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  • Explaining AI and Creativity? Down the Slippery Slope with Noam Chomsky

    As relayed to me by a colleague, there was a guest essay in the Opinion section of the New York Times , March 8, 2023, by Noam Chomsky, Ian Roberts and Jeffrey Watumull. (As noted by the Times "Dr. Chomsky and Dr. Roberts are professors of linguistics. Dr. Watumull is a director of artificial intelligence at a science and technology company.") Noam Chomsky: The False Promise of ChatGPT (The link is to a "gift" copy of the article which should be accessible to those who do not subscribe to the NYT.) Many of its readers wrote back to the Times. I think I'll add to the general feedback that the title "False Promise" bordered on clickbait, given that AI builders generally do not promise what the irrationally exuberant populace can't seem to wait for. AI marketers do. The exuberance leads to hype-fueled disappointment, which leads to hostility towards AI. So, it's an ironic title, yes, but ironic because it is a lightweight but pervasive example of disinformation propagated by the media and ersatz intellectuals without AI being the culprit. I'm going to agree with some other observers, too, by saying that Chomsky's idea of the biggest concern is nowhere near the biggest concern. The biggest concern is that unscrupulous people with power and money will use AI to either indifferently or intentionally harm those who stand in their way, frequently by manipulating people who are not-so-intelligent. Other than that, it's weird that he spends so much time on such a good explanation of what learning machines are built to do, but leaves such a complete void of explanation of how the "human operating system" is built to do what he says it does. The effect is of making the claims of absolute difference between them a bit hollow. He doesn't establish that AI *can't* do what human intelligence can do, because he doesn't show us the mechanism behind the human intelligence. No apples to apples comparison is actually made. We expect more from Chomsky. Even so, my favorite line in his whole piece is this: "Intelligence consists not only of creative conjectures but also of creative criticism." I love that. But then, he says humans are "limited IN THE KINDS OF explanations we can rationally conjecture". Superficially, if not obviously, that makes it unclear as to whether he is saying that creative conjecture IS or IS NOT limited by "reason". His end statement is really the reason for the piece: "we can only laugh or cry at the popularity of AI systems". In other words, the popularity is the thing that is actually pretty faulty. I think he should have written, then, about why people want AI to do what it isn't built to do and then get freaked when it doesn't do what they want. The point here is that ChatGPT does not promise false things. People try to make it do things it isn't built to do. My view is that I don't attribute any of the following to automation (a machine thought of as an actor): inspired, instinctive, imaginative. And I think most people believe that those three things are essential ingredients of what they would call "creative". AND that when they say "artificial" intelligence they believe that those three things are omitted, which is the same as saying that they don't think artificial intelligence is "creative" regardless of how "generative" it is. In my words, "the spontaneous adoption of an experience as being meaningful" is a pretty consistent way to start identifying both inspiration and instinct. Imagination, differently, is when we take a "WHAT if" and treat it "AS if" it was already real. Imaginary experiences can have the same impact as actual experiences, which means that they may provoke a spontaneous adoption of the experience as being meaningful. That adoption probably depends on what we want, what we fear, i.e., what we have feelings about. Machines don't have feelings, so this particular feedback loop -- of the imaginary inspiring instincts that fuel the further creation of the imaginary -- doesn't happen for machines. Chomsky claims that "explanation" is the true sign of human intelligence but I think he's wrong. Improvisation is the true sign of human intelligence.

  • X-Rated at UMA Gallery

    Wired up with Diane Komater Feb-Mar 2023 By Malcolm Ryder Are we over-exposed? Not in the highly sex-positive Bay Area of California, where erotica is not even taboo anymore. But the notion of erotica can still have a special influence, either if it presumes to identify something even more exclusive than before, or because some audiences still haven’t really bought into x-rated material being “business as usual”. Either way, the more erotica that is easily available, the more variety it has, and the more likely that each person brings their own luggage to each encounter and unpacks it right on the spot. Erotica’s high availability is a certainty. The internet has completed what pulp fiction and cable TV did earlier to blow the covers off its market and suppliers. That seller's market includes lots of ways of legitimizing erotica's consumption, and in turn, that brings attention to whether producing it gets tailored specifically to the rationale permitting its use. Spiritual leaders, professors, and new age healers all supply. And of course let’s not forget Art. The dictionary definition of erotica invariably tells us to go find it in works of "literature or art"... Pre-Columbian craftsmen oblige, as does today’s Kara Walker. So if erotica isn’t really taboo anymore, being neither prohibited nor restricted, then where’s the excitement in it? And how does X-rated art generate excitement? Getting it to work The key, I think, is still in separation -- in whatever is done to create distance between the desiring (you) and the desired. In language, distance is the difference between what is said and what is referred to. The thing you read or hear – the utterance-- stands for something else – an idea -- and you think you know what that other thing is. In pictures, standing for something else is again the trick. The item in hand is an index (pointer), an icon (likeness), or a symbol (code) for the other thing. In visual art's form, that distance is going to be created through the difference that is evident between the fogging or sweating allure of immediately present “real” flesh -- and the artwork’s tangible material; visual appearance, or message. Oxford Art online describes Kara Walker's work in a way that addresses this distance: "“Walker initially seduces viewers with a polite, delicate, and feminine veneer; she compared the technique of silhouettes to the nature of stereotypes themselves, in which the complexities of an individual or situation are reduced and simplified into easily identifiable forms. As all figures are depicted in black or in shadows, racial identity can only be approximated by their profile or actions. As a result, viewers create their own narrative, thus implicating themselves in the creation and perpetuation of these stereotypes.” The Artnet article, Keith Haring’s Art Has a Secret Language, identifies the way he plays with likeness and code: "In Haring’s work, his fundamental message was one of devout humanism and love. Take his recurring embrace, which is often between two genderless and race-less figures, who are glowing as they hold each other." I compare Walker and Haring here to show that works by both are iconic, but are nonetheless interpreted as experiences beyond what they are similar to. Pursuing the viewer's interest, Walker's icons also give us indices, while Haring's icons also give us symbols. The abstraction that creates icons separates their appearance from their literal references but it still involves the viewer. Taboo for You? Iconography brings up the subject, but meaning relies on more. As eroticism, the work is going to have the intent to invoke desire. What seems unavoidable, with eroticism, is that as audiences we want desire and bring that with us to the works. When we arrive, the works remind us of that, but there is still separation, distancing. The erotic artist knows this, but the table stakes to play have been raised. In our now very leaky world of things slipping across the line of permitted or not permitted, maintaining the "naughty" requires more than a line; it requires a container. The container can be physical or psychological, and in fact a physical container can represent a psychological one. There is “space” within the container, and that space can of course be literal but is an analog of the room for imagination, aspiration, or other emotional uppers. And what goes in it? Explicit imagery, after all, is of course known for not leaving much to the imagination. But one of the juiciest ways to enjoy a taboo is to watch someone making the taboo thing. The making is itself seductive. Seduction still features heavily on the forbidden side of the line between tabooed and not tabooed. That leads us to an up-to-date formula – to recover taboo's thrill we need the seduction to be in a container. But what will the container be? A theater? A tableau? A sculpture? An outline? Space is the Place We're pretty familiar already with "containers" that enhance experience, even if the reason why that works has receded almost entirely into our subconscious. The influence of the container is so strong that even in commercial arenas we find that we're given the choice to have them or not. Whatever is in the container is interacting with it, and that interaction may or may not be wanted as part of our desired experience. The Saks 5th Avenue Ballerina is made more precious by the protection it has in the bell jar. The clustered figures of the Kama Sutra 10 DXF File sexual positions from CNC Industrial's Laser Cut Plasma let us decide, with framing, whether we appreciate the positions more as daring or as willing... One perspective that I have on the images made by Diane Komater is technical -- it involves the idea that a sculpture generates the sense of space around itself that is imaginatively activated, so its “container” is virtual, not necessarily seen. We think of it as a “sphere of influence” making us sensitive to how the work makes us feel about being in the space. But with her example below, outlined multiple forms are all about the space between them, and the intensity of that little space. Meanwhile, the outlining,– namely drawing – pulls us as viewers into following along the process of rendering the forms, just as we follow along a musical melody to get to a full grasp of its shape. We’re seduced; we experience the making of the thing that is taboo and yet within reach. Komater's handling of wire is her way of sculpting by drawing. In Komater's pieces, following her drawing already animates the sculptural form. But in some pieces, the container is drawn as well, as a stage, curtains fully open, the iconic gestures in the stage space exposed to us and animating it. We aren’t in it, except that even outside of it we share the space imaginatively, and we feel the process of creating it too. Her piece represents an event, and that representation has only one purpose, to have us at least imagine being part of what’s going on. So we get to say, with a lot of conviction, that the presentation is essentially "recreational" – but included in it as meaning is experiencing joy. It's an imaginary experience – the icons outlining forms of coupling, and those forms flashing what we dare to hope for. The Chapel of Love Komater's show, X-Rated, starts out with the advantage of being in UMA Gallery, a building whose biggest offering is a chapel. It advertises its offerings as “odd art in an old mortuary.” As the host for the work, UMA flaunts the unexpected; and adds important distancing to our encounter with the work. But UMA's calling card is its attitude – a grand sort of permissiveness, at least in the interest of just seeing what will happen. In a conversation I had with Komater, the thing that stood out most to me is the breadth of her view on how we relate to sexuality. Both her critique of that and her indulgence in it makes her work generous and multi-purpose – but like looking in mirrors, holding pictures of ourselves. She finds humor in our condition, but in being explicit keeps us from hiding, or hiding from, whatever is really in our minds. Comically, she also established that in some works of erotica, size does matter. As you can see in the above pictures with no measurements given, the scalability of her technique is very large. That makes her decisions about size – including smaller sizes – strategic, a strong determinant of whether we get the feeling of being "invited in" by the work. The best way to see if she is right is to go to UMA Gallery and get in front of the pieces yourself.

  • Art of the African Diaspora: Gray Loft Gallery

    February 2023, Oakland Curator: Jan Watten Diaspora is a vivid word. We sense it in two ways. Saying it feels like saying “disperse.” At the same time, our ordinary response to hearing it is in the mind’s eye; we see it – the scattering of one thing into many. Then, there’s the matter of where things scattered to, and what we see when we find them. We’ll find meanings in that, but we also imaginatively make meaning of it. It’s like looking at constellations, taking a snapshot of the diaspora of stars, stars that like all stars presumably came from the same place, but not at the same time. We see them together in the same single moment and try to connect the dots. America’s Black History Month itself creates a constellation of the African Diaspora, but to put it that way queries mostly the “American” part. While many different places subjected people of African descent to the same kinds of degradation, the descendants nonetheless crafted lives in their journeys apart that were as diverse, as different from each other, as the many different places that they reached – here being among those places. In Oakland’s award-winning Gray Loft Gallery, we get a view of that difference through one of several “satellite” exhibits of works in the Richmond Art Center’s annual Art of the African Diaspora event, which opened February 11th for a month long run showcasing eight Bay Area resident artists of African descent. Given the diaspora theme, we go to the show expecting it to connect the dots, the works, with some view-in-common of the diaspora itself. But also, we might arrive with a range of questions about how it will do that. Will that theme explicitly feature in most works as subject matter? Or does this collection of art by African Americans have a special sensibility, traceable to the experience of a shared ancestral homeland? Or instead, will the works mostly express something about African American artists in their home today, the Bay Area? --0-- The show at the gallery starts before you even get in the door. A work* by Raymond Haywood stops me in the hallway, almost arrogantly unrestrained in how it transforms a canvas into visual space that triggers an imagined environment. All of the painting’s color has a physicality revealed as if by abrasions or splatters. The shapes of the colors are captive to the energy that marked the canvas. It makes me hyperaware that the image and its illusory effect was hand-built from material, not illustrated. [* excerpt of a Haywood piece ] That work signals to me what I should most intently focus on across the show’s works: personalized technique. And, hearing several artists talk at the opening, I realize further that for them technique in these works is not just a fait accompli on display but a running current, with each artist still finding out and sharing where it can go, what works, and why. The group of works shows us that ongoing activity in three ways. In some of the works, moving from one piece to another by the same artist, I feel the pieces commenting on each other as if they are in the process of deciding what to agree on. In doing that, a group of works is in effect more forceful than its individual pieces. Some of the artists, seeking very different imaging, have recently taken on some technique new to them, amounting to a big change of style from earlier accomplished work. With these works, while a single piece is already a “finished” work, it feels like it is previewing possibilities, other future work, as much as it commands attention to itself now. And in some cases, various types of imaging– drawing, colors, lettering, cutouts, more – are mixed together in an individual work; the work’s visual composition is the container for a complex narrative, blending a set of multiple experiences but in a non-linear way.* Those three differing aspects are not mutually exclusive. And whether separately or together, they originate much of the variety experienced in the show. [* excerpt of a Tomye: Living Artist piece ] Also in that variety: autobiography, explorations of identity, and personal experiences are found in many of the works whether conveyed in abstraction, figuration, or collage. Meanwhile, in other works, despite dissimilarity to each other on the surface, there is commonality in a kind of expressionism that seems to combine memory with an offer of more philosophical idealism. The work does not merely intend to show us these things but to engage us. In that engagement, we bring our own sensibilities – our feelings and ideas – to the encounter with each piece. So, the influence runs both ways. It’s a dialogue. Sometimes, a given work’s way of handling ideas, feelings, or memories gets us to look, in its way, at what we had brought in our own minds to that artwork. In fact, several times I overheard one artist talking to another about how the other’s quite different work was making the first artist think about “trying out what you did.” But as viewers we also affect what a given work might appear to do. Here I’m thinking about my response to Jimi Evins, whose work at Gray Loft exudes what I keep thinking of as a “profound faith in paint”. His work relative to the other artists’ is immediately bolder graphically while also moodier, and the paint is aggressively gestural. It takes up the space of the canvas in a way that is architectural but also seems done fast, mainly because much gets done economically without a lot of things being manipulated. [Excerpt of an Evins piece at left.] In one Evins piece, the technique resonated with the musician in me – my memory, as a band member, of a certain big horn player’s confidence improvising in solo while knowing in advance there was limited room in which to work. Evins’s abstract graphical treatment here pushes paint into the space of the canvas like big sounds pushed into the building of a solo in real-time. Other viewers may not experience the work that way, but as we say, to each his own. Evins, by the way, has plenty of dramatically different and detail-laden figurative work, in a series called “The Village” on display elsewhere within the group of satellite galleries under the Richmond project. The display of his abstractions at Gray Loft is testimony to more than “versatility”; rather, it is to artistic diversity. --0-- So here’s a good point at which to make this observation: the artistic diversity of the show reflects a truly important political dimension of the diaspora: freedom, found and demonstrated by African descendants’ individual discoveries, expressions, and achievements; and certainly there is an argument that an “American” ideal aspires to manifest in that way. In a more conceptual vein, I’ll also bring up my well-used idea that most art is celebratory, analytical, or philosophical but can certainly blend those aspects in differing proportions. That is, we can see celebratory art amplifying, even advocating, certain cherished values or preferred qualities; see analytic art questioning the origins of given beliefs, or their validity; and see philosophical artwork proposing a worldview, whether imaginary or real, colloquial or lofty. None of these aspects are denied to the African-descendant artist of the diaspora. Nonetheless, in their respective individual freedom of expression, the eight artists address subject matter that to this viewer does appear as shared territories. For example: emotional landscaping by Raymond Haywood, Stephen Bruce, and Jimi Evins, featuring intensive use of color iconographic portraitures and identities presented by Yolanda Holley, Cynthia Brannvall and Tomye: Living Artist, combining multiple perspectives into wholes greater than the sum of their parts retro abstract modernism by Kelvin Curry and Arthur Norcome, highlighting how design aesthetics can influence feelings, and possibly renovate nostalgic art icons into contemporary expressive language. Seeing similarity helps to push us back to this review’s opening question. In a show focusing on the diaspora as the common reference, is the mission of the artwork to put some singular common legacy or consequence in high relief? Across the eight respective artists at Gray Loft, no two sets of works look alike. As travelers in time’s cultural and personal histories, the artists have individually decided what to make of the places they have adopted, as of now. In general, this show openly invites us to dwell on why they decided to show what they care about, the way that they show it. The viewer senses that invitation as the artists’ intent. The work that seems most explicitly concerned with that is Cynthia Brannvall’s dialectics of multiculturalism. It features her compositional use of contrasting materials, of “material as (information-carrying) media”. Here, some of it invokes meanings as do souvenirs, evidence, talismans, and similar signifiers of history living in the present, juxtaposed with other factually objective elements. With that, her pictorial composition first attracts us and then results in our real engagement. The work argues that one’s journey from geographic origin to now is about a difficult and uncertain opportunity for self-recognition, and Brannvall wants us to join in the challenge. Each artist, in a distinct way, invites us to join in. My take: little more than that is required of the show’s reach into the diaspora. It results in great richness, not just variety, in the work by the artists. Metaphorically at least, any ground that is shared among all of these artists is one that “let a hundred flowers bloom”. But literally, in this show, curator Jan Watten’s emphasis on the community’s powerful creative diversity is the most obvious shared ground.

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Other Pages (19)

  • About | Malcolm Ryder Photographer

    ABOUT MALCOLM RYDER BIOGRAPHY Virginia native Ryder came to Oakland, CA, by way of Norfolk, Atlanta, New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. He was born into a family of activist artists and university professors. After becoming one of the first Black graduates of the elite Westminster Schools in Atlanta, he pioneered and completed a new degree of his own design in Visual Arts at Princeton, becoming one of its first photography graduates. Beginning in the mid-1970s, he co-founded a student-run theater at Princeton, exhibited as a member of the City Without Walls artists' collective in Newark, then later he developed and ran the jurying system used for making grants directly to visual artists by the National Endowment for the Arts, the NY State Council on the Arts, and the NY Foundation for the Arts. In the SF/East Bay Area he joined boards for the Julia Morgan Arts Center and the Center for Critical Architecture. PRACTICE Ryder had first photographed extensively in the performing arts and sports while doing work for designers, documentarians, and marketers. He left this conventional professional activity however, to do tech and strategy consulting, augmented by advisory or board positions with arts organizations, for over 25 years. In 2016 he resumed steady practice as a photographer. When not photographing, he works with other artists primarily in a curatorial or editorial mode, or in collaborative projects fusing camerawork with other vehicles ranging from digital magazines, books, or galleries, to multimedia performances. ​ His current audience and co-creators include historians, journalists, other visual artists and curators, and the communities of the landscapes seen in his photographs. CURATORIAL NEA National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowships Grants NYSCA New York State Council on the Arts (multiple grant programs) NYFA New York Foundation for the the Arts Visual Artists Fellowships Grants CCA / 2AES Center for Critical Architecture 1993 San Francisco Embarcadero Waterfront International Design Competition WRITING Catalogs Princeton University Visual Arts Program - 1976 Graduate Group Exhibition 2021 Princeton University Visual Arts Program - Faculty Group Exhibition 2022​ Art Criticism & Photographic Theory PROFILED Published John Caldwell , New York Times: Photography and Sculpture in Newark Bill Ivey, NEA: A Creative Legacy: A History of the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists' Fellowship Program Constance Hale , Alta Journal: Malcolm Ryder Trains His Eye , 185v76: Getting The Band Back Together Again

  • Purchase | Malcolm Ryder Photo

    Acerca de Purchasing Photo Prints and Files: How To Order All photographs on this site are available, directly from the photographer, as bordeless full-frame images for purchase as prints on metal, paper, or by special request as digital files. ​ Print type, and Size @ Price US D $: Archival borderless color prints on metal Up to 28” tall or wide $320 at 28” Color prints on art photo paper Up to 30” tall or wide $180 at 30” Prints on paper as posters Up to 36” tall or wide $90 at 36” Prints on paper as flat cards Up to 11” tall or wide $25 at 11” Prints on paper as folded cards, pack of five A6 (4.5" x 6.25" folded $25 at A6 GO TO THE ORDER FORM HERE OPEN STUDIOS MARCH & APRIL DONORS OR BUYERS ONLY Print type and Supporter’s price USD $: Archival borderless color prints on metal Up to 28” tall or wide $205 at 28” Color prints on art photo paper Up to 28” tall or wide $115 at 28” Prints on paper as posters Up to 28” tall or wide $55 at 28” Prints on paper as flat cards Up to 11” tall or wide $25 at 11” Prints on paper as folded cards, pack of five A6 (4.5" x 6.25" folded $25 at A6 To see images, go to any album , scroll through the album, and click any image to open it in a full screen view with its title. You cannot download the image. Copy the title and list it later in the order form with type selected for metal or paper, which will contact Malcolm Ryder directly. You will get a reply to your print request with info about availability, pricing, payment method (expect Venmo, Zelle, or Check) , and delivery of the pictures.

  • BLM | Malcolm Ryder Photo

    Now, and Again - it is said that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. California, Tennessee, and other locales are stricken again with the terror of ethnic hate crimes, both systemic and personal. In light of these atrocities, forgetting the past is not tolerable. This gallery of visually documented resistance to being ignored or forgotten is dedicated to not letting the summer of BLM disappear along with the loss of its extraordinary street art installations from their places in downtown OAKTOWN. Scroll and click any photo for the fullsize view of the image. To offer details you know about the works and artists: please send a message through this website's Contact page. All photo images in this gallery are (c) 2020 Malcolm Ryder | Ryder Foto

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