Friday, June 3, 2016

Event Blog #3: Staring in the Age of Distraction (SAD)

Staring in the Age of Distraction (SAD), a poignant acronym for the exhibition given the tragic events that unfolded this past Wednesday
On Thursday, June 2nd, I attended the Design | Media Arts Senior Exhibition, Staring in the Age of Distraction. The exhibition focused on the works of 49 graduating undergraduates in the Design | Media Arts department, and the theme revolved around the idea of creating and viewing art in an age where we are often over-stimulated with constant images, noises, and events happening around us. Given the tragic homicide-suicide that happened on our campus the day before, the theme of the senior exhibition hit close to home. How do we find time to process our emotions, much less view art, when external forces (e.g., clubs, professors, supervisors, friends, etc.) expect so much from us all the time?

When you find out your friend Louis is a Design | Media Arts major one week before we graduate #oops
At the exhibition, I saw my friend, Louis. Thinking he was only there as an attendee, I was surprised to find out that he was there because he was featured as one of the artists. Turns out Louis is not only a Biology major, but also a Design | Media Arts major as well! Louis then directed me to his project, titled Pain and Pleasure. 

Pain and Pleasure + Me being very excited
Louis showed me his two-seat bench with cacti surrounding it and speakers attached to the bottom. He explained to me that touching the cacti through the heat emitted from your hand will cause them to elicit a noise. After asking him why he chose to create this piece, Louis described how he wanted to explore the concept of pain and pleasure--comfort and discomfort. Are you willing to risk getting pricked by a cactus's needles if it means being able to hear a pleasant noise? What are the costs you are willing to take if it means being able to fully enjoy the piece?  Although he was worried about audiences being unable to hear the noise being emitted once they touched the cacti, I found it very fitting for his piece to be hard to hear given the theme of the exhibition. 

The proud artist with his work!
Louis and I also discussed the intersections between art and science--something he is at the center of given his double major in the arts and life sciences. Through his work, Louis wants to accelerate our society's entry into the third culture, where we use science to create art. Art, then, would be the medium to inspire new ideas in the sciences as well as have broader society fall in love with science (or at least get excited about it). Our discussion brought me back to the entire purpose of this course, and I am very happy to see how one of my friends is directly involved with creating meaningful work that bridges the gap between art and science. 

Pham, Louis. Web. Snow, C. P. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. London: Cambridge UP, 1993. Print.
"☹Staring in the Age of Distraction☹." Facebook. 

Snow, C. P. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. London: Cambridge UP, 1993. Print.
Vesna, Victoria. "Toward a Third Culture: Being In Between." Leonardo 34.2 (2001): 121-25.
Zakaria, Fareed. "Why America's Obsession with STEM Education Is Dangerous."Washington Post. The Washington Post. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.

Event Blog #2: Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio

Professor Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio + Me in the audience
On Thursday, May 26th, I attended Professor Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio's lecture on Philosophy + Art + Science. Valerio currently teaches at the National Autonomous University in Mexico, where she leads the interdisciplinary collective that bridges the gaps between the humanities, arts, and sciences. 

Professor Valerio as she lectures on the philosophical approach of art and science
Given Valerio's background in philosophy, the main focus of her lecture was on the philosophical aspect of the intersections between art and science. She noted the increased prevalence of art and science in society, which can be seen in festivals, galleries, and machines. This increase in prevalence, then, leads to more hype, allowing others to be more critical about what is being done. 

Valerio continues her philosophical approach to raise a variety of questions. Why include art when it does not generate new knowledge in science? How is the field of art and science moving forward to create definitions of meaning as opposed to furthering understanding of the field? What does "art and science" even mean? Although Valerio did not have the answers to all these questions, I really enjoyed hearing her speak about how it was necessary for artists, scientists, and philosophers to with more specific, hands-on projects in collectives to produce more meaningful work. 

Should there be limits to bioart?
One portion of Valerio's lecture that stood out to me was when she began to discuss biotechnology and art. She discussed creating a distinction between art + science and art + nature/living. In this distinction, art + science is about producing work that comprehends reality--a model for what currently exists. Art + nature/living, on the other hand, produces work that is related to nature--a reflection on how humanity has manipulated nature throughout history through industrial and biotechnological means. 

With the discussion of biotechnology comes the discussion on bioethics. Should artists understand the biopolitics of being in a biology lab, or should they simply outsource their work to scientists? Is it necessary for bioartists to understand science and its protocols? Should bioethics be applied to bioart? Whether or not people believe bioart is a valid art form, Professor Valerio's lecture highlights how it is still an emerging field that deserves attention. 

Anker, Suzanne. "The beginnings and ends of bioart." Web. 
Kelty, Chris. “Meanings of Participation: Outlaw Biology?”. Web.
Levy, Ellen. “Defining Life: Artists Challenge Conventional Classifications.” Web.

Vesna, Victoria. “BioArt pt. 1-5.” Lecture. Web.
Zylinska, Joanne. "Taking Responsibility for Life: Bioethnics and Bioart." Ethics and the Arts. Web. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Week 9: Space + Art

Space: The Final Frontier for Mankind and Art?
Once humanity realized we are not the center of the universe, we began our journey into understanding space. We are curious--and perhaps fearful--about the unknown and wonder what it can offer to us. Space's influence in our society is prominent, explaining why quotes such as "shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" and "the sky's the limit" are always said as words of encouragement to motivate people to dream big and aim high. But does space truly represent the final frontier for art and humanity?

Us vs. Them: Who will prevail?
Aside from Antarctica, we claim and inhabit all of Earth's continents. The Cold War marked the beginning of the space race between the United States and the now-defunct USSR, sparking and increase in STEM-related courses in school as well as increased funding for scientific and technological pursuits. Art during this time, as it relates to space, was all propaganda-related. There is no doubt art was strongly politicized during this time to instill fear that the enemy could prevail, which then sparked nationalistic sentiment the nation could use to its advantage. Regardless of whether this was a good use of art, it is clear art--in conjunction with scientific and technological advances made during this time--had a powerful influence in swaying public opinion. 

Digital art created by Tobais, who uses lots of his own photography when making his digital pieces
As our technology continues to improve, so does art. Now that we are able to create works of art using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, etc., art is becoming digitized. What has not changed, however, is using space as a subject for this art. I would argue that portraying space has improved due to the advent of digital art, for artists can now create the ethereal effects and vibrant colors they otherwise would not have been able to do in the past. Perhaps, then, space is not the final frontier for art. Rather, it is only the beginning of "some cosmic purpose," as Carl Sagan would say, that will "let us find ourselves a worthy goal" to pursue. 

"Carl Sagan - A Universe Not Made for Us." Web.
Casoli, Paula. "Space Race Propaganda: US v. USSR. A Matter of Posters." Web.
Grey, C.G.P. "Who Owns Antarctica? (Bizarre Borders Part 3)." YouTube. Web.
Holmes, Brian. "Makrolab, or the art of transition." Web.
Vesna, Victoria. "Space pt. 1-6." Lecture. Web.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Week 8: Nanotech + Art

Nanobama: The world's smallest presidential portrait
When a president is quite literally under a microscope
Nanotechnology involves manipulating matter on a molecular scale. With nanotechnology came nanoart, which is an art discipline that features structures on a nanometer scale. Thus, is it still art even though you cannot see it with your own eyes? When nanotechnology and nanoart are involved, however, the phrase "seeing is believing" is not quite applicable because the scale is too abstract for our common understanding of vision and size. Nonetheless, through the use of already-existing devices, nanotechnology marks a new frontier for science and, consequently, art. 

U C Lots of Atoms
Although the products of nanotechnology cannot be seen with the naked eye, they have they potential to change our world. Researchers believe nanoparticles can be used to replace potentially carcinogenic ingredients currently used in the making of various cosmetic products, rendering makeup safer for public use. There has also been discussions about using these particles to make tennis balls last longer and to better understand the structure/development of human cancer cells. In artistic pursuits, scientists and artists can manipulate microscale particles to create works of art, such as spelling out words or create animated short films like A Boy and his Atom

MORPHONANO, an exhibition created by Professor Vesna and nanoscientist Jim Gimzewski
When preparing to blog about this week's topic, I decided to research more on Professor Vesna's art projects, and what I found was extremely interesting. In collaboration with our guest lecturer and nanoscientist Jim Gimzewski, Professor Vesna currently has an exhibition at the Beall Center for Art + Technology at UC Irvine that brings nanotechnology to a scale where humans can interact and better understand it. With the help of existing science and technology, nanoart, then, marks the transition of art from being a purely visual, passive experience to a more connected, active experience. 

"A Boy and his Atom." Wikipedia. Web. 
Gimzewski, Jim and Vesna, Victoria. "The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of fact & fiction in the construction of a new science." Web. 
Gimzewski, Jim. "Nanotech for Artists pt. 1-6." Lecture. Web. 
"MORPHONANO." Beall Center for Art + Technology. Web. 
Producer. "Scientists are becoming artists, thanks to 'Nanoart.'" Arts, Culture, and Media. Web. 
Vesna, Victoria. "Nanotech Intro." Lecture. Web. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Week 7: Neuroscience + Art

Are the mind and the body two sides of the same coin?
This week's topic reminded me of the mind-body problem, which debated the relationship between mental experiences (e.g., thoughts, feelings, beliefs, consciousness, self-awareness) and the body, raising questions about whether or not the mind and the body are the same. The fundamental issue behind this problem is that mental experiences are unobservable, while everyone's physical selves are observable. For example, you may be able to see other people's wounds, but you would be unable to see their pain. 

"...the inner man wants something which the visible man does not want, and we are at war with ourselves."
Thinking about the mind-body problem ultimately relates back to consciousness, a subjective quality of experience. Although (cognitive) neuroscience allows us to determine what brain activity underlies different forms of experience, we are still unable to explain the fact that we had a subjective experience--a limitation of neuroscience. That being said, however, it is important we explore and understand what happens in our mind--our internal state. Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, discusses the importance of exploring our unconsciousness, which he argues modern people no longer do because we are only interested in instant gratification in the physical world. As a result, we fail to gain an understanding or awareness of our unconscious, which will always want to control and guide our emotions, behaviors, and ultimately our lives. From a philosophical approach, perhaps this is why we see issues in addressing mental health concerns because we have severed so much of our conscious selves from our unconscious counterpart(s).  

Art created by a patient with Schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, abnormal behavior, etc. Schizophrenia currently has no known cure, but through the help of neuroscience and other related fields, perhaps we will see a cure in the near-future. 
As discussed in previous lectures, art and science do not seem to be interconnected. Art is characterized by creativity, imagination, and subjectivity, while science is defined by objectivity, structure, and logic. Throughout these past seven weeks, however, we already know how art and science can be related fields; thus, it is no surprise that we see a connection between neuroscience and art. Neuroscience is interesting, but I have noticed that people often stop critically thinking about science once they start seeing pictures of brains--demonstrating the seductive allure of neuroscience explanations that are enhanced by neuroscience-related art. Nonetheless, brains make art, and art can inspire brains, so it is not surprising we are slowing moving towards a an interdisciplinary neuroculture that includes artistic approaches.

Frazetto, Giovanni and Anker, Suzanne. "Neuroculture." Perspectives. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience. Web. 
Huang, Mengfei. "The Neuroscience of Art." Reviews & Features. Stanford. Web. 
Jung, Carl. "The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man." Web. 
Oppenheimer, Daniel. "Neuroscience Methods and Controversies." Lecture. PowerPoint. 
Vesna, Victoria. “Neuroscience pt. 1-3.” Lecture. Web.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Week 6: BioTech + Art

Art x Biology and Biotechnology: Should BioArt even exist as a field?
Science does not care about what people believe nor what is considered popular belief, but what happens when art--a human discipline that wants to expand or challenge popular belief--and biology/biotechnology intersect? The outcome of this convergence is BioArt, an emerging discipline that is important for both the artistic and scientific community. BioArt not only pushes the boundary of what is considered art, but also initiates conversation on ethical, aesthetic, and social consequences that occur as humans "play God" by manipulating lifeforms. 

Your Life in Lines: DNA Art
BioArt remains controversial from a practical, moral, and ethical standpoint. Some argue BioArt, a form of outlaw biology, is bordering on criminal biology because of its lack of ethics by putting animals under an unnecessary amount of pain and suffering. Those against BioArt can claim that the field has no purpose and is simply wasting valuable scientific resources that can be used to find cures and answers about our genetic makeup. On the other hand, one can also argue that life creates art, which includes the fields associated with biology and biotechnology, making BioArt a valid form of artistic expression and a necessary component in our society as biotechnology continues to improve. 

Designer Babies: The Ultimate Way to "Play God"
This week's topic immediately reminded me of the debate on "designer babies," children whose parents have intentionally selected their genetic makeup before the child's conception. We already know the benefits of this type of genetic modification, as it can prevent children from being born with genetic defects and save their lives as well as a lifetime of hardships. The controversy lies, however, in the idea that parents can alter their children's genome to achieve certain physical traits. If we can customize our Nike Free Runs, then why should we be prevented from customizing our children before they were born? If our goal is to be perfect, is this not the way to achieve perfection? If we are so concerned about our viability as a species, wouldn't genetic modification and manipulation be the solution to our concerns? That being said, however, designer babies likely garner controversy because their conception is clearly tied to the idea of eugenics, a movement whose practices have been historically unethnical. 

Regardless of the controversy surrounding BioArt, I believe it is here to stay. BioArt fills an important gap between science and art, raising questions about purpose, ethics, morality, and control over art/science and the results of the convergence of the two fields. BioArt may lead to subjectively repulsive results, but it is important that we question why we react the way we do to it in order to reflect on the direction of science and how art plays a pivotal role in its future trajectories. 

Bach, Becky. "Book Tackles the Bioethics of 'Designer' Babies." Scope. Stanford. Web. 
Dvorsky, George. "Here's Why We'll Eventually Have to Accept Designer Babies." Gizmodo. Web.
"Eugenics." Wikipedia. Web. 
Kelty, Chris. “Meanings of Participation: Outlaw Biology?”. Web.
Levy, Ellen. “Defining Life: Artists Challenge Conventional Classifications.” Web.
Maldarelli, Claire. "Are We Ready for Designer Babies? The Debate on how to Regulate CRISPR Heats Up." Popular Science. Web.  
Vesna, Victoria. “BioArt pt. 1-5.” Lecture. Web.

Event Blog #1: Anne Niemetz

Anne Niemetz + Me in the audience
On Thursday, May 5th, I attended Anne Niemetz's talk at the Broad Art Center. Niemetz was one of Professor Vesna's first graduate students at UCLA and is now based in New Zealand. Her projects focus on wearable technology, audio-visual designs, and interactive installations.

Emma Watson wearing a Calvin Klein and Eco Age collaboration at this year's Met Gala, where the theme was Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Watson's gown was created using three different fabrics, all woven from recycled plastic. 
One portion of Niemetz's lecture that stood out to me was her discussion about the convergence between fashion and science. I found this portion of her talk particularly interesting because it directly connected to current events, as the Met Gala theme this year was Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Her talk about fashion and wearable technology continues to reinforce the face that we are slowly moving towards a third culture where the arts and sciences are becoming more interconnected.

Niemetz dedicated a good portion of her talk to discuss her students' submissions to the World of Wearable Art show
I really enjoyed Niemetz showcasing her students' work that was submitted to the World of Wearable Art show. I love how students can design wearable technology that honors their culture, such as the submission pictured on the top right that was influenced by Niemetz's student's Cook Island roots. This particular piece demonstrates the potential technology and art can have on honoring one's heritage through art. 

Claire Danes at this year's Met Gala wearing Zac Posen. Her dress was lit up via LEDs, with 30 battery packs being sewn into the dress.

One of the most stunning works Niemetz presented to the audience was a dress designed by one of her students that lights up. It reminded me of something Lady Gaga would wear during her early days of stardom. Niemetz also said this wearable technology piece garnered significant media attention, and we perhaps see this influence in this year's Met Gala, where actress Claire Danes wore Zac Posen's "Galactic Cinderella" gown.

I highly recommend students exploring more of Anne Niemetz's projects. I believe her work is the future of art and science, and Niemetz does a wonderful job demonstrating how technology can enhance art, taking art to the next level. We already see this in the fashion industry through laser-cut designs and even 3D printing. As reflected in this year's Met Gala theme, technology and art do have a place in society together as opposed to being two polar opposites. Perhaps, then, mechanically-produced fashion does not necessarily lead to a loss of originality. Creativity can flourish when art and science work together, and it is my hope that more collaborations between the two disciplines will happen in the future. 

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Marxists. Web. 
Chi, Paul. "Met Gala 2016: Claire Danes's Glow-in-the-Dark Gown Upstaged a Red-Carpet Robot Army." Vanity Fair.
Fullerton, Anne. "Claire Danes' Zac Posen Met Gala gown ruined the furniture." Honey.ninemsn. Ninemsn.
Garcia, Patricia. "The 2016 Met Gala Theme Is Announced! Fashion in an Age of Technology." Vogue. Vogue.
Vesna, Victoria. "Toward a Third Culture: Being In Between." Leonardo 34.2 (2001): 121-25.