Working notes from the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism

This divine scanner


In How One Sees, Siegfried Zielinski and Franziska Latell trace the genealogy of vision. Quoting the philosopher Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (870-950), the authors write:

Optics teach “according to the true circumstances of what is looked at to find the matter, the quantity, form, position and order and the other things which of the things is where the gaze can be mistaken […] That is done with an object via an instrument, which serves to direct the gaze in such a way that it does not err”.[…] Al-Farabi assumes an active ray of sight; it carries light from inside the eye or human body and is beamed through the eye at external objects to scan them for perception. This divine scanner is one of the foundations of the Platonic world-view.

The image above is a sketch illustrating the theories of Ibn al-Haytham, astrophysicist, inventor of the camera obscura and keen moon-gazer for whom the light is emitted from luminescent objects and find their way to the retina. Al-Haytham’s model contradicts the active ray of sight’s model and will influence medieval perspectivists and aid the development of perspectival representation.

How One Sees, Siegfried Zielinski and Franziska Latell in Variantology 4: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies In the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond (Kunstwissenschaftliche Bibliothek), 2011.


Very interested in the situological and situographical development of topology. It will be necessary to stay rapidly informed of all the scientific conclusions about this — and to adapt or détourn them. The primary force of our position is to intervene therein as an artistic activity (with a game of gestures raised to the dignity of art) whereas the former dominant tendency was toward objective observation.

Guy Debord in letter to Asger Jorn, July 6 1960

Guy Debord: Correspondence: The Foundation of the Situationist International (June 1957 — August 1960). Translated by Stuart Kendall and John McHale. Semiotext(e), 2009.

Funes the Memorious

He was, let us not forget, almost incapable of ideas of a general, Platonic sort. Not
only was it difficult for him to comprehend that the generic symbol dog
embraces so many unlike individuals of diverse size and form; it bothered
him that the dog at three fourteen (seen from the side) should have the same
name as the dog at three fifteen (seen from the front). His own face in the
mirror, his own hands, surprised him every time he saw them.

With no effort, he had learned English, French, Portuguese and Latin.
I suspect, however, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to
forget differences, generalize, make abstractions. In the teeming world of
Funes, there were only details, almost immediate in their presence.

from Funes the Memorious, Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths, Translated by J.E.I., pp 69-74





Binford, O.T. & Nevatia, R (1977) Description and Recognition of Curved Objects, Artificial Intelligence 8(1):77-98.

Native contours

In this experiment [Hochberg & Brooks, 1962], a human baby was raised until the age of 19 months under the constant supervision of his parents who avoided exposing the child to line-drawings or two-dimensional pictures of any kind. Although the baby accidentally had opportunities to glance at some pictures on a few occasions, at no point was the content of a picture ever named to him or was other attention drawn to it. All of the baby’s playthings were chosen so that they had solid coloring and no two-dimensional patterning of any kind. Finally, at the age of 19 months the child was shown some line-drawings for the first time, including those illustrated in Figure 1-3. The child was immediately to recognize objects in these drawings with no reported difficulty, and performed equally well when identifying the contents of black-and-white photographs.

Found in: Lowe, D.G. (1985) Perceptual Organization and Visual Recognition ,

Emotion and intelligent artifacts

“In a footnote Pickard reports that in lab experiments with students playing the computer game Doom, signs of stress came less with the appearance of a new deadly enemy (the intended site of emotional affect) than during times when students were experiencing difficulty configuring the software.”

in Suchman, L. (2007) Human-Machine Reconfigurations. Cambridge University Press, New York, p215.

Damnatio memoriae



Recarving Nero

Portrait heads of the emperor Octavius Augustus.

“The Joslyn portrait displays clear indications that it was recut from another person’s likeness, limiting the sculptor by dissimilarities to Augustus’ features in the original subject. Recut portraits in general exhibit asymmetries, undercutting, and unnatural planar features where a chisel or other implement has been used to remove undesirable elements. Here, for example, a shallow trough on the forehead is a result of cutting back longer locks in the original. Great care was taken to emulate Augustus’ signature fork-and-pincer feature higher up on the forehead, using the technique of undercutting to create the illusion of volume and definition, which in the process created the trough. […] Careful examination of the nape of the neck further reveals the work of the chisel in removing excess hair. […]


Artificial intelligence

The softening of the brain

Research on the Softening of the Brain, Léon Rostan

A dilation of the soul-itself

Aurelius Augustinus was born on 13 November 354 to the small-landowning Aurelii of Thagaste, an “obscure provincial city” in the uplands of Roman Numidia; and in the year of his birth the Christian emperor in Milan devised this new imperial epithet: “Eternity.” He died as Augustinus Hipponiensis, in the Vandal-besieged city of Hippo Regius —fronting the Numidian coast, not far from Thagaste—on 28 August 430.

As of this writing, then, Augustine is ‘long dead.’ And this expression, however banal, is suggestive, since Augustine asked when he was still living: “Where is the time we call ‘long’?” Or said differently: What is the condition of possibility of a Greek poet’s trope like “the long years of time” (τῷ πολλῷ χρόνῳ), or a hackneyed Latinism like “the space of time” (spatium

For Augustine in Confessions XI—as for Aristotle in the Categories and Physics, or Cicero in De Natura Deorum—the Greek χρόνος and Latin tempus signify, in the first instance, a space of time. Thus, to ask with Augustine, in Confessions XI, “What is time?” is also necessarily to ask this: What is time’s dimension or space?

In the Eighty-Three Questions, Augustine alludes to star-clocks that could subdivide hours into “sixty minutes” (sexaginta minutas), minutes into “seconds” (minutas minutarum). In Confessions XI, he then speculates that seconds could be subdivided into “hyper-minimal instants” (minutissimas momentorum). Only such a ‘microsecond,’ only a “hyper-minimal point of time” is ever present.

This is why Augustine asks in Confessions XI, ‘Where is the time we call long?’ He responds, “in the soul.” And what is the space of time? In the last pages of Confessions XI, Augustine suggests that it is “some dilation” (quandam . . . distentionem), and apparently, “a dilation . . . of the soul-itself” (distentionem . . . ipsius animi).

David van Dusen. The Space of Time: A Sensualist Interpretation of Time in Augustine, Confessions X to XII. Leiden: Brill, 2014. (pp 1-4)