Week 9

  1. Show and discuss CBC Spark, The Power and Provocation of Art
  2. Discussion of work in progress, tech adc


  1. Editing time, discussions of work in progress.

The power and provocation of art – from CBC Spark

A special Spark retrospective

CBC Radio · Posted: Dec 24, 2021 1:17 PM ET | Last Updated: December 24, 2021

Spark53:59The power and provocation of art

Over the past 15 seasons of Spark, we’ve done a lot of stories about art that could be seen as impractical, complicated, and just plain, well, weird.

And that was intentional, created to be a provocation, something to make us think about the technologically-mediated world around us.

Art plays an important role in helping us navigate our digital lives, where we’re often bound by the unquestioned assumptions of the technology we inherited. 

Freed from the constraints of being ‘sensible’, artists can ask big questions that can help us see problems — and solutions — in a new way. 

What happens when you let an AI deer run loose in a video game?

That was the premise of the San Andreas Streaming Deer Cam, an AI deer programmed to wander through the video game Grand Theft Auto V by visual artist Brent Watanabe. 

“To see this hapless deer wander in this gigantic environment, none of which is designed for it, I think is kind of sobering,” Watanabe told Spark host Nora Young in 2016.


Running with the Grand Theft Auto deer

6 years agoDuration1:28Artist Brent Watanabe creates an artificially intelligent deer that roams the virtual landscape of the video game, Grand Theft Auto V. 1:28

It’s mesmerizing to watch, but why?

“The piece touches on very universal themes,” explained Watanabe, “like longing and suffering and on our human relationships with wildlife and farmed animals. And what technology and human progress is doing to other creatures on Earth.” 

See more projects by Brent Watanabe:

What does a computer look like?

To artist and professor Irena Posch, it’s a two-metre-long, golden embroidered fabric. That’s right, Posch designed an 8-bit computer using historic patterns of gold embroidery and beads. 

Irene Posch, Embroidered Computer


How to make an embroidered computer

3 years agoArtist Irene Posch explains how she created the ’embroidered computer,’ an 8-bit computer made of cloth, beads and gold thread. 0:39

The computer opens up space to question the design of computers in particular, but also our technologies in general. 

“I understand The Embroidered Computer as an alternative, as an example, but also a critique of what we assume a computer to be today, and how it technically could be different,” Posch told Spark host Nora Young in 2019

“If this is actually what we want is a whole different question, but I think it’s interesting to propose an alternative.”

See more of Irene Posch:

What do computers, knitting, NASA and 18th century China have in common? 

For mathematician and technology historian, Kristen Haring, the answer is in the story of binary systems. If you thought an embroidered computer was fascinating, if not a little out there, what about knitting Morse code into sweaters?

Haring did just that, associating the ‘on’ pulse of electricity in Morse code, with a purl stitch, and the ‘off’ with a knit stitch. https://www.youtube.com/embed/hdYEMs6nkA8

This whimsical exercise in translation between Morse code and knitting, was a way of playfully thinking about binary systems themselves, but also about the culture of binary, through our common history. 

“I think we have the sense that binary is very much 21st century, and I think it’s a very good lesson in not being arrogant about our present technology, to become aware of the fact that people for thousands of years have been analyzing things in this binary method,” Haring told Spark host Nora Young in 2012.

“You can make really great computers and mobile telephones out of binary systems, but you can also decide what time of day to pray or how to make beautiful poetry in Sanskrit.”

See more Kristen Haring:

What if you could convert pollution into something useful?

Engineer Anirudh Sharma was walking around Mumbai when he noticed that air pollution was forming a dark pattern on his white shirt. And that gave him a really big idea.

What if he could somehow collect the soot — mostly carbon — and convert it into a usable ink? And AIR-INK was born. https://www.youtube.com/embed/MqOplj2HSdE

His company, Graviky Labs, built special scrubbers to extract the soot from car exhausts and chimneys, and, through a special refinement process, turn it into ink which is then donated to artists to make murals or silkscreens.

Even a single marker can contain many tons of pollution that would otherwise be going into the air. “Or into your lungs,” Sharma told Spark host Nora Young in 2017.

In addition to art supplies, AIR-INK is used today in the garment industry and in packaging. 

Unlike top-down regulation, Sharma believes grassroots, ground-up solutions, like his, may go a long way to cleaning the air in some of the most polluted cities in the world.

“What we’re talking about is retrofitting so we can capture whatever pollution is being emitted right now,” Sharma explained. “And it can be recycled into a form that will incentivize the polluter to capture the air pollution.”

Written by Michelle Parise. Produced by Michelle Parise, Nora Young and Adam Killick.