most interest. Thus "transvergence" is at once a critical description of a widespread cultural phenomenon, and also a filter by which we may choose which projects among many we may be wise to attend to and pursue.

This concern with transvergence has led me to extend my long-standing interest in the virtual, and especially in virtual space and architecture, into the realms of the nano~, the bio~, and the neuro~. My most recent work explores, on the one hand, virtuality, neurophysiology, and epistemology, and, on the other, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and architecture, all the while assuming the digital, the algorithmic, and the generative as common substrates for all present-day work.

The first path investigates the ways in which, using the technologies of virtuality, neurophysiological correlates of consciousness can be juxtaposed with the epistemological descriptions of the experiences of consciousness as we live it. Alternative visualizations and spatializations of fMRI data, for instance, coupled with parallel firsthand descriptions of descriptions of "the spaces of consciousness" may lead to both powerful scientific insights into how the brain constructs the mind, and to compelling artistic works about lived experience.

The second path investigates how new materials and processes derived from nanotechnology and biotechnology alter our fundamental definitions of architecture and the city. At the far end of this investigation is the prospect that we may eventually come to the point where architecture is not built of inanimate material but is quasi-living and grown of near-animate materials. Strange as this may sound, such a development would simply put architecture in congruence with the rest of the world, which is, after all, not built, but that constantly emerges from living ecological processes.

A third path of investigation conjoins the previous two: the interactivation and "transactivation" of space using sculpted sensor and effector fields to constitute "invisible architectures" and "invisible sculptures" what connect the actual to virtual via the invisible.

All of these paths are cognizant of the information sphere that is connecting us all, and are intended to be fully interwoven into it. The sum of these projects articulates a multidimensional continuum from inner to outer space, from the naturally inanimate to the artificially inanimate, from virtuality to actuality, from every sensory modality to every other, and from action to reaction to interaction to eventual transaction (defined here as interaction leading to mutual transformation or change).

Thus, this work defines at once a theoretical position and an experimental practice. It also implies a renewed pedagogical model, predicated not on fixed knowledge categories and depth-first taxonomies, but on perpetual flux and the breadth-first exploration of potential knowledge domains. Perhaps the largest ambition of this work, however, is to propose the following; that the scientific method itself is a human construct with a particular arc of historical development, and that perhaps it is now time to augment that method with the strategies of generative exploration that art and artifice have long cultivated.

Brief Biography

Marcos Novak is a global nomad, and an artist, theorist, and transarchitect. His projects, theoretical essays, and interviews have been translated into over twenty languages and have appeared in over 70 countries, and he lectures, teaches, and exhibits worldwide. Drawing upon architecture, music, and computation, and introducing numerous additional influences from art, science, and technology, his work intentionally defies categorization. He is universally recognized as the pioneer of architecture in cyberspace, of the critical consideration of virtual space as architectural and urban place, and of the use of generative computational composition in architecture and design. He originated several widely recognized concepts, such as “transvergence,” “transarchitectures,” “transmodernity,” “liquid architectures,” “navigable music,” habitable cinema,” “archimusic,” “eversion,” “allogenesis,” and others, anticipating many of the developments in digitally derived art, architecture, and music, and in virtual, augmented, mixed, and alternative reality research. His current research involves nano~ and bio~ technologies, and explores the hypothesis that we are in a cultural phase characterized by “the Production of the Alien,” paralleling the Renaissance “Production of Man.” He has participated in many international exhibitions, including this year’s 9th International Biennale di Venezia, where he is included in the main international pavilion, and the 7th where he represented Greece.

In recognition of the pivotal role he has played and is continuing to play in the acceptance and integration of the digital in advanced architecture, and as part of “Digital|Real,” a major architecture show hosted by DAM (Deutsches Architektur Museum, Frankfurt, Germany), he was invited to write a combined history/biographical chronology of the ascent of the digital in architecture and his part in it. His essay can be found here:

http://www.a-matter.de/digital-real/eng/main.asp?es=6

His embracing creative stance has led him to numerous realizations many years ahead of his contemporaries. In the late 70's and mid - 80's he was the first to articulate the idea of "computational composition" and the first to use artificial life in architectural design -- anticipating the generative use of computers in architecture and design that is now sweeping the world. In the late 80s, he helped organize CyberConf: The First International Conference in Cyberspace; my essay "Liquid Architectures in Cyberspace," in MIT Press's best-selling book "Cyberspace: First Steps" (edited by Michael Benedikt, the only other architect in this field at the time) revealed that he was literally the first design architect in the world to have anticipated virtual space as genuine architectural and urban space and to have algorithmically generated designs at hand for it; at the Banff Center in Canada, as part of the groundbreaking "Art and Virtual Environments Project," he created "Dancing with the Virtual Dervish" combining virtual architecture in a fourth spatial dimension (the world’s first immersive experience of a space of four spatial dimensions) with a collaboration with live interactive performance of a dancer/choreographers. The architecture of the virtual environments in this piece where the first instances of what eventually came to be know as "topological architecture," and the techniques of using isosurfaces to generate architecture from data fields of force or fields of force anticipated the "blob" architecture that is currently the rage the whole world over. In collaboration with the Electronic Café and Silicon Graphics, he created one of the first instances of multi-user virtual environments shared from remote locations. For the Tidsvag Noll exhibition in Gothenburg, Sweden, he created the first art installation to use VRML, before VRML had even been publicly announced. He coined the words “transmodernity” and “transarchitectures” among many others now in widespread use and listed in the Dictionary of Advanced Architecture. ”Transarchitectures” was embraced by and unified, gave identity to, and legitimized an international community of emerging architects working with computers, and led to exhibitions, conferences, workshops, and symposia the world over. His “invisible architectures” installations first shown and the Kunstlerhaus in Vienna, at the FRAC in Orleans, and the Biennale in Venice have led to an entire exhibition on the invisible at the Museum of the Palazzo delle Papesse in Sienna. Time and again he has been the source and sole exponent of an idea that has marked a breakthrough, opened conceptual doors, and that has eventually come to be internationally accepted.

His ideas have had great influence on many: his first graduate student went on to invent QuickTime VR; his ideas about liquid architectures were influential in the creation of VRML (now a world standard), on the one hand, and on the design of the celebrated Water Pavilion in the Netherlands, considered one of the most innovative buildings since the 1958 Phillips Pavilion by Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis, on the other; many of his ex-students have formed successful transmedia companies immediately after graduation, winning majors commissions, the highest awards, and even becoming publicly traded companies in short order.

Professor Novak is currently based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is affiliated with CNSI (the California NanoSystems Institute), MAT (Media Art and Technology), and Art Studio. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela, grew up in Athens, Greece, has traveled extensively, and lives in Venice, California.

Doctoral Studies: CAiiA (Center For Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts: The University of Wales); Architecture, UCLA; Specialization in Computer Aided Architectural Design, M.S. Arch, B.S. Arch: The Ohio State University. Research interests (transarchitectures; liquid architectures, navigable music, worldmaking, virtual and augmented environments; algorithmic poetics and composition, data-driven form, morphogenesis and morphodynamics, installation art; digital sculpture; interactivated space, architecture and music; poetics of new technologies; critical theory; speciation in epistemology, transvergence).