“ENGRAMA” Research on evolutionary and morphological visualization models in relation to art collections – Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts Engram: neurophysiological trace on the brain that is the base of memories in our mind.(1) Concept wise, the Engrama project deals with the field of cultural memory. It is an art, science and technology project with a platform operating in a worldwide framework that allows for the possibility of gathering samples from national and international collections. Based on the data grouping that results from mathematical models applied, the referred platform performs research work on the generation of morphological visualizations of art collections. Conceptual Framework From a conceptual perspective, the Engrama project was inspired on two scientific sources: research work on memory by Richard Semon Wolfgang, and the Atlas Mnemosine Project by historian Aby Warburg. Richard Semon Wolfgang (1859-1918) was a zoologist and evolutionary biologist who introduced the idea –in his work entitled The Mneme and published in 1921– that “in any living organism, every stimulus or external or internal experience will leave a mnemic trace (or engram), that is recorded permanently upon cellular matter predisposed to such engraving, and is capable of being retrieved.”(2) In other words, encoded experiences inscribed in our memory are expressed through the specific physical trace that such experiences leave on our brain cells. In his Atlas Mnemosyne Project (1924-1929), German Jewish historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929) takes the concept of engram introduced by the evolutionary biologist Richard Semon Wolfgang to coin the concept of cultural engram. According to Warburg, “engrams understood as the traces or symbols – of a visual type in this case– that are recorded in the files of collective cultural memory.” (2) ENGRAMA Project | Research on evolutionary and morphological visualization models in relation to art collections intended to reveal, view, materialize, and gather the collection’s engrams whose morphology is recorded in the files of cultural memory. The project’s strategy is based on the idea of giving shape to engrams, in order to make evident the relations existing within a collection. Relations are approached in terms of expression techniques, sensorial experience, and conservation strategies. The project is intended to unveil evidence –in the
visualization of engrams– about the manner in which an engram’s various parts relate to one another, and discover their relation with the context, so as to detect possible external change factors regarding the evolution of such collections. Project hypothesis The hypothesis ruling the project is founded on the idea that every art collection implies a latent morphology (engram) that is both specific and unique. The definition of an engram lies in the contents and relations comprised. Selection of the visualization tool In the understanding that a collection of art is a complex system implying a significant number of relations, an approach from the paradigm of complexity is deemed favorable for the research work intended.(3) This project has resorted to mathematical or computer models as the tool to visualize complex data systems. In this research work, the reference for the application of mathematical visualization models was the project called The Hispanic Baroque(4), implemented at CulturePlex Lab.(5) Theoretical framework of Mathematical Visualization Models The Graph Theory is the theoretical framework of Mathematical Visualization models. “In essence, graphs are simply abstract structures of a group of objects (usually called nodes or vertices) and the relations amongst them (usually called sides or edges)… Such a simple definition is precisely one of its strengths, since it allows for the possibility of adjusting most informational relations to a graph structure, with the immediate outcome of having all tools developed within this mathematical theory for carrying out analyses and transformations referred to the resulting graph.” (6) The visualization tools used –based on the graph theory– were the Sylva Platform (7) and the Gephi Platform.(8)
Case Study: Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts, from 1939 to 2012 Test of the ENGRAMA Project | Research on evolutionary morphological visualization models in relation to art collections
Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts, from 1939 to 2012, is the first case study and test lab of the main project: ENGRAMA (Project) | Research on evolutionary and morphological visualization models in relation to art collections. The referred case study is intended to reveal, view, materialize, and gather the engrams or traces left by the events of official recognition of Uruguay’s field of arts, with the purpose of describing the morphological visual evolution of official collections. Because it is the first case and test in the research, it will be used as test bench, in an attempt to find answers and fulfill the objectives on which the future research platform will be founded. Questions Is it possible to reach any conclusions in relation to an art collection based on the analysis of morphological visualizations developed from mathematical models? If so, what would be the scope of such conclusions? Is it possible to generate strategies for action in relation to the conclusions reached? Objectives • To verify, upon the analysis of an art collection using mathematical models, if it is possible to obtain a morphological visualization of the collection. • To verify if such visualization is the visual representation of contents like production techniques, supports, conservation strategies, and the spectator’s sensorial experience in relation to the collection. • To verify whether it is possible to reach general and specific conclusions in relation to that visualization.
Taxonomic and ontological conceptualization of the field of arts A taxonomy was defined regarding conservation, techniques, supports, and the spectator’s sensorial experience, in relation to traditional and contemporaneous
art collections. The referred taxonomy creates ontological arguments for research that enable verification of the existence, in the field of arts, of three large production families and two conservation families. Concerning production techniques, the three families recognized are: the bidimensional production family, the three-dimensional production family, and the new means and supports production family. In what regards conservation, the two families respectively relate to traditional conservation and contemporaneous conservation. Ontological arguments are attained by applying specialized bibliography.(9) Restriction of the field of study The research relates to the survey of Uruguay’s Official Halls of Art that took place between 1939 and 2012. The objective is to observe and determine the production techniques, the sensorial experiences, and the conservation strategies present in the referred Official Halls of Art. The criterion used for the survey is of the historical type. The analysis consists of two approaches: one corresponds to the field of history of art and production techniques, and the other deals with the analysis of political, social and cultural contexts. Having a clear vision of which art production techniques receive official awards as compared to historical techniques documented in the history of art –and in relation to, both Uruguay’s and the world’s, political, social and cultural contexts– allows for the possibility of generating models for comparison. Such models comprise a technical artistic vision compared with historical perspective, with the chance, through those models, of a close-up on the technical evolution of Uruguay’s official art and the probable external agents that influence the referred evolution. Fieldwork The fieldwork comprised the study of catalogs from Uruguay’s Official Halls of Art issued between the years 1939 and 2012. Fifteen particular samples were taken from a total of fifty-five cases. The fifteen samples correspond to the years 1939, 1945, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1980, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. The survey implied the analysis of 309 works that received awards at the referred events. The analysis is founded on the visual information gathered from photographs of the pieces printed on the referred publications, along with the technical files of each piece photographed.
The data survey relies on the ontological conceptualization created for classifying the rewarded pieces in relation to technique, conservation and sensory perception. Data collecting implies taking note of the artistâ€™s name, the prize awarded, the expression technique, the sensory perception, and the conservation strategies that relate to the pieces subject to study. Data entry in the Sylva and Gephi platforms Work was started on the Sylva Platform. The first step for entering data into this platform is the generation of a schema that will document the existing relations and hierarchies amongst the data entered. The schema used is basic and general for all case studies in the research done. After visualizations are obtained on the Sylva Platform, files are downloaded on the Gephi Platform, which clears the visualizations obtained in the Sylva Platform, so as to delete the morphology data that generates problems for comprehending the visual information. Morphology verification In order to carry out a compared morphology study in relation to visualization, the technical morphological verification of the data obtained is required, in the first place, to verify that the visualizations correspond to the volume of data entered. Controls are performed by itemizing and graphically describing the fifteen visualizations and their contents, and by identifying â€“within the visualizationsâ€“ expression techniques, conservation strategies, sensorial experience, and quantitative and qualitative relations. The stage immediately following the description of contents in qualitative and quantitative visualizations is the one oriented at reaching conclusions based on the visual masses present. After the analysis and the conclusion that such visualizations are representative of the contents included, it is then possible to define classifications in relation to morphological visualization. Description of compared morphologies The compared morphology study carried out between the cases surveyed showed that the fifteen samples may be divided into five families or evolutionary groups within the collection. This taxonomy was defined in relation to contents, expression techniques, conservation strategies, and sensorial experience.
The most interesting point –liable to being verified– in the head project’s objectives is that there is a direct relation between the contents of evolutionary groups and their morphology. This means that it is possible to verify that visualizations corresponding to the same evolutionary group share morphological similarities with one another.
Group A) Halls of Art of 1939, 1945, 1956, 1960, 1974, and 1976. Comprising Bi-dimensional Production F., Three-dimensional Production F., and Traditional Conservation F.
Group B) Halls of Art of 1964 and 1980. Comprising Bi-dimensional Production F., Three-dimensional Production F., New Means and Supports Production F., and Traditional Conservation F.
Group C) Halls of Art of 1968, 1971, and 2001. Comprising Bi-dimensional Production F., Three-dimensional Production F., New Means and Supports Production F., Traditional Conservation F., and Contemporaneous Conservation F.
Group D) Halls of Art of 2006, 2008, and 2010. Comprising Bi-dimensional Production F., New Means and Supports Production F., Traditional Conservation F., and Contemporaneous Conservation F.
Group E) Halls of Art of 2012. Comprising New Means and Supports Production F., and Contemporaneous Conservation F. Analysis of the collection’s phylotecnic tree, from a historical perspective The study of compared morphology of the cases surveyed showed that, among the fifteen cases studied, there is a division and grouping into five families or evolutionary groups within the collection. A phylotecnic tree was defined for the collection’s evolution in relation to such five evolutionary groups. The analysis of the referred tree led to a comparative study of the evolution of the five families in relation to the artistic, political, cultural and social context, with the purpose of recognizing the coordinates of possible external events that might have influenced the collection’s evolution. The analytical study of the apomorphies (or new character states) of evolution referred to context generated verification tools, which showed that the visualization of different morphologies corresponds to different contents of the collection, in addition to proving that the construction of such diverse contents may be explained through the context. The phylotecnic tree is based on phylogenetic trees from the field of biology. It shows an example of diversification of a collection into five possible evolutionary families. The small bars that intersect the phylotecnic lines show the apomorphies. In systems biology –and particularly in cladistics–, an apomorphy ("separated form") is an evolutionarily novel feature, which means that the
feature derives from another feature belonging to a phylogenetically close ancestral taxon.(10)
Analysis 01 | Of Phylotecnic Tree
Upon observing the fifteen case studies as a whole, what becomes evident is that, from the visual viewpoint, the collection’s natural evolution from 1939 to 1960 does not include significant modifications, for all morphologies involved show similar structures. This is the case until 1964, when a morphological transformation occurred, with the appearance of a novel visual feature. What happened? Is there an external event that generated an evolutionary change? Which is the agent of change? The most visually interesting aspect is detecting the existence of a visual feature that is novel from an evolutionary perspective of the collection’s natural changing process. Such changes are an indication of the collection’s evolutionary transformation. The analysis of this event shows that, in contrast with the technical history of art, 1964 is the date of the first appearance of collage as part of the official field of arts in Uruguay. Such technique is part of the New Means and Supports Family. Collage was already part of the worldwide field of arts since 1912. Examples of this were the collage and assembly productions by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963).
Analyzing this outcome would promptly lead to concluding with the following question: Did Uruguayâ€™s official art need fifty-two years to include collage like a means or support as part of an official collection?
Analysis 02 | Of Phylotecnic Tree
In Analysis 02, it is possible to see that the new line of technical evolution marked by the 1964 prize produces a transformation in the collection, from the visual viewpoint. The inclusion of a greater number of works pertaining to the New Means and Supports Family generates the need for new conservation and preservation strategies. The addition of the new means and supports, as well as the new conservation strategies, came to be two aspects capable of generating a visual morphological transformation. This variant, as to vision and content, remains throughout the prizes awarded between 1968 and 1971 at the National Halls of Art, only to be interrupted at the 1974 National Hall of Art.
Analysis 03 | Of Phylotecnic Tree
In Analysis 03, the outstanding point is the possibility of visualizing that the 1974 National Hall of Art represents a drawback from the visual morphological viewpoint, with a return to the morphologies prior to the year 1964. From a morphological perspective, such retreat corresponds to the contents that received prizes at that Hall of Art. What happened? What caused this visual setback? The technical explanation for this visual transformation lies in noting that the New Means and Supports Family was not included in the prizes awarded to official art. Consequently, the Contemporaneous Conservation Family was excluded as well. Only the Bi-dimensional Production Family and the Three-dimensional Production Family were recognized for awards, as it was the case with prizes prior to 1964. Such change might have a historical-political explanation considering that, in the year before the prize was awarded –on June 27th, 1973– Uruguay’s government was overthrown by a coup d’état. The civil-military dictatorship’s influence on the evolution of the collection may be
interpreted from three possible perspectives, none of which is necessarily exclusive of the other two: a) The first one relates to the fact that the judges of Official Halls of Art adhered to a traditional ultraconservative vision regarding the field of arts, thus not awarding prizes to new means and supports. b) The second explanation deals with the field of artists, with the possibility that many of them might have decided to not participate in the referred events because they were organized by the military government. This was the case of a significant number of artists. c) The third option has to do with the repression, exile and/or imprisonment suffered by many artists.
Analysis 04 | Of Phylotecnic Tree
In Analysis 04, something interesting to note is that the 1964 and 1980 Halls of Art appear as quite similar from the visual morphological viewpoint. They are also the prizes which mark, as far as timing is concerned, the events referred to
transformation in the collection’s evolution. They are similar in the sense that they comprise some prizes in the New Means and Supports Family; however, a distinctive aspect is that, in such cases, in what concerns conservation, they may be considered using strategies relative to Traditional Conservation. The first inclusion of the New Means and Supports Family in official art dates back to the 1964 Hall of Art. The 1980 Hall of Art marked the reappearance of the New Means and Supports Family, after its exclusion from the prizes awarded during the dictatorship period. Such reappearance with the prizes awarded at the December 1980 Hall of Art is in line with the Uruguayan people’s decision at the plebiscite of November 30th, 1980. The result of such popular referendum was a negative to the possibility of perpetuating the military dictatorship regime. The event of the plebiscite marked the beginning of the end of the military government’s era. An aspect –whose visualization in the morphology is peculiar and whose verification in the research work is not easy– is that the technical reopening of the Hall of Art relates to the political decision derived from the plebiscite. Anyhow, in social, political and historical terms, it appears as a premonitory omen of Uruguay’s return to democracy. Analysis 05 | Of Phylotecnic Tree
In order to carry out Analysis 05, it is necessary to first describe what the black solid bar corresponds to. Timewise, the solid black corresponds to the period following Uruguay’s return to democracy in the year 1985. Upon the return to democracy, official halls of art were interrupted during a fourteen-year period. The first hall of art from the post-dictatorship period took place in the year 2001. That was the year in which the evolution reached its peak from a technical and conservation perspective. That year’s hall of art included all technical and conservation families, as it was the case with the prizes awarded in the years 1968 and 1971. What is visually remarkable is that the contents of that Hall of Art are –from a technical and conservation viewpoint– equal to the contents of the halls of art that preceded the dictatorship period (1968 and 1971), with a morphologically different visualization. Why then, would there not be visual correspondence if contents are the same? A possible explanation for this could derive from the application of a qualitative and quantitative consideration in regards to the New Means and Supports, as well as in relation to the sensorial experiences associated therewith, and their significant proportion as compared to the 1968 and 1971 prizes. From a quantitative perspective, the 2001 Hall of Arts includes a high percentage of works that correspond to new means and supports. Such significant proportion of new means and supports, added to their technical diversification and to the associated sensorial experiences yield the visual atomization of the morphology of the year 2001. This significant visual contrast, in relation to the years 1968 and 1971, may be explained by the fact that the progressive natural evolution within the official field of arts of the new means and supports could not be visualized in a historical perspective for a twenty-seven year period. The referred technical and sensory evolution was not documented, for 1974 was the year of an evolutionary rupture of the collection in relation to the New Means and Supports, followed by an isolation of the field of study caused by the interruption of halls of art until the year 2001, including the years following the return to democracy of 1985.
Analysis 06 | Of Phylotecnic Tree
The 2001 Hall of Art, which included prizes for all art production families, was the maximum expression from a technical viewpoint. The visualizations of prizes awarded after the year 2001 show a slow retreat of the traditional art production families from official awards instances. While in the 2006, 2008, and 2010 Halls of Art the three-dimensional production family is not included among prizes, the 2012 Hall of Arts includes neither the three-dimensional production family, nor the bi-dimensional production family. Something interesting in this historical-technical Analysis is that, in perspective, it is possible to note a trend in prizes as to the vanishing of traditional means of expression from the official field of arts. Today, in 2014, visualizations sometimes show certain signals of a possible official reaction as far as that trend is concerned. One example to prove such reaction are the terms and conditions recently made public for the call to the 56th National Visual Arts “José Gamarra” Prize, to be awarded in the Republic of Uruguay in August 2014. Those terms and conditions mention the existence of a specific prize –entitled the “Julio Alpuy Award”– to be awarded among the paintings that will participate in the contest. It could be inferred from this that, the decision is, in a way, an institutional response to the trend set forth and put in practice since the year 2006. (11)
Conclusions from the research done Based on the analysis of case study Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts, from 1939 to 2012, it may be confirmed that, upon applying mathematical models to examine an art collection, it is possible to obtain morphological visualizations of art collections. It is also possible to confirm that such morphology is the visual representation of the collection’s contents. A direct relation between the contents of the evolutionary groups and their morphology was detected, thus leading to affirm that visualizations corresponding to the same evolutionary group show morphological similarities with one another. Along with such visualizations came the possibility to reach general and specific conclusions regarding the visual study of the collection. The compared morphology study of the fifteen particular samples used in the research led to evolutionary conclusions regarding the collection. The outcome of the compared morphology study enables the visualization of quantitative, qualitative and phylotecnic relations in the collection’s evolution, also revealing the possible external agents for change in the collection’s evolution. Research progress On the basis of this research study, software material was developed under the name of OPPAMEV / “Ontología de Percepción de Piezas de Arte y Modelos Evolutivos de Visualización” (“Ontology of the perception of works of art and visualization evolutionary models” as per its Spanish acronym). Applying the OPPAMEV software enables the measurement, modeling and classification of the field of arts, with the generation of mappings of means of expression, sensorial (brain) mappings, and conservation strategies. The OPPAMEV application is used for implementing an ontology in relation to the perception of works of art. It is based on the automatic generation of forms for data entry in art ontology. This app was a graduate thesis presented for obtaining a degree in Computer System Engineering at the School of Engineering of the University of the Republic of Uruguay (UdelaR - Montevideo) presented in May 2016. The development of the OPPAMEV application is the ontological evolution of the Engrama Project, where this article’s author also authored the original ontologies, and co-authored –with the graduate candidates– the development ontologies. OPPAMEV is the name of the software tool applied in the framework of the Engrama Platform, Research on evolutionary and morphological
visualization models in relation to art collections, archives and heritagei ii. The Engrama Platform uses mathematical models to analyze, model and find cultural behavior patterns in relation to the study of cultural objects. Aesthetical outcome The piece “Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts, II and III” is the first exhibit of the ENGRAMA project. It is an aesthetical expression of the outcome of the research made in relation to 309 works that were awarded prizes at Uruguay’s National Halls of Art from 1939 to 2012. This sampling was the result of a survey that included fifteen National Halls of Art, from a universe of fifty-five.
“Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts” –Montevideo, Uruguay, 2014. Publication / 15º Jornada de Conservación de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía MNCARS, and GEIIC / Vladimir Muhvich, Engrama Project, Research on evolutionary and morphological visualization models in relation to art collections. Case study: Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts. Publication/ Conservación de Arte Contemporáneo /15º Jornada de Conservación de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía/ February 2014, pgs. 259 through 272. http://www.museoreinasofia.es/publicaciones/conservacion-arte-contemporaneo-15a-jornada i
http://taxonomedia.net/vladimir-muhvich-y-las-morfologias-de-la-memoria/ http://taxonomedia.net/gallery/ ii
“Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts II” –Montevideo, Uruguay, 2015.
“Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts III” –Montevideo, Uruguay, 2017.
Bibliography & References (1)
Enciclopedia de Salud. http://www.enciclopediasalud.com/definiciones/engrama, 03/05/2014
Anna María Guasch, “Arte y Archivo 1920-2010, Genealogías, Discontinuidades”, Madrid: Akal/Arte Contemporáneo, 2011, pg. 24.
“Instead of describing systems by their components, complexity focuses on the system’s complicated and surprising aspects that may emerge from the interaction of the elements that the system comprises. Complexity is a reaction to traditional reductionist approximations that understand the world after comprehending each component in an isolated manner.” María Cuevas Riañao: “Arte, Ciencia y Tecnología / Experiencias Docentes y Creativas”, Madrid: Complutense University of de Madrid Publishers, 2012, pg. 23.
The Hispanic Baroque project was financed by a MCRI scholarship from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, as part of a programme intended to finance projects relative to large-scale international problems, using an interdisciplinary approach. Among the main objectives for the execution of the project are: describing the main Baroque cultural patterns that depend on context; determining their relation to the social organization and identity processes involved; analyzing the cultural technology that enable the adaptability of Baroque; indicating the causes for Baroque effectiveness based on the reappearance of new-Baroque phenomena in the contemporaneous world, and creating new techniques to strengthen the research methods of humanities applying them in a cross-cutting manner, regardless of the type of cultural phenomenon characteristic of each discipline. The Hispanic Baroque Project. Website of the The Hispanic Baroque Project: http://www.hispanicbaroque.ca/, 03/05/2014
The CulturePlex Lab at U. Western carries out research work on cultural complexity, with active work related to digital humanities. Doing research on cultural complexity implies: analyzing the same phenomena at various scales, from individuals to networks, for long periods, and through cultural boundaries. The multidisciplinary approach used includes the best of both humanities and science, and benefits from the calculation power available to face the main human problems that relate to culture. Website CulturePlex Lab: http://www.cultureplex.ca/projects/, 03/05/2014
Project: The Hispanic Baroque. Website of the The Hispanic Baroque Project: http://www.hispanicbaroque.ca/, 03/05/2014.
The Sylva Platform is a tool developed at CulturePlex Lab for handling complex networks in a more direct manner. It enables researchers to share the results they obtain with their peers, and provides a common framework for digital humanities. Website Sylva Platform: http://ec2-50-17-18-120.compute-1.amazonaws.com/, 03/05/2014.
The Gephi Platform is an interactive visualization tool and a platform for exploring all types of complex networks and systems, and dynamic and hierarchic graphs. Gephi is used by those who need to explore and understand graphs. As it is the case with Photoshop, but in this case with data, users interact with the representation, and handle structures, shapes and colors in order to unveil hidden properties. Gephi Platform. Website Gephi Platform: https://gephi.org/features/, 03/05/2014.
Getty Research Institute, Tesauro de Arte & Arquitectura, translated into Spanish by the Chilean Heritage Assets Documentation Center. Website of Tesauro de Arte & Arquitectura: http://www.aatespanol.cl/taa/publico/buscar.htm, 03/05/2014.
- Inside Installations Project Inside Installations glossary. Website Inside Installations: http://glossary.inside-installations.org/, 03/05/2014. - Taxonomedia. Website Taxonomedia: http://taxonomedia.net/, 03/05/2014. - Several authors: Esther Alegre Carvajal, Genoveva Tusell García, and Jesús López Díaz: “Técnicas y Medios Artísticos”, Madrid: Ramón Areces / College Publications, 2010. (10)
Wikipedia. Website Wikipedia: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apomorfia, 03/05/2014
Ministry of Education and Culture. Website Dirección Nacional de Cultura: http://cultura.mec.gub.uy/innovaportal/file/49128/1/premio_alpuy.pdf, 11/05/2014
Engram: "Neurophysiological trace on the brain that is the base of memories in our mind." Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts is the...
Published on Aug 17, 2018
Engram: "Neurophysiological trace on the brain that is the base of memories in our mind." Official Engram of Uruguay’s Field of Arts is the...