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PA - C8 - HFC563 : The Art of Simulation


The Art of Simulation


In this series of lectures we will explore the use (and misuse) of the concept of simulation in today’s artistic production and critical discourse. We will also investigate how such a notion, once properly defined, can allow a new perspective on a general history of art shifting away from the sole questions of representation and mimetic acts- as it has been abusively treated in modern times -  to a much wider approach :  the ancient practice of the ‘art of simulation’. 

There are two main and conflicting definitions of what a simulation actually is. It can be either considered as an act of « make-believe »,  a forgery of reality(to simulate pain is to pretend that one is in pain) or it can be approached as the dynamic exploration of possibilities inside a constructed model(as comonly understood in scientific disciplines).

Through a large scope of examples taken from contemporary, modern and ancient forms of art, as well as computational and engineering applications,  we will investigate the tension between these two definitions of the concept of simulation and  thus explore the consequences of this paradigmatic shift from a ‘represented’ world to a ‘constructed’ world. 

This class itself will function as a simulation of some kind, the collective testing of a radical hypothesis : what if we have always been wrong in opposing reality and falsehood, world and representations, what if only simulations are real? 


The course will articulate three main lines of inquiry serving as a roadmap for our investigation: 

1- “a brief history of simulation” will present multiple examples of the use of simulation in recent and past history of art - starting with the use of computer simulations in contemporary art works and moving upstream in history by exploring how the logic of simulation - although not yet technologically instantiated - has always been at the heart of artistic procedures (from the generative art of the 1960’s to the Ars Memoriae of the Renaissance for instance)  . 

2- “the simulating species” will focus on a broader theoretical approach of the way the concept of simulation has been used in various disciplines throughout history and the extent to which these uses can serve our attempt to define an ‘art of simulation’

3- “the simulation argument, reversed” will  explore Nick Bostrom’s famous argument on the possibility that we are indeed living in a computer simulation  and his influence on many actors of the technology sector. We will then attempt a reversal of his argument and the specific metaphysics it carries by speculating on what it would mean for us to be the ‘simulators’ instead of the ‘simulated’. 


Assessment : 

Students, in groups of 2 or 3, will complete an unsupervised assignment in which they will comment on an artwork involving simulation. This may take the form of a written commentary, a video, a poster, etc. 


Fabien Giraud is an artist born in 1980. Since 2007 he has been collaborating with artist and filmmaker Raphael Siboni on a large body of work which has been shown in multiple museums and events internationally (Palais de Tokyo- France, Lyon Biennial-France, Liverpool Biennial-United Kingdom, Mona- Australia, Casino -Luxembourg, Okayma Art Summit-Japan, VAC-Russia, among others). 

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