• “SCI-ART: Extensions of Being (Part II)”[i] – M-1000

    Date posted: June 19, 2006 Author: jolanta

    “SCI-ART: Extensions of Being (Part II)”[i]

    M-1000

     
     
     
     
    Adam Bradley, Carrier, sculpture, 90�x144�x108�, 1998
    Adam Bradley, Carrier, sculpture, 90�x144�x108�, 1998
     
     
     
    In Sandy
    Stone’s book, Split Subjects, Not Atoms; or How I Fell in Love with My
    Prosthesis, she
    wrote about her experience of seeing Stephen Hawking give a speech. She was bewildered
    by how much of him was the prosthetic machine that allowed him to articulate
    his thoughts and how much of the machine was an extension of his body and of
    his existence. She wrote, “Exactly where, I say, is
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’> Hawking? Am I any closer to him
    now than I was outside? Who is it doing the talking up there on stage?… …
    Hawking extends into the box in his lap… …No box, no discourse; in the absence
    of prosthetics, Hawking’s intellect becomes a tree falling in the forest with
    nobody around to hear it… …Where does he stop? Where are his edges?
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’>” The works of artists at the
    SCI-ART 2000 exhibition (held at the Maryland Art Place in Baltimore, Maryland)
    recently allowed one to contemplate where a body existed in relation to its
    dependent technological extensions.

     

    Alex
    Landing’s Vitruvian Cyborg CD-ROM title went as far as to represent a future cyborg
    that was half “Vitruvian” (because of its perfect human proportion) and
    half-mutated robot. Other SCI-ARTists who worked with ideas of extending the
    body-exterior did so with a more conceptual notion of prosthetics, such as the
    expansion of being with the technology and capability of flight, warped time,
    and imagined journeys to outer space. In other words, the world of technology
    allowed the human mind to travel the cosmos.

     

    Adam
    Bradley’s desire to extend the body was satisfied by sculptural wings. Once
    again, references to Leonardo’s illustrations of mechanical wings comes to
    mind. Here, however, Bradley played with the absurdity of the human desire to
    fly and the realism of weight and gravity. He used heavy metal parts to make
    the wings for Carrier and sagging drape cloth, rubber and latex for his other wing
    sculpture, Pursuit.
    Obviously, neither one of these pieces showed any evidence of the mechanics of
    defying gravity: they were too heavy and too grounded, but their form and shape
    gave the viewers the illusion of flight.

     

    David
    Page’s sculpture, Time Machine, made of steel, aluminum, brass, and leather strapping had a chair in
    the center of the piece for the person who would dare to sit and travel through
    time. Once a person is strapped inside the sculpture, an electric motor runs so
    slowly that the wire gage only loosens up after many hours. This immortal coil
    could warp anyone’s concept of time – for a minute would be more tortuous than
    an hour. Moreover, our perception of time would collapse and the pressure of
    warped and extended time travel would persist.

     

    Bradley
    and Page represented the body as being entangled in conflict between extension
    and entrapment concepts,
    name="_ednref2" title="">
    style=’mso-special-character:footnote’>[ii]
    but Jonathan Schipper took it a step further. He played with the idea that
    man-made machines would one day take over and control the bodies that made
    them. In his Swing
    piece, a large
    mechanical structure is built to latch onto human bodies and shake them as if
    they were bags of meat. Here, the mechanical system takes over and acts as the
    conscious and destructive extension of the body.

     

    Timothy
    Nohe accesses NASA photographs taken by the Apollo 12 mission to the moon in
    1969. For his installation piece, he placed the picture of the Surveyor
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’>
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’>on the moon next to a TV monitor
    that showed photo-clips of the moon. The photographs which were taken by the
    surveyor were superimposed by a live video recording of the viewer’s face
    looking into the monitor. This piece plays on the idea of cyclical
    surveillance. Here, Nohe comments on the irony of new technologies that are
    made for scientific research and then used for government surveillance. In a
    sense, technologies that were made to give people “spatial freedom” are used as
    what the writer Stone would call “location technologies,”
    style="mso-spacerun: yes">  which censor “the freedom of the
    individual body.”

     

    The
    development of research done on outer space travels has extended the
    possibilities of human exploration. Although we may not get as easily to the
    moon as we would like to, the media has made it accessible enough for virtual
    trips. We have so much information about most of the moon and the stars that
    surround our planet; we have a different understanding of the world than just a
    century ago. Using this information, the non-profit performance arts group “Little
    Big Bang (LBB)” held a press conference at the Visionary Museum to inform the
    public about their journey to the moon and back. They even printed their own
    newspapers to cover the story. The humor of their work was highlighted in the
    SCI-ART installation where they showed documentaries of their supposed 40
    Years of Exploration on the Moon. Media hype about modern scientific discoveries often
    seems just as feeble as this story about the LBB on the Moon. Certainly, these
    artists were spoofing their audience.

     

    Interestingly,
    Bradley, Page, and Schipper used clunky metal materials to portray the tension
    in human prosthetics and the clashing of metal and flesh, while Nohe and the Little
    Big Bang group dealt more with how technology has extended the idea of human
    capabilities of surveillance and research. The sculptural elements of Bradley,
    Page, and Schipper make cyborgian extensions in a physical and visceral way,
    whereas Nohe’s and LBB’s artwork deal more with the conceptual extension
    offered by technological advancement and scientific discoveries.

     

    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black’>The text above is an
    edited excerpt from a paper by the SCI-ART writer M-1000, presented at an
    International Symposium in Taiwan: “From My Fingers: Living in the
    Technological Age,” at the First International Women’s Art Festival in Taiwan,
    July 2003. M-1000 is
    the pen name of artist MINALIZA1000 (minaliza1000@aol.com).
    The SCI-ART article series is made possible with assistance from Art &
    Science Collaborations, Inc (ASCI). (www.asci.org)

    style=’mso-endnote-id:edn1′ xhref="http://www.nyartsmagazine.com/new/#_ednref1" name="_edn1" title="">
    class=MsoEndnoteReference>
    style=’mso-special-character:footnote’>[i]
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’> In reference to the concept of Extensions
    of Being,
    questions about existence cannot be situated in a single belief system or a
    lack of it. Similar to the way Marshall McLuhan’s saw clothing as an extension
    of skin, car as an extension of legs, and the computer as an extension of human
    central nervous system, SCI-ARTist’s artworks extended our perspectives on the
    body with all its complexity of interior / exterior connections to the world.
    SCI-ARTists, who researched information on quantum physics and genetic
    engineering, would know about subatomic levels of quarks and DNAs – the core
    elements to all beings and bodies. They would have to wonder about the fundamental
    questions on existence, origin, and perhaps God. As Asger Jorn once stated, “Artistic
    research is identical to “human science,” which for us means “concerned”
    science, not purely historical science.” Moreover, John Locke thought he was
    seeing angles of god when he first looked into the microscope. In the statement
    made by Carl Sagan, that “we are star stuff”, he was referring to everything in
    the universe being made up of the same hydrogen parts. Then, might he have been
    suggesting that God existed in hydrogen particles? To fathom such questions,
    the boundaries between science, religion, and art become blurred. And many
    SCI-ARTists have been multi-tasking under these conditions.

    Asger Jorn,
    Notes on the Formation of an Imaginist Bauhaus
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’>, (1957) responding to “What ‘education’
    do artists need in order to take their place in the machine age?”

    style=’mso-endnote-id:edn2′ xhref="http://www.nyartsmagazine.com/new/#_ednref2" name="_edn2" title="">
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’>                        Donna
    Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in
    the Late Twentieth Century” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention
    of Nature, New
    York, New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc, 1991, p.128-149.

    class=MsoEndnoteReference>
    style=’mso-special-character:footnote’>[ii]
    style=’font-size:8.0pt;font-family:Verdana’> While contemplating ideas on
    technological extension and entrapment, Marshall McLuhan’s concept of the media
    as an extension as well as amputation come into mind. According to McLuhan,
    with every new media gain (technological invention), there is always an
    imbalance of a perceptual sensory loss, a sort of amputation of our senses. For
    example, he describes the Gutenberg Galaxy (mid 15th century, the
    time of Johannes Gutenberg) as a time when the technological gain of the
    printing press promoted nationalism, the study of languages, and intensified
    the essence of structural writing. At the same time however, the invention of
    print also caused the loss of the quality of speech of the past. Before the
    invention of writing, communication used all our senses simultaneously,
    requiring gestures, looking, and listening. This "acoustic space" of
    the spoken word was directionless and emotional. In the Gutenburg Age, the
    printed words transformed space into a bounded, contained, linear, ordered, and
    structured space, emphasizing a new rational way of thinking. Thus, a whole new
    environment called the “Gutenberg Galaxy” emerged.

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