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Ali Eslami

Ali Eslami (b.1991) is an Iranian Artist based in Amsterdam. His work deals with long-term, practice-based research that builds and grows through speculative thinking and world-building.

His work engages and plays with temporal and spatial investigations of memory, human cognition, and emotions. Often results in the form of poetic engineering as journeys to seek the potential that lies in the blurred lines between the real and unreal.

His engineering background and passion for video games nurtured an obsession with cybernetics and computation and continue to build his curiosity towards the shifting roles of form and function that create virtual worlds.

Often utilizing various mediums such as VR, Film, Writing, Installation, and performance lectures. In 2016, his VR project won the IDFA DocLab Award for “Best Immersive Non-fiction”. and in 2020 the Golden Calf for Best Interactive at Nederlands Film Festival with fellow artist Mamali Shafahi for Nerd_Funk project.

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ModularX Prototype (working title)

This research project sets out to construct a computational model of "Latent Space." This concept, deeply rooted in cognitive science, represents an abstract, multidimensional space where complex thought processes and the interconnectedness of various mental elements are unveiled. By using the power of game engine technology, the project aims to create a virtual space built purely modular, each with unique forms and functions, shaping a sandbox lego-like structure.

This work develops in two facets, bouncing back and forth as an ongoing process:

1. Modular framework design (Abstract)

The heart of this investigation lies in the exploration of virtual and modular systems derived from computation. These systems, often operating discreetly in the background, are pivotal in various domains ranging from video games to scientific simulations. A significant aspect of this research is to challenge the normative practices in software design, particularly the traditional concealment of code and functions. The project questions the notion of agency through the lens of software architecture, striving to make the underlying functions within these simulations more visible and comprehensible.

This visibility is crucial, as codes and functions in software are generally perceived as objective entities. By classifying functions into Primitive (purely objective) and Composite (subjective and interpretative), this research proposes a different approach to system design in digital domains.

This classification allows outsiders, who are not the authors or programmers of these modules, to grasp a subjective understanding of the code. This is particularly important in digital models where users often find themselves swimming in a sea of form where functions are magically ruling their destiny in the background.

The project draws inspiration from the LEGO Mindstorms system, where the form of each module clearly communicates its function, allowing users to interact with and understand the physical world around them. This level of pragmatism is what the research seeks to incorporate. By exposing the functions alongside the forms, it aims to open up new avenues for understanding agency and intelligence within these systems.

To further investigate the potential of this modular framework it demands to be seen in different scales, from the very primitive units that create each module to the broader behaviour of the system as a whole. Here the question of agency becomes multi-faceted, both top-down and bottom-up.

2. Implementation of the framework (Applied and Local)

A significant motivation behind my work is to incorporate the building blocks of Middle Eastern culture, often overlooked in early computing, into these frameworks. I intend to embody this modular framework with Persian mythology and history, spanning both pre- and post-Islamic eras. This effort comes from a personal urge to contribute to the media literacy of the Middle East, using computation and simulations as tools for cultural expression and analysis.

I am drawn into the roots of modularity and fragmentation in the broader context of the Middle east. Modular forms have been significantly present in Iran's visual culture and architecture i.e. Nomadic carpets (Gabbeh), Mosaic Tiles, Miniatures, Calligraphy etc.

Re-interpretation of these familiar forms with new embedded functions can have the potential to revive their haunted and fading presence in our contemporary culture. In hope for them to perform in a new and relatable condition.

I want to explore the potential of fragmentation of reality and its injection into a modular system. How this new environment that is derived by the baseline understanding of the world can do differently?

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