The Planetary Society
Visions Artists Engineers & Astronauts Scientists Systems
Mauro Annunziato  –  computer scientist and artist
Click for larger image " My memory is full of sleeping messages ready to awake at any time in the future."
How were you motivated to choose your particular field?
  It is really difficult to discuss my "particular field", because today it exists only as two different categories (computer science and computer art). If I had the power to create new categories, I would define my field as a discipline focused on cognitive and evolutionary sciences (artificial intelligence – artificial life), utilizing methods of both science and of art.

My interest in science started when I was sixteen years old during a lecture on subatomic particles. At that time I wanted to "see the invisible". My interest in art started exactly the same year. During a summer travel, I visited the National Gallery at London where I was deeply impressed by a Botticelli painting – Venus and Mars. Coming back to Italy I had to choose between Science and Art at the university (a nice example of bifurcation!). At that time my reasoning chose science (nuclear engineering), but really I never was able to choose science or art ... I instead chose both.

During most of my life the interests for science and art remained separated. I lived this division as a schizophrenic, fractured between two worlds characterized by different attitudes and philosophy. After many years I realized that the schizophrenia is a property of the culture that has an obsessive need to classify in separate classes different aspects of the same cognitive process of the surrounding and internal reality.

Therefore my answer to this first question is the reason for the existence of this area of interference – a visceral curiosity towards the deepest mechanisms of life itself from nature to social interaction and intelligence that I see as one of the most significant points reached in evolution.

  Click for larger image
What can you share about your creative process?
    Most of my creative processes start through visions occurring during "automatic activities" that engage a special part of my thoughts (driving, walking, dreaming...). These activities free uncontrolled space for the deeper and creative unconsciousness part. The vision consists in an intuition on the scientific theory or the final artwork, and it has the value of a hypothesis characterized by fuzzy boundaries. Only subsequently do I try to reconstruct a deductive trial. Often I am not immediately conscious of these intuitions. My memory is full of sleeping messages ready to awake at any time in the future.

I investigate the learning possibilities of machines in order to solve real problems like process diagnosis or control. In this research I try to emulate the human mechanisms (artificial neural networks, fuzzy logic) and evolution mechanisms (chaos, genetics). In my art I try to evoke the process of self–organization and emergent behavior (artificial life) like metaphors of mind, society, culture and communication. During these paths I try to utilize all the means I dispose, from the scientific formalism to the inward search, from the computer simulation to the aesthetic quality.

This approach gives me the freedom to better define my goals and methods along the way. Sometime I have difficulties in classifying my activities (science or art) because the goal changes along the way or because the goal is in contradiction with the method (science through visions or art through a scientific method). Large parts of the programs I utilize to create images or installations have been utilized to teach the machines. On the other side, research started for machine learning has arrived to teach the machine how to be creative (i.e., how to generate images and sounds to reflect my creativity).

What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
  I will utilize this communication space just to give a little personal contribution to a hypothetical village on Mars or on some other "virtual planet".

Avoid creating a community with the same doctrines of the culture that brought you there. As you are on a new world you need new mental categories. Don't divide strictly art, science, engineering and philosophy. They are not separated worlds, but different approaches to the same cognitive problem. This consciousness could help you when big problems are born from the ghosts of the mind. On Earth they have generated enormous damages to the environment and pushed the people to antisocial behaviors.

You are involved in a magic action that is one of the most advanced steps in the development of the complexity of our world. As pioneers, you are colonizing not only another planet, but also a new "cultural space" still void at the moment. To be pioneers you have to be light, without "theories" and open to search in its own ways. There you have to sow not only people and villages but a new way to be. Maybe you are on Mars not only to know the red planet, but also to look at our blue planet and to know more deeply mankind itself and its possibilities. The rise to the virtual planet has to start now and here on Earth. Then we will know that the Martians we have searched out for many years were inside us.

See at for a science–art journey.

Imagine Mars | Art/Sci/Astro Entrance | Visions | Artists | Engineers & Astronauts | Scientists | Systems