[about the V2 presentation] It was a kind of performative reading. We were reading from the catalog that we are slowly building around our research interests, mostly 18th century anatomy as it was practiced in the city of Leiden and surroundings, and trying to make connections between anatomy and artificial intelligence in terms of these bodies of knowledge and practice. We're using terminology from early Anatomy to think about the bodies of artificial intelligence and the preparational aspects that one does with data sets, algorithmic toolkits and things like that. This work is so new, at this point it's been a focused effort in trying to understand what this will actually become. So, in the catalog, we we've created a collection point for all of these references and all of these resources, and we are trying to implement a browser-based javascript interface for automating some of the sense-making process, handing off much of the epistemology work to algorithms that can generate these heirarchies and classifications for us, like clustering algorithms and other unsupervised learning approaches.

We've been doing some research trips in Leiden, Leiden being something of a historical centre of enlightenment-era anatomy, and speaking at length with historian Marieke Hendriksen, whose research projects into the collections at Leiden ("Collections of Perfection" and "Elegant Anatomy") were a big inspiration for the work Joana and I are doing.

We visited the Leiden Medical collection which has quite every pathology that has ever been witnessed in the human body. There are many compelling concepts from this era of anatomy that make us reflect on our own bodies and somehow relate those reflections to the bodies of artificial intelligence systems. Concepts such as monstrocity, aesthesis, certain notions of collection, separation and preparation and science-as-spectacle.

Part of the epistemological world of this early anatomy, Hendricksen argues, was rooted in the idea of aesthesis, the power of sensation. It's also helpful to think of this as the power that sensation exherts, what does it mean to create an anatomical preparation that exerts power over various bodies? Over bodies of knowledge, the body politic, over the flesh and bone of the living and the dead? Aesthesis was a really important thing in this scene of Dutch anatomists partly because these collections of specimens doubled as commodities. So in a way there was a drive to produce anatomical specimens that were both powerful in expressing some sort of fundamental knowledge, as well as present that knowledge in a way that to be in its presence incited awe, wonder, envy.

Also, because we're looking at this early-Enlightenment period where you have a tension between the realisation that rationality is important and can lead to a certain type of understanding of the world. But at the same time you have the weight of religion. Especially the early anatomists said they were doing God's work. And that's because, you know, the body of man is God's greatest creation. If they could understand the greatest of the maker's works, then they somehow become even closer to God. This is the game they were playing, I guess. Rather than thinking that the human body is off-limits because it's God's greatest creation, actually deconstructing and understanding it, becoming "hands-on", is the divine thing to do. Rather than thinking of the machinery of the body, that knowledge, as other. So there's this interesting shift in epistemology that's going on during this this time period and as it relates to the body. And this is a reference point for us when thinking about the shift in epistemology that machine learning and artificial intelligence brings to the current landscape.

Anatomy and AI

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{POZ, 14_11_18}

Jon describes the project he presented at V2's Test_Lab with Joana Chicau on November 8, 2018, highlighting possible connections between early anatomical practices and today's AI practices. The project looks into performative ways of critically engaging with machine learning algorithms, using the anatomical theatre as an inspiration point.

{function: contextual}

Experimentalstudio meeting, 13_11_2018

Jonathan Reus, David Pirrò, Hanns Holger Rutz, Daniele Pozzi

meta: true
persons: JR
kind: conversation
origin: spoken
place: experimental studio
date: 181113

keywords: [anatomy, artificial intelligence]