[NetBehaviour] [vlw] Fw: Symposium on Dancing and Braiding - videos now available

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 4 19:52:59 CET 2019

Hi Elle,

I think weaving is an important concept in images, visual experience in general, computer processes, and verbal or written context.  How you describe the work agrees with my general impression of it at first.  Glitch techniques are important I think too, not least because they relate to genetic mutation (which is both random and the engine of all biological evolution) and informational permutation in complex communicative systems (like art, literature, society, etc.).

The idea of unweaving does seem to me to apply to the themes of VLW like exhaustion, hollowing out, titanic emptiness, and the accelerating triviality of the grandiose.  It is an interesting image to me to think of the systems and fabrics predicated on the Very Large Work model as becoming unwoven.

These ideas may relate to Benjamin's 1936 essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," which addressed in part the "unweaving" of the art work from its "aura" or concrete setting in place and time which takes place through the reproduction of copies.  I am currently writing an essay of reply and hopefully some thematic development, titled "The Work of Art in the Age of Network Reproduction."  Since Benjamin addresses ideas like the "outdated concepts" of genius and creativity, the cult of the human face, and the duplication of famous artworks, I am using the Mona Lisa as an example of also network reproduction and including the concepts of weaving and garment, which I think are fundamental to the painting and Leonardo's highly contextual message (for example by way of his 7,000 pages of notebooks which are implicit or implicated--both weaving words etymologically--in the painting itself).

By coincidence yesterday I read about an art project, via a newsletter I subscribe to, called "Palms to Pines: What a River Weaves" that deals with the Mississippi river.  The rivers in the ML are in my interpretation crucial to the painting's themes and to its treatment of weaving, so it was a coincidental encounter to say the least.  https://wam.umn.edu/2019/10/14/palms-to-pines-what-a-river-weaves/

I also have found two quotations this week from Da Vinci's notebooks that mention "adornment," which I interpret to imply garment and not merely jewelry or the like.

Quote from Leonardo, titled “Foreword”:

"I am fully aware that the fact of my not being a lettered man may cause certain arrogant persons to think that they may with reason censure me, alleging that I am a man without letters.  Foolish folk!  Do they not know that I may retort by saying, as did Marius to the Roman patricians: 'They who themselves go adorned in the labour of others will not permit me my own?' They will say that, because of my lack of book learning, I cannot properly express what I desire to expound upon. Do they know that my subjects are based on experience rather than the words of others? And experience has been the mistress of those who wrote well. And so, as mistress, I will acknowledge her and, in every case, I will give her as evidence."

Also Leonardo:

“The knowledge of past time and of the position of the earth is the adornment and the food of human minds.”

What I find optimistic and perhaps methodologically useful about the ML is that it sets human capabilities -- the face (communication and expression), heart (internal processing and emotion), and hands (instruments of creation and action) -- apart and distinct from the woven garment created by the flow of nature, art, science, and time.  This could represent the principle of experience and engagement with the present moment that Leonardo mentions in the first quote above (using the outdated and perhaps forgivably flawed term "mistress," forgivable perhaps in part because Leonardo is referring to himself by it).  The two rivers that drive evolution or development in the ML -- geology and erosion in the left background landscape, and the civilization of inhabited river geography on the right -- are augmented by a third river or flow-function in the form of the bridge, perhaps representing the historical stream of the arts and sciences, which flows directly into a water vortex (a key image of water in Leonardo's notebook the Codex Leicester) form that integrates fully into the sitter's garments.  The contents of the background landscape both visually and symbolically flow into the garment, which is worn by but clearly not identical with the sitter i.e. human experience and capability.  The flow of our interaction with the sitter, mainly by facial expression but also via the heart and hands, is the "fourth river" that engages us like a mirror or a conversation might, thus weaving a flow of experiential interaction which incorporates our present awareness into the fabric of ideas and information-flow which is the painting and its context.

Also coincidentally, I asked my dentist and dental hygienist yesterday, while waiting for my tooth to get numb, if they had any experience of the ML or thoughts about it.  The hygienist said she had read that there was an initiative underway, which I had not heard of, to replace the ML in its large exclusive room in the Louvre with another, newer painting.  I found this interesting in the context of weaving/unweaving and Very Large Works.  The dentist said he knew the ML was a painting of a lady which was very famous and great, but his idea of art was Chihouly's glass sculpture.  Maybe they should put a photo of a Chihouly in the ML's grand Louvre room!

Thanks for the interesting ideas and feedback regarding your work.

Best regards,


From: Elle T <elle.thorkveld at gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, December 2, 2019 12:52 PM
To: Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com>; very_large_works at lists.noemata.net <very_large_works at lists.noemata.net>
Subject: Re: [vlw] Fw: [NetBehaviour] Symposium on Dancing and Braiding - videos now available

Hi Max,

I like your thoughts on weaving, networks and grids. It is interesting and I think a more holistic way of looking at things.

Yes, I can attempt to provide explanation on my work. Although I do work in AI sometimes, this work is based on a glitch technique. I started with an initial image (that does not appear in the video) and using code took small slices of the image and randomly displaced them. This was done repetitively over-time, using the new image created as a starting point with each iteration. I captured this on video in intervals as it the program ran. Then put the intervals together and sped the whole thing up. That is more on the technical side.

It created an fragmentary effect as the image basically breaks down over time. I ran a number of these. Looking at them it seemed to me that the image aesthetically falls apart the longer the program runs, with the earlier images resembling woven cloth of some kind. So symbolically, it is similar to cloth coming apart, hence the name, Unwoven. I thought that related well to the theme of exhaustion that kind of emerged during the discussions on the the very large works message board (I was lurking).

I hope that helps, explanation is not my strong suit.

Thank you for your interest in my work and earlier post on your impressions, I had not seen that until recently. It was good feedback. :)

Best Regards,


On Thu, Nov 28, 2019 at 3:47 PM Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com<mailto:maxnmherman at hotmail.com>> wrote:

Hi Elle,

I am mostly free-associating my thoughts here about things being woven, it is a new image for me in many ways, and trying to notice patterns.  So I also am trying to learn how to understand it intellectually in my current projects.  The idea of weaving in the Mona Lisa is a very new hypothesis for me so I'm still sorting that out as well.

One aspect of this is noticing the woven nature of words and literature, conversations, etc.  My studies were mostly in literature in school.  But I also am interested in visuals and math concepts that include grids, nets, maps, or fabrics like neurons or geometry.  I made a lot of drawings on graph paper as a youth for math (conic sections etc) so that with lines, points, and vertices is a factor too.

In general I have tended to approach most topics as non-linear, which tends to highlight forms like webs, fabrics, and networks.  I see patterns like this in math and nature but also humanities like psychology, history, architecture etc.  I sometimes notice the grid or layout of a poem plus images like grids in the poems, such as mosaics etc.  Weaving is also an ancient symbol or concept for language, stories, literature, etc.

I was wondering though, could you explain your work Unwoven a bit in non- technical terms, or could someone else comment on the technical elements?  I don't know much about AI and computers beyond common knowledge with a few exceptions.  Also why you chose the title?  Or, if you prefer to leave those questions to the viewer to decipher on their own I completely respect and understand that too, and appreciate the art work a lot even from a perspective of limited technical understanding.



From: very_large_works <very_large_works-bounces at lists.noemata.net<mailto:very_large_works-bounces at lists.noemata.net>> on behalf of Elle T <elle.thorkveld at gmail.com<mailto:elle.thorkveld at gmail.com>>
Sent: Saturday, November 23, 2019 12:22 PM
To: very_large_works at lists.noemata.net<mailto:very_large_works at lists.noemata.net> <very_large_works at lists.noemata.net<mailto:very_large_works at lists.noemata.net>>
Subject: Re: [vlw] Fw: [NetBehaviour] Symposium on Dancing and Braiding - videos now available

Hi Max,

Your thoughts on the Mona Lisa as a very large work and a reflection of weaving are very interesting.

Intellectually the concept of the nature of things as woven is hard to get my mind around, but intuitively that makes a lot of sense to me. Reading your interpretation in that light made me look at the background of the Mona Lisa painting in new way.

Thank you for the links to the AlgoMech Festival on Dancing and Braiding. What I have watched is a fascinating interconnecting of disciplines, especially the generative systems applied to dance and the live coding.

Elle Thorkveld

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com<mailto:maxnmherman at hotmail.com>>
To: "very_large_works at lists.noemata.net<mailto:very_large_works at lists.noemata.net>" <very_large_works at lists.noemata.net<mailto:very_large_works at lists.noemata.net>>
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 18:03:15 +0000
Subject: [vlw] Fw: [NetBehaviour] Symposium on Dancing and Braiding - videos now available

Hi all,

Just copying this reflection on the Mona Lisa as a perhaps "proportional" very large work, both infinitely large and infinitely small/particular/present, balancing scales to allow learning, from a perspective of fabrics and clothing.  This is just a hypothetical/fictional interpretation of the painting that I thought up on October 29 when I was on an airplane.  Think of it as a leaf floating on a river fed by rain and melting snow, which I was reminded of by an art conference focusing in part on fabrics and weaving.

I think "Unwoven" would be one relevant work from the show in this context.   "Nó cego" has a fiber string, but not weaving or cloth per se.  Many topics from the Questions, Suggestions, and References pages at verylarge.works also relate, but none explicitly reference weaving or fabrics that I could find on a quick search.

Here is one article from the References, which I added without reading it fully -- https://www.pnas.org/content/115/52/13180 --


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