Science Friction Series: #1: The Hottest Scientists in the Art World
with Doug Fitch, W. Bradford Paley, Michael Rees, Adam Zaretsky; moderated by Kóan Jeff Baysa
If indeed the naysayers can have their day and say that there are no new ideas in art, then perhaps we can look to mediums as a source of innovation. These four individuals were selected on the basis of their working with unusual mediums in their artistic practice: hi tech materials - Michael Rees, living tissue - Adam Zaretsky, food - Doug Fitch, and data visualisation - W. Bradford Paley. Each of them will give a ~15-20 minute presentation with visuals and a roundtable discussion will follow. Intrinsic to these topics are issues of thinking-outside-the-box, health and safety, legal and ethical dilemmas, marketability, materiality, ephemerality and the “nature” [sic] of art.
The Penthouse at the Roger Smith Hotel. Admission is $5 with reservations, $10 at the the door. Refreshment will be served. RSVP to (212) 339-2092
Sunday, February 4, 2007; 4:00pm
I have found the realm of the edible to be fertile ground for making
work. For the last ten or so years, I have been working with Mimi Oka
on a series of feasts that explore the nature of food as an art medium
where feasting works as a kind of performance which can draw attention
to how art is a kind of food, and digestion becomes a useful metaphor
for how we process all that we bring into our beings. This work is
about taking food and shifting the context in which it is normally
experiencedthe process of cooking, the act of dining, the
experience of tastingso that the food that we think of as food is
not the only thing that we think of as food. By seeing all things as
food and food as all things, it is easier to see how we are the
product of all that we experience.
My inedible work has taken many other directions which always seem to
have a lot to do with the materials that choose me. Every material
has its first language and has a lot to say about the world simply by
its nature. New materials offer the challenge of learning new
languages where new forms are spokenforms which inherently bring a
contemporary meaning to the work as it emerges from the process of
collaboration with an artist or designer. I have designed homes and
constructed furniture out of resins and foamed metals and fibers and
light, I have designed and directed operas where many things pretend
to be what they are not and I once had a company that produced
handmade objects with new materials in the Philippines. I find that
the choice of material and the way a material’s properties are brought
to light, contains and imparts one of the primary messages of the art
of our times.
Often, when people ask about your materials they want the short hand about what artists are working with. Acrylic or Oil. Wood or Steel and so on. Those are materials that say “art” and not too complicated either. To answer any differently is to suggest that materials are a complex ingredient in the meaning of the work.
The primary materials of my sculpture are systems. The pieces move From inception through drawing into 3 space and virtual machine space, into reified machine space, and then out into the hand manipulated environment. There, they are worked inside and out with hands and synthetic chemical systems, and structural systems, and engineering. They are conditioned and trained and exploded and manipulated in many subtle mediated ways. Often many people work on the pieces and they too are the material of the sculpture.
Ok, maybe too much is made of this material quality... Maybe material has no meaning or context; it is the idea of the work that is the import of a piece. The rest of it a kind of trained monkey or bear performing the will of the magician. Material in some sense is denied or overlooked in favor of the artist maestro. I think this is wrong, material is a seemless contributor to the way we experience the work. It works on our nerves in subtle ways and gives clues that we know and feel without conceptualizing. We experience the work through material and we can do so in great detail or in a quick short hand kind of look.
To consider material and the artist’s intent is like the relationship of mind and brain. Its a sticky mess of assumptions, presumptions, free will and conditioned response. To leave it out of the conversation about art is to side step and important set of issues. For the moment, it is a material question in art.
A brief analysis of the attractions and repulsions,
responsibilities and sociopathologies which are coincident
with the flesh hacker’s arena of sculpting inheritance.
Is our ecosphere being altered by Genetically Modified Organisms built for
profit margins without authentic oversight or risk assessment? If the
technology for genome sculpting of new style humans is a possibility, what,
if any, effect will imagination play in our future kindred? What can we know
about animal sentience and non-human awareness? How are artists taking these
factors into account as they try to express themselves through living
collage? As new biological comprehension sprouts new technological
processes, what are the overt and covert roles of creativity on the
decisions of which traits get embedded into whose new bodies? These are
today’s major issues emanating from the intersection of Art and Biology.
W. Bradford Paley
Artists have striven to render the invisible visible for as long as man has made motions, sounds, or marks. W. Bradford Paley’s subject is the overwhelmingly influentialyet still invisiblenew substance of our time: the data in our databases. That data, if it was carefully sampled from the world, has the structure of the world. It is not the undifferentiated morass of numbers many people imagine. For some databases this is obvious: the beautiful fluid dynamic vortices that stream away from a simulated jet have the variability and grace of reality because that data comes from a physical simulation. And we have evolved to delight in identifying physics-driven forms.
But non-spatial data also reflects the real world: the thousands of spiky lines Wall Street produces each day aren’t just numbers: they’re the trace of aggregate psychological behavior. The social networks we weave as we meet & bond, the relationships between words in a book, between different areas of science: these, too have the clumpy structure of realitybut they might need vastly more dimensions to capture. While we live comfortably in our three-dimensional space, information scientists think nothing of invoking a 1.3-million-dimensional space to describe such phenomena. Mr. Paley addresses this challenging problem: how do we cast this incredible complexity into forms that are suited to human perception? How do we make the important parts of the data stand out, tell a meaningful story about the subject? Might we even try to make them interesting to view?
There’s a simple solution: he takes direction from the experts. Whether or not people familiar with a data set have ever seen what they study, they mentally resolve it into figure and ground, subject and object, story and setting. Mr. Paley tries to render what they know is there, creating paint-by-numbers rules that let a computer show us some of the true structure in these realmsnot inventing forms but revealing them. And because we delight in finding forms with the rhythms of life, we sometimes see beauty even though the forms are only transcriptionsperhaps a deeper beauty because they’re transcriptions, because we know they come from a process not limited by one person’s mind: directly from the invisible world itself.