Journal Entry

Technology as a means of extending nature

(In response to “BIOTOPES”)

I think by the time we attempt to create artificial life, we have become a part of the ecology of that life, we have become part of the swarm. By creating artificial life, we are collaborating with the world we create. The AL has agency as we do. We are no gods to the life we create. We co-exist and continue to grow together.

This applies to art making of any kind to me. We gather materials, build an idea around them, collaborate with them throughout the whole process, and create a new meaning into the piece and let it out into the wild to take on its new life. We are no creators, we are collaborators.

I think as humans we tend to think that we are the center of everything, but we are just a part of our ecology. Of course, as humans, we have made a lot of footprints around the earth. Some might be more damaging to the other beings around us, and it’s important to be aware of these things. We’re not above any other beings around us, no other beings are worth suffering because of our footprints.

This human-centric beliefs tend to deter us from exploring new lives around us. Whether it’s artificial life, artificial intelligence, or intraterrestrial and extraterrestrial lives. Maybe the reason why we haven’t gotten in contact with the aliens that we dream of in science fiction is because we are so focused on finding a human-like life around us.

Maybe if we let go of our human ego for one second, we’d start seeing lives all around us.

The Choir of 3D Printers

It was 2018 when I was working as a digital fabrication technician at a maker space in Baltimore, Maryland, where I had to tend to twelve 3D printers in a room no bigger than ten by ten feet. The room was clean and neatly organized, with two computers and eight Ultimaker printers stacked on a movable shelf on the right side by the door, stacks of filaments and four Prusa printers on the desk by the wall opposite to the door, repair tool kit and one in-progress giant experimental printer on the left to the door.

To give you a context, this was one of my most depressing time of my life; I was fresh out of undergraduate working two part time jobs and doing freelance works, uncertain about my graduate school applications and funding, worried sick about my ill mother at home, and desperately trying to look for a design studio that was willing to give me a work visa within a time limit of four months or else I would get kicked out of the country–things were not so hot. Every time I clocked in, I dreaded having to deal with customers who often blame the 3D printer’s failures on us, technicians.

It was slow and quiet that day, but I was emotionally exhausted from all my personal baggage. So I rested my head on the desk, closed my eyes, and thought of nothing, when it hit me, they were singing. By that time, I have worked with 3D printers long enough to have recognized their sound when they were printing and made a few off-handed comments about it. However, it was not until that day that it felt like I was listening to the 3D printers’ performance, it was a robotic choir.

Perhaps it would be an insult to performers to call an unorganized sound making machines a choir, but the sound those 3D printers were making was very soothing to me, it felt like one. It might also be because of my bias and affinity towards machines that made me come to this conclusion. Confined in a small room amidst nothing but my depression and twelve moving 3D printers, I subconsciously looked for any kind of comfort the situation had to offer, and it was in the sound of twelve 3D printers I found it.

I was aware that the sound was not an intended product of 3D printers, it just is. Of course, they were not ‘singing’, it was my human centric idea that projected the idea of singing onto those machines. They were just doing their jobs, commanded by us, printing out filament layer by layer to bring a digital design to our physical life. It was my human mind that wanted to believe that they were singing a choir. They were not aware of anything they were doing.

But regardless of intentions, it cheered me up. The twelve 3D printers could not see, hear, nor feel, yet the presence of each of them made me feel better about my life in that moment. It is perhaps romantic, and considering where we are today with technology and the direction its moving towards, it might as well be dangerous. I was projecting and seeking empathy from machines that cannot and will not reciprocate my human feelings for they are not and will never be human.

Duplicating cells

A while ago when we were learning how to code the Sol Lewitt’s drawing rules on P5js, I was also experimenting with this thing:

Basically it’s the similar concept of the Sol Lewitt drawings rule #115, except I added more rules to it:

  • It starts with 10 points on the screen
  • The points are now moving floating circles
  • Every time the circles are within the radius of 25px of each other, it draws a line between them, and spawn a new circle randomly on the screen

And as time goes on the number of circles keep growing. I wish to keep adding on more rules, possibly making the cells flock together. But that’s another project for another day.

I had difficulties with the coding part of this mini project. I was not documenting the process well to share it here on my blog, but if there is anything that I learned from doing this is that the console log is your best friend.


I think our idea of living is too human-centric. Something is only perceived as living when it presents human life qualities. Our idea of sentient is too conservative, too limiting for us to connect with other beings in our surroundings, when our network with our environment is what has been keeping us alive as human species.


(While I agree that the slime mold is intelligent, I think the researches that show how intelligent the slime mold is by comparing it to human intelligence could be a dangerous practice).

Just because something doesn’t have a brain like organ or a visible network system it does not mean that they are not intelligence or alive. I believe that everything is alive on its own terms. Every objects, material or dematerial, in the physical or in the virtual, have agency that change our behavior around them. We have little to no understanding of how these objects experience life outside of our connection to them because we are fundamentally different species and kinds of beings, but I think it’s important to hold on to this connection, to the belief that these objects are affecting us as just as we are affecting them.

Maybe suggesting that my cup of coffee as a living being sounds too radical of a statement, but as a person and a network, I have a relationship with my cup of coffee as a concept and object, and I think what I’m trying to say that this network is a living quality.

With this line of thinking, perhaps I should really read Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory and Graham Harman’s Object Oriented Ontology. I just haven’t had to time to read their work yet.

Sol Lewitt drawing rules #118 on P5.js

Some time ago in class I did drawing of Sol Lewitt’s drawing rules #118:


and this is the result that I came up with:


And this week in class we learned how to draw this on P5.js


and this is how it ended up looking like. So I went home and tried to experiment with this drawing. So I challenged myself and added more rules to #118

To make this easier on my computer I used 20 points instead of 50.

The first addition to the rules: make a new randomized pattern every time you click on the screen.


then the second addition to the rules: click to add a new point that appears randomly.


the third addition to the rules: make them individually move, randomized with each click.


The fourth addition to the rules: click to add a new point that appears randomly, and make them move at random direction and speed.


The fifth addition to the rules: add points by clicking and being able to drag existing points.


So there. that was my journey with Sol Lewitt’s drawing rules #118 on P5.js

There was a point when I couldn’t figure out how to do any of this and had a breakdown and spiraled into the rabbit hole of ‘what if i just suck at coding and picked a wrong career path?’ but everything turned out fine. I’m still struggling with the codes but in fun ways.


another one of Sol Lewitt’s drawing rule:


William Latham: Artificial Life

I think artificial life is very valuable for us to understand how things become. By understanding how computer evolution works I think we’ll get to understand a thing or two of our own evolution. Latham created his “own vision of nature” through artificial life. The text mentioned:

However, here he is neither concerned with the simulation of biological processes, nor with the production of animated structures in the sense of artificial life.

Which I think is important for the creative process. And I guess while we could potentially learn things about biology through artificial life, it doesn’t mean that it has to mimic biology. I think that’s the beauty about new technology. I believe machines don’t have to mimic us to exist.

It reminds me of a discussion about Artificial Intelligence that I had in one of the courses I took last semester, Affect and Emotion in Practice with Judith Doyle. We had a discussion about how AIs and robots don’t have to act and look like human to be intelligent. I think it’d be fun to live with them if they have their own personalities and quirks that aren’t human-like.

Using these techniques, the computer becomes an intelligent coworker that suggests forms, something that once could never have imagined.

I want to learn more about generative art and artificial nature, I think this is the collaboration between human and machine that I’ve been looking for, the poetry that I was talking about early last semester when I first started working with P5.js.

System can assist an artist to create imaginative forms, and computers are good at applying systems, and very fast at drawing.

I think, for me personally, I want to create art with computers because I want to collaborate with them. I’ve always treated my materials as my collaborators, be it pencil, wood, computer, or anything, really. I don’t want to manipulate my materials. I want to give them room to breathe. And slowly they will move, slowly they will dance with me. And I’ve always been fascinated by machines ever since I was a kid. To be able to create art with machines is a dream of mine.

Here is my attempt at Latham’s FormSynth


Sol Lewitt, Paragraphs on Conceptual Art: A Response

(unrelated, in class thoughts: Do you think if it wasn’t for the military needs, robotic and AI technology would’ve gone through an entirely different route than we are today? less anthromorphized? less advanced because of less funding and interest?)

In my practice, my work has always been conceptual. Before doing my sculptural work, I wasn’t aware of Sol Lewitt (or most artists in general, because I never had any formal education nor access to fine art growing up in Indonesia) but my undergraduate professor told me about him because he thought my work reminds me of his philosophy.

The concepts are never rational, if it becomes rational, then it means nothing. The concept doesn’t have to be complex. Sometimes it comes from a single or two lines of poems I write before I go to bed. Lewitt said, “Ideas are discovered by intuition. What the work of art looks like isn’t too important.” I always follow my intuition, I might now know what the meaning or the symbolism mean, but that is to be discovered later when the work of art is done.

If you create a work of art that you know everything of, in and out of it, deep psychological meaning behind all the symbolism you meant to put on it, then what is the point of that? What is the point of a conceptual art work if it cannot be perceived infinitely? My undergraduate thesis professor once told me, if you know the meaning of everything in your work, then you are not creating artwork for yourself, but for other people. I think, one should be able to infinitely dissecting the meaning of the work by themselves.

An idea and a plan, as Lewitt has put it, “eliminates the arbitrary, the capricious, and the subjective as much as possible.” As much as conceptual work follow intuition, it is not an abstract. It’s not subjective. But everything is subjective, isn’t it? Is there anything out there in the world that is truly objective? What I think Sol Lewitt meant is for the work to be able to be open for interpretation to many of the viewers in many ways.

Architecture, whether it is a work of art or not, must be utilitarian or else fail completely. Art is not utilitarian. When three-dimensional art starts to take on some of the characteristics, such as forming utilitarian areas, it weakens its function as art.” I’m not sure if I agree with this statement. I think, something still can be completely utilitarian and still serves as art. The notion that utilitarian objects cannot be art is elitist. Concept doesn’t have to be rational, but it can be rational. Art doesn’t only exist in forms but also in ornaments. Creating art for the art’s sake as the only pure form of art is a dated thinking.

Here are my drawings that I did in class, following the drawing rules by Sol Lewitt, including the last 2 drawings following my own rules and my colleague’s rules:




Are Our Brains Capable of Consuming Mass Information from New Media?

New media has allowed mass information to travel among us. Photography, film, radio, printing press, etc. “Mass media and data processing are the complimentary technologies of a mass society” quoted from Lev Manovich, this week’s reading. what are the data and how are they being processed by technology?

The development of computers and modern media begin around the same time. The technology was essential to reproduce the same texts, images, and sounds to the mass. Could human brains handle the surge of information when it all started? have our brains evolved to accommodate the speed of information?

There’s the notion that human brains will evolve along technology, the more advanced our technology becomes, surely our brain will catch up to it. But if we look at the new media today, the internet, social media and whatnot, it seems as if the new media is growing at the speed that is faster than our human brains can keep up with. We let this new technology evolve and as society we were late on regulating rules for this new media until it affected us all globally, such as what happened with the US presidential election and UK Brexit.

Development of computers allows automation, which have seemed to help us in this aspect. we can rely on computers to read and analyze data for us. But there has to be a limit, right? Automation functions within rules. AI process and build, but they can’t initiate. It can’t create outside of the rules that we’ve created for it. can AI act on their own? Maybe not today. They’re just strings of codes and numbers. But I guess so are humans. What are we but series of complicated genomes?

Generative art would be predictable. What’s the point of creating a huge numbers of predictable art?

However, there’s no reason a computer should work on its own to create a work of art. I think a collaborative effort between us human and computer could make works that people couldn’t even have imagined before. Though I don’t exactly know how. Maybe something like those sketches I did earlier last semester? Anyways, I hope to learn more from this class.


Little Legged Bot

It has been a while since the last time I wrote, but I made an academic twitter for shorter updates on my readings and everyday thoughts. Anyway, the other day, I told my head of department that I feel that a big chunk of my graduate school experience is missing because there are not as much critical discussion around art and technology as I think it should. I mean, the world is falling apart and we can’t just stand around in a comfortable bubble of academia not talking about what matters in the world. Experiments for the sake of experimentation matters, too, but I can’t stand not having critical discussion around it.

My graduate school experience has been okay. maybe a little too mediocre. I’m learning everyday, but I think I have a higher learning capacity that is not optimized in this environment. Sometimes I wonder how things would have been had I been able to afford to enroll to Cranbook Academy of Art.

But thinking about what would and could have beens is a waste of time, I think I’d rather think about what I can do in my current environment. recently, I have been working on a robot for my last assignment for the class (prompt has not been given yet but of course I’d steal a head start).


This is the model for the moving legs part. I’m creating a simple robot that would hide itself when it detects movement or if it runs into a dead end. I’m exploring vulnerability with this robot. I want to see what kind of affect it will evoke within the viewers.

My worry right now is that if the body would be too heavy on the back part, I have to somehow balance it in the front part with an extra weight or something. The walking mechanism seems to be doing alright, though I have not fully tested it with a motor yet (I also have yet to design the casing for the dc and servo motors).

I’m pretty excited about this project, I hope I would have enough time to explore and execute this little one.

Wood Breakage, Machine Fallibility

I think what makes human so interesting is the fact that we’re all so flawed. Flaws might seem like something that’s undesirable to most people, as many consider them as faults or weaknesses. To me flaws are endearing, whether in humans, wood, or machines. Just because one is incapable of surpassing their own limits at the time, does not mean they are broken. The beautiful thing about being human is that our limits change over time, they fluctuate. People learn and fail. Fail, fail, succeed, and fail again. One’s success might look like failure to another, and vice versa.

About a week ago, I had a meeting with Stan Krzyzanowski, an undergraduate faculty at OCAD University. He teaches first year sculpture classes and introduction to wood, just like Ken Martin did at MICA. We met at his small office in the main building near the second floor cafe. He remarked that he just got a new computer for his office.

He told me that he thought he was a furniture maker, and that was what he called himself for so many years until one day he realized that it was not something that he wanted to do. He was interested in the expansion and cracking of the material he was working with, which was wood. Then he started studying in the breaking of the material. He showed me pictures and videos of his works, but some of the links and the videos kept breaking on him because of the new computer, it doesn’t play flash, and he couldn’t show the pieces he wanted to show me, one of them being this piece, a pine cone that showers itself with water the moment it dries out.

(Cone Oscillator by Stan Krzyzanowski)

I was talking to him about how I want to collaborate with my material, and while I was working with wood as my material I felt like I understood its limit and such, but not with technology. Then I showed this piece that I did in undergraduate, Memento Mori, to Stan. When I was working on this piece, I realized for the first time that I couldn’t manipulate wood to whatever I wanted forever– that one day, it would tell me ‘no’, break, and spring back on me. Memento Mori Part II was the piece that taught me that.

cc5e7549763961.58be31a41d85f(Memento Mori, Part II by Nilam Sari)

But Stan asked me, if it was really a collaboration if you keep letting it do whatever it wants to do? To which I replied, “what do you mean?” Stan turned to his computer and clicked on the link that he knew was not working, showing a blank page. He turned to me and asked, “I mean, if the screen is not working, is it a collaboration with technology?” I just stared at it. It’s not, is it?

Then he showed this piece, where he put together a bunch of simple recording of a spinning metal faceplate from the lathe into html. All videos are of the same recording, but the limit of an old cospimputer processor he had that time played the video at different speed and timing

(Spinning Lathe Faceplate Grid Video by Stan Krzyzanowski)

And I realized that in my more recent piece from undergraduate, “Permanent Address“, I worked with wood carefully. Bent but never broke it. I made it into a thing that it was not but definitely not forcing it to not what it wanted to be. I might had not realized it when I was talking to Stan but I see it now I think.

dsc_0141(Permanent Address by Nilam Sari)

And in regards to technology, I think I haven’t found the limits and breaking point to it. I like machines but I don’t know why I like it yet. Why do I like it when machines glitch? Is it because I like flaws? vulnerability? Can I tell the difference between a glitch and a bug yet? I don’t know, I don’t know yetStan told me that if a material speaks to me, then I gotta do something with it. I might not know today, but I will learn more and more everyday from it, and that’s what makes it fun.

I think machines can be as flawed as human beings. It perhaps isn’t something that can be programmed, but is found. If it does what it was told to do then the machine is not flawed, but is imitating a flaw. Maybe I should get more attuned to everyday machines, get cheap robots, go to best buy and watch a roomba or something, I might find more machine fallibility in everyday life.

I wonder what is with me, my practice, and my obsession in finding living quality in machines? Is finding these in other human beings not enough for me? Why do I want machines to appear to be alive? That’s another topic for another post. I personally have not found the answer to these, but I do find joy when it happens. I think as an artist, it is my job and joy to find something meaningful behind everyday mundane things.