Robotics, virtual reality and the intelligence of art are center of WNY’s first LASER Talk

Buffalo one of 30 cities to host LASER Talk, a global series that unites artists and scientists to share ideas

Release Date: November 21, 2018

Simon Penny sitting on rock.

Simon Penny, professor of electronic art and design in the Department of Art at the University of California, Irvine.

“He is a trailblazing artist, working with robotics and writing critically on the roots and implications of artificial intelligence and virtual reality. ”
Paul Vanouse, professor in the UB Department of Art and director of the UB Coalesce: Center for Biological Art.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Artificial life, robotics and human-computer interaction will be the focus of Buffalo’s first LASER Talk, an international program that gathers artists and scientists for the exchange of information and ideas.

The premiere event will welcome artist and scholar Simon Penny to present, “Embodiment, Materiality and Cognition: Reflections on Art, Technology and Culture,” an investigation of how we think, act and understand. Stemming from a critique of René Descartes’ mind-body dualism, Penny champions alternate models such as embodied performance and an artful, interactive materiality.

Buffalo is one of more than 30 cities across the world to host a LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous) Talk, an international series organized by Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (ISAST).

Buffalo LASER is sponsored by the University at Buffalo Community of Excellence in Genome, Environment and Microbiome (GEM), Department of Architecture and Center for Architecture and Situated Technologies, and Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center. The series will be held at venues throughout Western New York each semester.

The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. The program is free and open to the public. Following the lecture, UB professor of media study Paige Sarlin, PhD, will offer a response as the event’s discussant.

“Simon Penny is a true interdisciplinarian: An artist-scholar-engineer, thus a perfect beginning to our Buffalo LASER series,” says Paul Vanouse, professor in the Department of Art and director of the UB Coalesce: Center for Biological Art.

“He is a trailblazing artist, working with robotics and writing critically on the roots and implications of artificial intelligence and virtual reality. One of the deep links between Penny’s practice and what we do at GEM is the way that he constantly undermines any reductive sense of things — analogous to how we find genome, environment and microbiome to be all interconnected influences on human health and individuality.”

About Simon Penny

Penny, a professor of electronic art and design in the Department of Art at the University of California, Irvine, has created interactive and robotic art pieces for more than 40 years.

His work addresses the relationship between machine and the human observer, embodied interaction, and theories surrounding artificial intelligence and materiality. He was part of a generation of artists to engage multimedia computing and the internet for cultural purposes, and produced groundbreaking work in machine vision and virtual reality interaction in the 1990s.

He established the Arts, Computation, Engineering interdisciplinary graduate program at the University of California, Irvine, and held a previous position as professor of art and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University.

Penny’s critical writings have been published in seven languages. He recently published the book, “Making Sense: Cognition, Computing, Art, and Embodiment,” a reflection on the history of computing, cybernetics and artificial intelligence, and an examination of the difficult relationship between cognitive science and art.

He received his undergraduate training in sculpture at the South Australian School of Art (now the University of South Australia School of Art, Architecture and Design) and his graduate degree in sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts.

About Coalesce

The UB Coalesce: Center for Biological Arts is a collaboration between GEM and the Department of Art. The initiative aims to expand public understanding of and participation in the life sciences through interdisciplinary coursework, workshops, exhibitions and residency opportunities.

To learn more about Coalesce, visit buffalo.edu/gem/coalesce.


About Leonardo/ISAST

Leonardo/ISAST is a nonprofit organization that serves scholars, artists, scientists, researchers and thinkers across the globe through programming that focuses on interdisciplinary work, creative output and innovation.

For more information about LASER Talks, visit leonardo.info/laser-talks.

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