Kyle McDonald : Notes from the pacific

19 Dec 202337:48
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TLDRIn this inspiring talk, Kyle shares his journey merging art, technology, and nature to deepen our connection with the ocean. From creating immersive installations to developing systems for ecological conservation, Kyle's work spans across disciplines. He highlights his efforts to capture the elusive Te Lapa, a mysterious Pacific Island phenomenon, and his experiences learning from Polynesian navigators. Kyle's story emphasizes the importance of preserving cultural traditions and understanding our place within the vast, interconnected web of life.

  • 🌊 The speaker, Kyle, integrates arts with technology through music, code, machine learning, and computer vision, creating immersive installations and exploring AI in various forms.
  • 🎢 His work includes building games that resist surveillance and using AI in the context of insulation and performance, questioning the limits of machine understanding of human communication.
  • 🌐 Kyle's studio, IYOIYO, collaborates with artists like Es Devlin, creating a generative poetry algorithm for a poetry pavilion at the 2020 World Expo and a system for tracking fencers in real-time, used in the Tokyo Olympics.
  • πŸ‹ Focusing on the ocean, Kyle discusses the cultural and ecological significance of humpback whales and the impact of the vinyl album 'Songs of the Humpback Whale' on whale conservation efforts.
  • πŸš£β€β™‚οΈ The story of Polynesian navigation and the importance of understanding the ocean's complexity and the traditional knowledge of navigators from the Pacific Islands is highlighted.
  • 🌠 Te Lapa, a mysterious flash of light used by navigators, is discussed as a phenomenon that science has yet to explain but is integral to the navigators' culture and understanding of the ocean.
  • πŸ“Έ Kyle's journey to document Te Lapa involves building sensitive low-light cameras and working with cultural anthropologists and navigators, aiming to capture this elusive phenomenon.
  • 🌟 The importance of preserving and sharing traditional navigation techniques and the voyaging culture of the Pacific is emphasized, along with the challenges faced due to Western influence and modernization.
  • 🌍 The speaker reflects on the interconnectedness of all things and the need to reorient our understanding of home and our place within a complex ecosystem, beyond individualism and separation.
  • πŸ› οΈ The project's technical challenges, including the creation of specialized camera equipment and the learning process involved in understanding and respecting traditional knowledge and practices.
  • 🌿 The potential of art and technology to build intuitive connections and deepen our relationship with the natural world, rather than just communicating information or making judgments.
Q & A
  • What is Kyle's background and how did he get involved in the arts?

    -Kyle is based in Los Angeles and originally came to the arts through music and code. He has spent a lot of time working with new technologies like machine learning and computer vision.

  • What types of art does Kyle create, and how do they interact with technology?

    -Kyle creates various forms of art, including immersive installations with disco balls and structured light techniques from computer vision, conceptual sculptural interventions, and games that build collective resistance to surveillance. He also explores AI in the context of insulation and performance.

  • How does Kyle's studio IYOIYO contribute to other artists' work?

    -IYOIYO has a consulting side where they work for other artists, such as Es Devlin. They built a generative poetry algorithm for her poetry pavilion at the 2020 World Expo and a system for tracking fencers in real-time, which was used in multiple competitions, including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

  • What inspired the cultural intervention of pressing humpback whale songs to vinyl?

    -The researchers Katy Payne and Roger Payne, friends of Frank Watlington who first recorded the whale songs, were inspired to press the songs to vinyl with the goal of weaving humpback songs into human culture and reorienting our relationship with these creatures.

  • What is the significance of the humpback whale songs in Kyle's work?

    -Kyle, along with composer Annie Lewandowski, created audiovisual installations that incorporate the complexity of humpback whale songs. They used machine learning to convert the songs into lighting designs, aiming to help shift awareness of the ocean in a similar way that the first vinyl record of humpback songs did.

  • What is the main danger faced by North Atlantic Right Whales and other cetaceans today?

    -The main danger faced by North Atlantic Right Whales and other cetaceans is marine debris, particularly leftover fishing gear that floats around and gets caught on whales, causing fatal injuries.

  • How did the Polynesian navigators know their location even when blindfolded?

    -Polynesian navigators could determine their location by feeling the movement and rolling of the boat, as they had an intuitive understanding of swell patterns and how they translate to location.

  • What is Te Lapa and how is it used in Polynesian navigation?

    -Te Lapa is a quick flash of light that shoots from islands and reefs up to 150 miles away. It is used by Polynesian navigators as a natural sign to provide direction and consolation, appearing most frequently in times of danger or uncertainty.

  • What challenges did Kyle face while attempting to capture Te Lapa on camera?

    -Kyle faced challenges such as the faintness of Te Lapa, the need for a highly sensitive low-light camera, unpredictable weather, and complex international and local regulations. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his efforts.

  • How does Kyle's work with Te Lapa and Polynesian navigation contribute to a broader understanding of the ocean?

    -Kyle's work contributes to a broader understanding of the ocean by highlighting the intricate knowledge and traditions of Pacific Islanders, challenging Western perceptions of the ocean as empty or featureless, and promoting a more interconnected view of the earth's ecosystem.

  • What is the significance of the proa, and how does it represent the blending of traditional and modern technologies?

    -The proa is a traditional Pacific Island sailing vessel that can sail both forwards and backwards. It represents the blending of traditional and modern technologies as it was rebuilt with modern materials while maintaining its traditional design, showcasing the advanced techniques and technological achievements of Pacific sailing vessels.

πŸŽ‰ Introduction and Artistic Journey

The speaker, Kyle, introduces himself and shares his background in Los Angeles, his journey into the arts through music and code, and his work with new technologies like machine learning and computer vision. He discusses his various artistic endeavors, including immersive installations, ecological interventions, AI exploration, and game design aimed at resistance to surveillance. Kyle also mentions his consulting practice, IYOIYO, and their work on projects like a generative poetry algorithm and a real-time tracking system for fencing used in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

🌊 The Ocean and Humpback Whales

Kyle transitions the discussion to the ocean, focusing on humpback whales and Polynesian navigation. He recounts the history of commercial whaling and the near extinction of humpback whales, the discovery of their songs by Frank Watlington, and the cultural impact of the album 'Songs of the Humpback Whale.' The speaker also addresses the current threats to marine life, such as marine debris, and the efforts of organizations like the Center for Coastal Studies to mitigate these dangers.

🎢 Art, Technology, and Humpback Songs

The speaker collaborates with composer Annie Lewandowski to create audiovisual installations that incorporate recovered fishing gear and new humpback whale recordings by Katy Payne. Kyle discusses the use of machine learning to draw attention to complex patterns in humpback songs, aiming to build an intuitive connection with the whales rather than simply conveying information. He shares his experiences with sailing and the importance of reconnecting with nature and technology in a meaningful way.

🏝️ Polynesian Navigation and Te Lapa

Kyle delves into the intricacies of Polynesian navigation, highlighting the knowledge of swell patterns and the phenomenon of Te Lapa, a quick flash of light used for navigation. He describes the cultural and spiritual significance of Te Lapa and the efforts to document this elusive phenomenon, including his collaboration with Dr. Marianne George (Mimi) and the challenges they faced in capturing it on camera.

🚒 Pacific Voyaging and the Representation of Oceans

The speaker reflects on the importance of accurate representation of the Pacific and its islands, criticizing the digitization that treats the ocean as empty space. He discusses the rich cultural and historical connections across the Pacific, the advanced technologies of traditional Pacific sailing vessels, and the need to reevaluate our understanding and perception of the ocean and its inhabitants.

🌟 The Quest for Te Lapa and Cultural Preservation

Kyle shares his experiences in attempting to capture Te Lapa on camera, the challenges faced due to COVID-19, and the subsequent shift in focus towards storytelling and simulations. He discusses the cultural significance of the project, the importance of preserving and sharing traditional navigation techniques, and the broader implications for understanding the interconnectedness of the Earth's ecosystem.

🌍 Reorientation and the Web of Relationships

In the concluding paragraph, Kyle reflects on the interconnectedness of all things and the lessons learned from his journey. He talks about reorienting his perspective from a self-centered view to one of being a participant in a complex ecosystem. He emphasizes the importance of relationships, both human and environmental, and invites the audience to contribute to the work of cultural preservation and understanding.

πŸ’‘Art and Technology
The integration of artistic expression with technological advancements is a central theme in the video. It refers to the use of new technologies like machine learning and computer vision to create immersive installations and conceptual sculptures. The speaker, Kyle, uses these technologies to explore various art forms, from sound design to robotics, and even game development that encourages collective resistance to surveillance.
πŸ’‘Ecological Fallout
The term 'ecological fallout' refers to the negative environmental impacts, particularly those caused by human activities. In the context of the video, it is used to describe the consequences of the NFT bubble, which Kyle addresses through his art. His sculptures aim to repair the damage done to the environment and raise awareness about ecological issues.
πŸ’‘Polynesian Navigation
Polynesian Navigation is an ancient system of wayfinding that relies on natural cues like swell patterns, stars, and other environmental signs. It is a key aspect of the video, as Kyle discusses his interest in this traditional knowledge and its potential for contemporary applications. The speaker is particularly fascinated by the concept of Te Lapa, a mysterious flash of light used by navigators.
πŸ’‘Te Lapa
Te Lapa is a fleeting flash of light that appears over the ocean and is used by Polynesian navigators as a navigational aid. It is a significant cultural and spiritual phenomenon for the people of the Pacific. In the video, Kyle expresses his awe and curiosity about Te Lapa and his attempts to capture it on camera.
πŸ’‘Humpback Whales
Humpback Whales are mentioned in the context of environmental conservation and cultural engagement. The video discusses how the release of the album 'Songs of the Humpback Whale' helped to raise awareness and protect these creatures from whaling. Kyle's work with Annie Lewandowski on audiovisual installations aims to continue this legacy of using art to connect humans with the natural world.
πŸ’‘Marine Debris
Marine Debris refers to the litter and waste found in the ocean, often resulting from human activities. It poses a significant threat to marine life, including cetaceans like whales and dolphins. The video highlights the efforts of organizations like the Center for Coastal Studies to mitigate the impact of marine debris on marine wildlife.
πŸ’‘Cultural Intervention
A cultural intervention is a strategy used to influence or change cultural perceptions, behaviors, or norms. In the video, this concept is exemplified by the release of the 'Songs of the Humpback Whale' album, which aimed to shift public attitudes towards whales and promote their conservation. Cultural interventions can be artistic, educational, or social in nature.
πŸ’‘Machine Learning
Machine Learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that involves the use of algorithms to learn from and make predictions or decisions based on data. In the video, Kyle uses machine learning to create lighting designs that highlight the complex patterns in humpback whale songs, as well as to analyze and visualize swell patterns related to Polynesian navigation.
πŸ’‘Interactive Installations
Interactive installations are art exhibits that engage viewers through physical interaction or other forms of participation. In the context of the video, Kyle creates installations that not only showcase art but also aim to build an intuitive connection between humans and the natural world, particularly focusing on marine life and Polynesian navigation.
πŸ’‘Sailing and Voyaging Culture
Sailing and voyaging culture refer to the practices and traditions associated with traveling by water, especially in the context of the Pacific Islands. The video emphasizes the importance of these traditions and the knowledge they represent, as well as the efforts to preserve and perpetuate this cultural heritage.
πŸ’‘Environmental Awareness
Environmental awareness refers to the consciousness and understanding of the impact of human activities on the natural environment. The video advocates for increased awareness through art and technology, particularly in relation to marine life conservation and the preservation of traditional navigation practices.

Kyle, based in Los Angeles, works at the intersection of arts, music, code, and new technologies like machine learning and computer vision.

Art for Kyle takes various forms, from immersive installations to ecological interventions and AI exploration through sound and interaction design.

Kyle's studio IYOIYO developed a real-time fencing tracking system used in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The talk focuses on the ocean, humpback whales, and Polynesian navigation, highlighting the cultural and ecological significance.

In the 1960s, humpback whales were nearly extinct due to commercial whaling, but their songs helped reorient human relationships with these creatures.

Katy Payne and Roger Payne's vinyl record 'Songs of the Humpback Whale' led to collective action and regulatory changes, aiding humpback whale recovery.

North Atlantic Right Whales face significant threats from marine debris, such as fishing gear, causing severe injuries and death.

The Center for Coastal Studies actively works to remove marine debris and save whales caught in fishing gear.

Kyle and composer Annie Lewandowski create audiovisual installations to raise awareness about marine debris and humpback whale songs.

Machine learning is used to create lighting designs that help listeners perceive complex patterns in humpback songs.

Te Lapa, a mysterious quick flash of light, is a navigational aid used by Polynesian navigators, appearing most frequently in times of danger or uncertainty.

Despite extensive research, the physical explanation for Te Lapa remains unknown, adding to its mystery and cultural significance.

Kyle's journey to document Te Lapa involves building sensitive low-light cameras and collaborating with cultural anthropologists and navigators.

The project to capture Te Lapa on camera becomes a broader exploration of the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of relationships within ecosystems.

Pacific Islanders view the ocean as a connective tissue and highway, contrary to the Western perspective of isolated, empty spaces.

Traditional Pacific sailing vessels are technologically advanced, incorporating aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and sustainable manufacturing.

The project's goal is to document and share the voyaging culture and navigational traditions of Taumako, preserving their knowledge and practices.

Despite challenges and the elusive nature of Te Lapa, the team continues to work on simulations and interactive websites to share their findings and cultural insights.

Kyle's experiences at sea lead to a reorientation of self, from a self-centered perspective to a participant in a complex, interconnected ecosystem.

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