P4Photography and Carlos M. Fernandes are pleased to invite you to the opening of the exhibition “Timor Mortis Conturbat Me”, on Friday November 7 at 8.00 pm, at P4ArtGallery (Rua dos Navegantes, 16, Lisbon; map)
(…) When a friend of a mine phoned me one Saturday morning, more than ten years ago, asking me if I wanted him to buy us a box of negatives that was on sale in a flea market (by that time we had the illusion we could create some work together, against the odds that tell us that collective creation is the exception, not a rule), most of them showing people in “ID photo” poses, I could not imagine that they would end up in a gallery wall transfigured by the action of artificial ants. Throughout the years, since we bought that huge box, I looked at those negatives many times. I classified them, separated men from women, and children from adults. (There was even enough material to gather military and police officers in a case of their own.) I was experiencing again the urge to collect. I imagined how they lived and how (or if) they had died. I had this unsettling notion that the older the person in the photo, the lesser the probability of them still being amongst the living. However, the negatives gradually fell into oblivion. They got older inside the improvised small boxes. (Like people, photographs age, and sometimes die.) The smell of fixer invaded the room whenever I opened them, as if it was the formaldehyde of dead photos. But I never gave up trying to resurrect those faces. (…)
Carlos M. Fernandes (about Timor Mortis Conturbat Me), in Pherographia
This book is the most perennial of the activities taking place at place at P4Photography on the concept of Pherographia, during November and December of 2008. Its release coincides with the opening of the exhibition Timor Mortis Conturbat Me, at P4ArtGallery, a show in which, to the extent of our knowledge, Pherographia is for the first time used outside a scientific framework. Along with the exhibition, P4 announces an on-line auction of a set of pherographs made after some photos carefully chosen from my personal archives. A website (www.pherographia.com) dedicated to this theme is also on the way. Such ambitious amount of work could never be carried out without the help and encouragement of many people. I am deeply thankful to all of you who assisted me in this long venture.
I am eternally grateful to my dear friend Jorge Calado, and my debt goes well beyond this particular event. He had always waded stoically throughout the many drafts, photos and photo sequences that I frequently send him in search of his wise opinion. Either from the distance of a newspaper article or the “click” of an e-mail message, he is always there to enlighten me and taking me by the hand through the intriguing paths of Arts and Sciences.
Madalena Lello is probably the main responsible for this work has not remained, eternally, as a project. She motivated me with her knowledge on the subject, pulled me back to the job when I was again losing the grip on it, and encouraged me with words of confidence. Madalena’s influence is spread out all over this book. I would like to express to her my deepest respect and gratitude.
I wish to thank Leonel Moura for contributing to this book with his great experience in the field, and for adding a different perspective on the debate on Artificial Art. Important progresses are sometimes built upon differences.
To Luís Trindade, my gallerist, my friend, and one my most forthright critics, I am also in great debt. Without him, this whole project could never have been set up, not in this time of great expectations and hard work. His faith in me to come up with something meaningful and his confidence in my work are boundless.
I would also like to thanks Agostinho Rosa, my scientific supervisor, whom in 1996 had this strange idea that I could somehow be useful in his pioneering laboratory on bio-inspired computation. He masters perfectly that hard task of being, simultaneously, the “boss” and a friend, and if I did not met him, my life would sure be quite different. J.J. Merelo, my “other supervisor”, contributed with frank critics after reading a first draft of the text on Pherographia. For that, and also for welcoming me so warmly in Granada, I wish to convey my deepest thanks to J. Paulo Maia found, in a flea market, the negatives that were used in Timor Mortis Conturbat Me. I also wish thank him, for the negatives and for much more in the last twenty-three years. Peter Brown helped me with the texts in English. He had not revised the entire book, so any error that you may find in it is not his fault. He was of great help, and he is being a good friend in my new town.
Finally, to all of you that I don’t mention here − because I don’t need to −, my deepest thanks. You all know who you are and I know you are always there for me.
To acknowledge artistic, cultural and personal influences is not an objective task. On the other hand, Science is more straightforward when it comes to identifying references. Although every scientific study is the result of accumulated knowledge − not only the knowledge acquired by the author, but also that which is embedded in the ideas that sustain his investigations −, the main guides to any research are easily identifiable. The concept of Pherographia − and the set of equations that rules part of the artificial ants’ behaviour − is based on a model first developed by Dante Chialvo and Mark Millonas, and described in the paper How Swarms Build Cognitive Maps. Later, Vitorino Ramos and Filipe Almeida had this cunning idea of using Chialvo and Milona’s ant system for detecting the edges of monochromatic images. Their work is described in Artificial Ant Colonies in Digital Image Habitats: A Mass Behaviour Effect Study on Pattern Recognition. The artefact was then ready to be explored, and I gave my humble contribution to this research line by adding a new evolutionary mechanism to the system. I was involved in a few studies and publications on that subject, but probably the most representative of them is Self-Regulated Artificial Ant Colonies on Digital Image Habitats.
Carlos Miguel Fernandes