Monday, May 4, 2009

Of Monkeys and Man

In January I was struggling to fill the class schedule for my final semester at Columbia and I was in desperate need for a class which not only gave me new material to work with but that also challenged me to move forward with my practice. The Fine Art department already thought I was crazy for not only having taken on a Marketing minor but now I wanted to finish a second minor in Art History in one semester and I wanted to take, say what?, a class in the photo department with Grad students? Well I had no real idea what I was in for. The most I knew about the course was having seen Greg lecture at the University of Chicago for the Black is Black Ain't show, and though he'd assured me the course was not related to Identity Politics when I had sent him a request to be in the course, I was ready for not only the challenge but a fresh experience within Columbia were I could benefit from engaging with new faces and new minds. I can say with great joy that I am super happy I embarked in taking the Human Nature Photo Seminar course.

In the beginning of course the readings kept reminding me slightly to a Gender and Culture course I had taken in a previous semester. I was intrigued at how many things kept popping in my head in regards to connection within my already existent interest in culture and "nature" inspired support for them. There was a quote in the first reading Snyder's The Etiquette of Freedom that said " We can give up hoping to be eternal and quit fighting dirt". This quote set my alert level to excited on learning more and more. I had remembered in the Gender and Culture course there was a lot of discussion on the construction of culture and the city and the attempt to move beyond the natural due to imminent things such as mortality within human beings.

Perhaps one of my biggest desires within being both a an artist and an having an interest in art history is for art to exist within conversations beyond that of just art itself. there are many things that shape our world and I have always felt that there needs to be a visual contribution to any given important discourse which is of great importance. It is within this position that I began to appreciate how invested art work brought up within the this course was in current issues of such magnitude. This began to help me think on my final essay presentation. When I read the Terra Antarctica by William L. Fox I had a bit of an Aha! moment. I had been struggling recently with developing a thesis on a holistic practice that addresses things from an all inclusive perspective. In my particular case it is identity politics beyond the inundated approaches of the past. But Fox's approach to the importance of collaboration within the exploration of something as the continent of Antarctica was an eye opening thing. I realized that what I was calling for was an art practice that could produce thought and activity potent enough to contribute to society beyond that of aesthetics. Ill save a little more of this for my final essay however I do think its fascinating to ask whether this approach to creating visual work be effective at all or even solution oriented. I recall Mr. Kevin Fuller , the coordinator for the Human Nature Critical Encounters theme which is what this course follows, bringing up the question of whether art can save lives and in this particular case, can art save the Earth? I'm not sure on my answer to that just yet. But I'm beginning to think that to have a "say" be it visual or not is an added voice that can only help any cause.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Aesthetics of Decay

"Not to preserve art but to use art to keep the image of the earth alive. " - states the introduction to the second floor of the exhibition After Nature at the New Museum. This gives me an intriguing thought of the future role art could and might play within the larger spectrum of things within cultural, social, global issues. Exploring this exhibition , After Nature, presented to me a conversation in which was being approached from many different "languages", but also in which the conversation was being directed towards a spectacle of sorts. The idea of the end of nature or say the possibilities of what could be after nature is, to me, what feeds this current or specific discussion of natural "realities."

The exhibition approaches many fantasy like scenarios of what our world(earth) could look like post a devastating or astronomic conclusion to nature a la "Mad Max". Key to the exhibition is the fantasy like approach to much of the work. The idea that we, as "self" directive creatures, can have the vast imagination and in a sense desire to construct fantasies of events and scenarios in which all we know to be is in danger of extinction or is extinct is fascinating. This brings me to think of how popular media, for the most part, addresses many issues of global destruction, killer viruses, massive killings, etc. We are fascinated by our decay. I'm just playing with thoughts here , but I am driven to think that the way we think about ourselves , our bodies, say that we are immortal, that we will decay, and that there is nothing we can do about it, may have some influence over the way we perceive the potential and realistic decay of our home, Earth. It's a far stretch but then again one to give thought to.

We nurture that which we feel needs help to grow. But we are asked to make decisions about pulling plugs when there is little or nothing that can be done. Why then are we fascinated with exploring, as in this exhibition, the potentials for an "after" when we still haven't reached a conclusive position with the prevention of any of these fantasies to become realities. The conversation does porduce a n awareness. It makes us think beyond a far and away issue and brings it home to something to think about today. But as the begining quote from the exhibition states, I believe art can begining to function as not only participator in larger conversations but as contributor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Of Grass and Life.

How potent can a physical point of view be? As a participator in visual culture, I often question how distorted my one particular opinion or point of view may be. It is often I find that influential conversation may drive images or art works further beyond in potency and commentary than the initial approach to making the work suggested. It is then that I find fascinating the stark and emptiness in landscapes and yet how potent it can become within discourse.

To me Landscapes are something that I find particularly hard to comment on. Perhaps its living in a big city all my life, perhaps is the lack of anything floral in my parents house growing up, or even the fact that every weekend I was dragged to a country club to play golf for four hours on endless "scapes" of manicured grass. It is this particular landscape, the golf course, however which I found helped build an idea of a potent and very loaded terrain. The walls of the club house are decorated with endless photgraphs of grass. Picture after picture of grass, close ups, long shots, even aerial shots depicting the golf course just outside the walls. I used to think these photos were the most boring images I had ever seen, however in retrospect I find them fascinating. Whom ever took the photos was merely documenting the golf course so that the participators of such "field" could worship their glorious private and expensive meeting grounds within the club house, aka church o' golf. I can't get more excited politically than this. There is a quote in "Truth and Landscape" that states; "Although we are not as naive as we once were about the acuracy of the pictures, we continue to value them initially as reminders of what is out there, of what is distinct from us." The photographs of the grass, which is trimmed to perfect height every morning at 4am, are reminders to the club memebrs of their turf however they are also if ever where encountered by an outside audience reminders of a landscape which is unatainable by many social and economical limitations. These photgraphs of grass are not just documentation, they are worship objects.

"Beauty in Photography" states; " There must be another before there can be love. Eden becomes the object of our desire only after we are cast out." The politics are heavy in these photos, they were comissioned with a purpose. I began to think about the landscape and how much of the defacing of the American landscape via developement was influencing photgraphers and their work. A friend used to say something to me when I was a teenager in regards to dating; "How can you miss someone, if they never go away?" So I ask, when was nature missed, if not until it was basically eliminated from our lives? The reaction was "natural" to begin to address the fact that the landscape was being transformed and it no longer looked like before. The essay talks about desire, about constructing realities of one's desire, of Eden, with pleassure. I mean what a perfect description of a country club but a temple of selfish worship.

Non the less landscapes I can approach as expected visual comments. Yes they are out there, yes they are beautiful, and yes they can be potent in content. However it is the approach to the work about landscapes that makes this interesting to me. The context in whcih the photograph or artwork was made from is valuable information to the dialogue a landscape image can participate in. There is grass outside my house, however it is the context of the grass depicted within the walls of the club house which make those particular landscapes stand above any photos of my fornt yard. It is the intent in whcih they were made and the purpose they serve. I respect some though behind production. It is a easy road to merely rely on content to follow production. A conversation is a multiple direction street and therefore the photgraphers influence upon an image can be as significant as the audience.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes a pretty picture is just a pretty picture, right?

I contemplated for a while on Subhankar Banerjee's work tonight. I kept thinking to myself after the lecture, were I heard him speak tonight, and after reading the essays by Finis Dunaway and Kelley E. Wilder on his work that I was missing something. I must be missing something because I'm lost here and have no idea what the big deal is. I'm being blunt yes, however I kept questioning many things and in the end I feel it was productive for me to question and this is why I chose to post true to my observations.

The first image of the lecture was of a polar bear eating the carcass of another polar bear. The image was striking, interesting, violent yet sympathetic. I thought to myself based on the readings this is going to be an amazing display of images and yes, this would draw attention to Washington. But then the energy died out. I was confused. I recall seeing a collection of images of the world from above. I cant really recall what this exhibition or collection of images was titled but it was at Millennium park, displayed outside. It was strange. Anyways this is what I kept reminding myself of as the images of aerial shot landscapes scrolled through the big projector. Then I though of Planet Earth the documentary special on the discovery channel, I think, which Disney is ripping off soon with their own version of it called Earth. There seems to be a trend here and really, the images just maintained an expected allure of what I would expect from a general Polar Ice Caps Google search. I understand I'm being highly critical here but based on the arguments made on the readings and the whole controversy surrounding the exhibiting of these photos, I was from the begining, a little confused at was going on.

So I got to thinking about the audience of this work. The Smithsonian, Capitol Hill, Republicans, etc. The people engaged in the conversation of these images were not your typical art engaging crowd. I really find it interesting that these photos could be approached a la NEA four. Would Senator Helms find this work a threat?
I questioned would Mr. Banerjeer have considered his photographs political if there had not been such a reaction to them? What about if he had not juxtaposed text with them? Would these images be considered political by anyone if they had not been brought up in politics by a politician in Washington? Context here is very important. The images are political and received such a reaction because a politician said they were proof of something much greater than a pure aesthetic exploration. The thing about aesthetics is that they never exist without filters. There's politics to the saying ; " Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." By extension I take this to mean also Beauty fuunctions within the realms of convenience and realtive goals.

I suppose many of these questions could be best answered by the artist himself, which Ill have the opportunity to discuss with in class tomorrow. I look forward to what Mr. Banerjeer has to say and to gain more insight on his practice. I find it fascinating that he is a scientist and that he is practicing visual communication with training in other fields. I find it is a very important component in contemporary culture to be multilingual on many levels to better grasp understandings and construct critical and progressive conversations on issues at hand.

I would like to add a panel form a project I'm currently working on. It serves relevant to the polar bear initiative of Banerjeers first trip to the arctic. Though it is a work in progress, I gained some thought in how I'm approaching it and comfort in how I'm approaching the work from this exposure to Banajeer.

I must stress however that a pretty picture sometimes is just a pretty picture. Felix Gonzalez Torrez once said "to be alive is to be political." To that I say everything is political, even beauty, but there is always other ways and in many aspects more critical ways to approach the political.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

All for one and one for all

I been writing for a few deadlines the last few days and so it's been a busy schedule, however a lot of what I'm writing has to do with collaborations beyond that of intended practice. The fact that things benefit, in particular here artistic practice, by gaining insight form other perspectives. Reading Elizabeth A.T. Smith's essay on Buckminster Fuller and his influences and well his influence on many others is something I found greatly rlevant to this concept of colaboration. I have never thought of art to be ever a solution for much when it comes to present issues however I feel it is important I feel to approach art as visual contributor to a larger conversation. Though we say that as artist we are visual people creatures in reality as HUMANS we are visual creatures therefore it is crucial that our discourse material have a visual component of great substance. It also brought to my attention the information that scientist provide to artist and the information artist provide to scientist. It is a discussion a conversation and no conversation can be had alone and from only one view point to be productive.

Monday, March 16, 2009

by the dawn's early light.

In a recent post of mine I mentioned Bob Ross, the TV painter of landscape fame and cheesy art stereotypes across the board. Well reading the catalog for Manifest Destiny/ Manifest responsibility Mr. Ross came back to my mind. The idea of these paintings becoming a reminder or a visual record of what our surroundings used to look like, is too much of a possibility at this point. The cheesy and "arteest" stigma that this kinda work carries in contemporary culture is a weird paradox to how this work may be rethought. the fact that these images , oaintings, are being incorporated into an exhibition addressing current issues as referrence to not only how things once stood but of how much admiration and allure they held in the begining to start with is a weir dturn of events that I think is fascinating here. Typically I would walk past this kind of work and dissmiss it as just another image that would make a great puzzle but this is the power of words and pictures and how they corrilate in forming a complex dialougue of things that we may deem mundane or too common.

In the Art 21 video for the fourth season, Mark Dion made a remark which I think is not common in the way people perceive the condition of the enviroment and earth's future He said something arround the lines of us being in a place were we are in a game in which if we win we et to keep the earth, but how he did not think we ha d a very good chance of achieving that at the moment. Ok, this to me is insanely interesting. This comment is to me not necessarily pessimistic in nature but more so realistic and in a sense a comforting honest evaluation of the situation. It is often my belief that the voice whihc we all get our information from, wether it be the news, newspaper, professors, etc, is not the absout truth and that is very seldomly challenged. In respect to the issues that this particular exhibition wishes to address I think its important to note how in context is responsable material thought to the community. what do we deem important enough to care about? What will make the soccer mom stop driving her hummer to pick up her kids only to dorp them off to the nanny kind scenario? What will make the clerk at Ace Hardware realize why I was in such disgust and horror at the fact that after I said no bag for my purchases please, she threw the bag she was about to give me dirrectly into the garbage? Education is key and I feel it is not "manifested" correctly and appropriately too often.

While flipping through the images of Manifets Destiny Manifest repsonsability I came to mind of particular bit of a Simpsons episode. I dont recall the scenario of the episode much but basically the image is of a man kicking a machine on the floor outside of an educational building and a hologram of a tree appearing. there is a sign next to this which reads in memory of a real tree. Ok in the text we came accross references to early discussion of the enviroment and how it is not necessarily a new thing to note. the Simpsons eisode in itself is but 14 years old at most and that is still a time when the trend of Green was not such well a trend.

Monday, March 2, 2009


For the last month and a half or so I've sat across from one of Edward Bertynsky's photos in the Criteria exhibition at A + D Gallery which I work for for. The photo is of a "landscape" formed by the collection of thousands upon thousands of discarded and used car tires. The image is striking and beautiful in its formal qualities. However I find that as people progressed through the exhibition, one of the most common questions was how this photograph could function as a part of an exhibition which was assumed to be about sustainability. The truth behind the driving force on the exhibition Criteria was not sustainability but more so on how unsustainable WE truly are. A mirror effect if you will. The paradox Bertynsky's photograph presented was of how it was probably the most aesthetically pleasing image in the whole show yet it was the most blunt image on waste and an unsustainable culture.

I find it very interesting to think, regarding on this weeks readings; Creative Destruction by Rebecca Solnit, EveryCorner is Alive , and The Death of Enviromentalism by Micheal Shellinberg and Ted Nordhaus, on what an artists role could be in environmental issues and activism. Kevin Fueller ( I hope I spelled his name correctly) whom is the director for 2008-2009 , had a lot of interesting things to say regarding why he feels artist could be a better vehicle for communicating a lot of the present issues facing humans nature than scientist could ever attempt. His reason for this is that artist have a better sense of connecting to a viewer wile scientist approach a more dry and statistical dialogue to research. I keep thinking back to the Bertynsky photo and how it perplexed a lot of iewers yet it striked a strong attention and thought process. There are breaking of rules and ethics in a sense which artist have more liberty of playing with than a scientist or a politician. I can begin to understand exactly what mister Fuller means.

A lot of the discussion sorrounding Eliot Porters practice is how nature informs culture and how our sorroundings have developed into entirely synthetic enviroments. I find it interesting to reflect back to the Byophylia theory here because in a sense though our sorroundings are very heavy in synthetic material ,it is clear to point out that everything we have created comes from nature itself. Yes the tampering of material and changing of process has conscecuences, and a lot to which ar eevry clear and present threats. However I think there is much to say about were things come from and how in a sense earth remains locked within itself as both the scene of the crime and the provider of material. Im a little unclear of were im going with this statement I will admit, but I think the connection Im attempting to make is the connection between man and earth and how there is a conversation between the two taht continues even though our current synthetic world blurrs things.

Monday, February 23, 2009


So I will commence my discussion on A Bird Tapestry by David S. Rubin by sharing first that I work for a gallery which represents Hunt Slonem. I have been to the studio discussed in the article and can say its insane. I will keep my personal opinions on Mr. Slonem's work to a minimum because this is the internet, however the birds have so much to do with his everyday practices and decision making. Apart form the fact that the cage described in A Bird Tapestry does exist, it in no way limits the birds from flying around in freedom within the Houston Street loft. The birds are everywhere , on the chairs, on the floor, on the ceiling, on Mr. Slonem's shoulder. At times, Spending time with Hunt outside of his studio, it is interesting hist parent like behavior towards his birds' well being. He will constantly call his assistant to check in on the birds and its borderline OCD. I wanted to share this because there is something to say about his relationship to his birds and it being almost "natural" parent child like interaction. The birds are an extension of his life of his being. The birds act as receivers of his affection and care. It brings to mind the idea aned concept of instinc in respect to the Human Nature relationship.

In A Birds Tapestry we are given a broad look at how birds are incorporated by many, many artist in so many different ways to communicate visually. The essay dives into so many possible approaches to the use of birds, it at some points gets a little long winded. However I found it interesting that the further I read, I started to realize how much birds can be incorporated into many aspects of human communication , but how visual communication is derived from connectors within nature. Also how effective this approach to visual communication could be.

One of the universal threads which was pointed out in the usage of birds was their association with freedom and liberty. I find this affiliation to freedom and liberty to come from a supernatural admiration of birds. They do something we cannot, and that is to fly. I question how much of freedom we would see in birds if we were capable of flying. I mean our airplanes look like birds in a sense, however that hardly replicates the idea of human flight. But there was an interesting point made by Rubin were he states that birds are closer to the heavens and in a sense we envy that physical attainability of such. Well this also to me is a support for the idea that we think of freedom and liberty as a means of reaching supernatural or big conceptually driven goals. For instance for a major part of human history the idea of reaching heaven at the end of life was the ultimate satisfactory prize of a life well lived. Birds then would seem as close to heaven and thus I cant help of think about religion's role in this freedom and liberty aspect of birds.

There was a section of the essay devoted to Identity and Autobiography which sparked interest in me personally. the usage of animals has always been an interest of mine to explore cultural identity. I find it interesting how to a human eye assumingly all tigers look the same or all eagles look the same, etc. This to me is a perfect example of idiosyncrasies within uniform. the idea that thou dominating uniforms exist in nature there is still distinctive traits or qualities which create individuals within a uniform. Take for instance the discussion of Roni Horn in Rubin;s writings, there is a point were he discusses Horns process in documenting birds and attaching two photographs back to back of different birds and how initially the distinction between the two different birds is not apparent. However I am willing to be there is an almost automatic differentiation process that would happen if these images were presented to other birds of the same class. In extension I guess its almost like the idea of how to us in popular media aliens are always portrayed as multiples of one aesthetic. So therefore all aliens are little green men that look exactly the same. It begs me to question how other species see humans, and if they , they being animals etc, see the differences that we make such a big fuss about in our cultural disagreements.

The idea of freedom and indentity brings to mind Feliz Gonzalez Torres bildboard works of the flying birds in a grey sky. They to me have always expressed a very quiet yet assertive message of liberation and mass communication.

This following video I'm attaching is a video work done by a friend of mine named Jared Hatch. I think it brings to thought a lot of applying human activity to animal visuals. Like how we use animal cartoon characters to relate to more easily in children s education and entertainment. It also is an interesting exploration of overlapping and blending of species.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

beyond the Fish Bowl

Aesthetics as I previously touched on are a driving force to communicate emotionally. They formulate a visual message of health and balance. I thought the concept of using Art to teach Marine Biology by J. Malcolm Shick to be plausible. I feel I want to do so much resaerch and experimentation with the quote from Prince Albert I of Monaco whom stated that there are "two directive forces of civilization:Art and Science." As a Marketing student as well I had a time when I was very conflicted between the approache sto visual communication in contrast between the fine art world and the advertising world. However with these obstacles I learned of the power of aesthetics and its ability to reach greater audiences. Like the electric fly trap. The allure creates attention, after the you have the attention, ZAP, or you communicate your message. There is power in beauty and the explorations of such can go far and beyond.

There is a mention of aquariums and these images by Kim Keever came to mind. She creates these almost mystical and majical landscapes within the confines of a fish tank. They are a perfect example to me of playing with not only the power of natural aesthetic, and the recreation of nature, but also of economical strenght in such image work as I touched on before with Bob Ross. Since I was looking at images in the carrie Secrist Gallery catalogue I stumbled upon these other works by David Lefkowitz. He has a show up at Carrie Secrist right now and I think his work is quite interesting on an approach of combining nature and architecture and man made objects.

Kim Keever

David Lefkowitz

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Getting Away from it All Never Seemed So "Natural"

After reading The Biophilia Hypothesis by Edward O. Wilson and Stephen R. Keller I began to form many questions and visualizations about natures' role in the idea of absence in human life. Biophilia is explained as the "innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms" and "...the existence of a biologically based, inherent human need to affiliate with life and lifelike processses." In both these decriptions by Keller and Wilson I read "the necessity to belong." I wanted to commence my dissection of this material with the idea of distance because I feel it is crucial to the understanding of Biophillia. I often question how intune we are with what is natural to us as human beings in the terms of rituals ( mundane everyday activity), yet according to Biophillia the knowledge is within, we've simply lost touch with it. In particular to contemporary generations, a cellphone in every pocket (Communication) , a restaraunt in every corner ( to feed), what to wear ( aesthetics), all at the end point toward basic natural needs of not only humans but of living things. It began to make much sense to me how culture mimicks or attempts to fill the void nature has left in human needs as human history and life have progressed so rapidly away from a more shall we say earthly experience.

I watch a lot of HGTV (Home and Garden Television) and it always mermerizes me how simple it is to please people when it comes to home decisions wether it be purchaisng, redecorating or selling. The title itself, of the network, references a balacne in attention to home and garden, for one can say they live in parallels. "The views are amazing from here" seems to be a common selling line. The realtors, stagers, designers, always make reference to the natural components of the space. It's as if the ultimate sense of comfort and tranquility in one's personal spaces must incorporate nature in a sense to be functional, balance. This brought me to thinking about vacations. We refer to a vacation as "getting away from it all." If there exist at present an inbalance in natural influence in our sorroundings, there i smuch to say about the kind of destinations vacations are made up of. We escape the city by going to the beach, the far and distant island, the exotic corner of the world, or the unfamiliar territory were not even our most state of the art and trcik filled PDA's and cell phones get signal. There is a trend in catching up with nature and reintroducing it back into our technology, culturally complex and synthetic lives. It can go as simple as a walk to the park or "getting some fresh air." Im going to add a painting by Bob Ross here because it to me is a perfect example of the power of the landscape aesthetics applied to simple pleassures and also it takes on a commentary on meditation and reflecting on emotion. Plus also the popularity of this kind of work and this persona is fascinating. To think that mountain scapes are the ultimate in imagery in art to so many people says a lot about our relationship to the aesthetics of nature.

Bob Ross
Within the talk of Humanistic and the idea of domestication of nature in human life in order to attain a greater or get a betetr understanding of nature by having pets or caring for house plants I thought of jeff Koon's "Puppy." the work is to me an iconic representation of the relationship between dogs as mans best friend and the nature induced relationship whcih occurs there. Also the use of the plants and it being showcased as a public destination of Aesthetical pleassure. "the Humanistic Experience of nature reflects feelings of deep emotional attachment to individual elements of the natural enviroment." Also it is interesting to me teh idea of how synthetic and "produced" Koon's work is in relation to this concept of Biophillia. When I think of Koons I dont automatically think of nature however without nature his work would have very little force. Case and point his constant use of animals as imagery. There is mention in the article a conversation on the mass production of stuffed animals and toys for that matter. The fact taht understanding and education of life to children is presented with alot of animal imagery. This being because of teh symbolic power of animals to nature. Jeff Koons therefore is referencing on these same lines. Wether it be consciously or not by the artist, in the spirit of Biophillia, this kind of natural influecne can be said to have happened intuitively.

.."the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery and more we seek knowledge to create new mystery....our intrinsic emotions drive us search for new habitats, to cross unexplored terrain, but we still crave this sense of a mysterious world stretching infinitely beyond." This quote from Kellert's essay the Biological Basis for Human Values of Nature made me think about the educational component of culture. To educate oneself is something that is praised and valued by most, however the thirst for knowledge is what I find fascinating. We strive so hard to know it all see the world learn everything we can yet we are still driven to excitement by surprises and adventures. I come to think of psychics and how they provide a sense of curiosity yet fear at the same time. Its as if we whant to know all that would in a sense benifit us and yet fear that the news will be simply put about death. the conclusion im driving to hear is that at the end everything is about basic living needs. The need to feed, to reproduce,to be sheltered, basically the desire and need to survive.

Monday, February 9, 2009

      Olaf Breuning , Collage Family

                                                    Olaf Breuning , Primitives

                                   Olaf Breuning, Easter Bunnies

While reading Art is Nature by George Gessert one of the first things that came to my head was a quote I had recently read by artist Olaf Breuning. It said , "..I was never someone who believed that culture and art could save human beings. The only thing I think it can do is make human beings sharper in seeing things in a different approach. Thats the beauty of art for me." It's a quote from a recent issue of Tokion Magazine. This issue, of art serving as an activist is something that has been circuling my mind recently. I have a class called art and activism which is dealing with the same issues as in Human Nature Image, however there is a studio discussion in the activism course in which the idea of art as a medium to create change is being questioned. Can art really present itself as a strong enough assertion to promote action?

Wether art can make a definite change in any one issue I think is questionable, however it is a participation in the dialogue that visual communication supplies which I think is crucial to approaching certain issues in society. Perhaps it's because I'm in the arts, but I believe in a sense with seeing is believeing.


Forbidden Fruit.

One of the things I have always struggled with is how to work a microscope appropriately. I was fascinated with microscopes when I was younger because to me they seemed like the ultimate tool of power at Toys R' Us. However no matter how hard I tried I usually ended up looking at splattered messes on my slides. I would have to satisfy my desire to explore the wilderness ( my backyard) via picking up things and making them into little bits of art.

Reading about the biological gaze in Evelyn Fox Keller's The Biological Gaze made me think about how much intrusion my attempts to use a microscope were applying to my experience of grass, flowers, trees and ants. In a sense the article itself presented an obstacle in giving me a good balance of scientific terminology I was unfamiliar with. I was reading the text but at times had to continue to read over it because I wasnt sure what I had just read. This to me was a good personal bridge to understanding what is meant by Keller in reference to the eye being an extension of the body and therefore a "touch" to what is being ovserved. It seems to me that technology at many points of life gets in the way to the actual experience of nature. Roads trips are scenic but the "nature" observed in road trips is hindered by the windows of the automobile one is in. The nature channel is called the nature channel, however its all recreations of nature and none of it is truly experienced in its full wonder by the viewer.

The conversation going on about the development about microscopes to me is the crucial point of Keller's point. It is an object made by man which stands in between man and nature. Yes it aids in viewing what the naked eye can not but it still is not a totally realistic experience. That kept reminding me of my lack of ability to use a microscope in the first place. As easy as it is suppose to make the experience of understanding biology or nature, it is an obstacle none the less. My satisfaction came from a more hands on interaction with nature itself. This is in my understanding due to it being more authentic without me disturbing nature, I was actually experiencing it.

Above I added A sketch I made in relationship to what I sense the article was stating regarding the interference of technology upon man's experience of nature. The microscope becomes an extension of the body therefore it in aiding sight also creates touch. The experience is not authentic but in regards to the gaze , it is constructed and or altered.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"We Can Give Up Hoping To Be Eternal and Quit Fighting Dirt"

Recently I was at Borders and I stumbled upon the discounted section of random books. They ranged from books on cooking to the ever abundant romantic novels, however it was a book entitled Your Cat Interpreter:What Your Cat Is Saying To You, which I picked up and decided to browse on this day. The book explained the different ways cats communicate to their owners what they want, need, hate, etc. I remember thinking , how does anyone know that these cat's actions are language that they are communicating in any form to humans. I was making the assumption that communication should be a lot more complex to understand than my cat hates being stared at so therefore will never make eye contact. I kept thinking about this as I read Snyder's The Etiquette of Freedom, and how much Humans , me in this example, think they are so much different than other creatures. The point in the essay were Snyder says , "Language is a mind-body system that coevolved with our needs and nerves", really made me come to a connection between what this book was explaining and how communication within creatures occurs.

I find it interesting reading on how many possibilities there can be to approaching nature and wilderness. I find it even more fascinating the point in which Snyder list the Oxford Dictionary's entries for Wild simply because its all in a sense "negative" listings. It seems to me that man has tried so hard to seperate himself from "nature" with his concrete streets and his steel buildings over history that today man finds himself in a strange and unexpected position were his relationship to nature and the wild is so important both for nature and his survival. In a way the negative Oxford approaches to the word Wild are evidence of this self proclaimed human distance from "Wild", however in a time when there are issues concerning the survival of the earth and humans, man must come to terms with his inclusion in the book of nature. The mortality of man is forever not only his uncontrollable destiny but his biggest tie to nature. It is this I find fascinating with the observation of man and his game sat building eternal cities. But if life isn't forever than we can assume that nothing within is either. Man creates "eternal" cities however everything eventually becomes one with dirt.

Even TV shows such as Man Vs. Wild surround the whole concept of man attempting to out do nature. To live despite the wild's greatest attempts to put man in his place. It is not only a challenge to go out into "nature" in this show but to survive it for that requires a sense of almost supernatural technique and knowledge. (Which I will discuss further in my next post: Jesus Was A Tree Huger?)

I tried some of the things the book suggested with my own cat. He does hate getting his belly rubbed and therefore now I understand why he bites me when I do this. He also does not like being stared at so in observation I realized he does turn away from eye contact and follows those who don't look at him more ( Nobody likes being stared at). In all the cat and I have a more productive communication relationship these days. I simply began to think of it as not only do I talk to the cat, he talks to me as well.