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Technology And/In/Through/ Art….and Vice Versa February 19, 2009

Posted by smike97k in communication, cyborgs, poetry, technology.
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The recent study of William Blake and print making in general has really got me thinking about the connections between technology and art.  Matthew Belmonte mentioned the ideas of science and art in his story “The Yellow Raincoat,” and the distinctions between what the two intend to do.  However, I want to look at the direct connection between the tools that technology has created, and their influence on the world of art.

 

To go far back into history, we could consider the stone as a form of technology.  The stone was a way of making paint from natural sources, like fruit and berries.  By crushing these sources, one was able to create a paint like substance, to then use in recording history.  The original pen was made with a feather, and the paintbrush, from animal hair, and still used today despite advancement in art technology.  All of these items could be considered forms of technology in the aid of art, going back thousands of years.  The question is are there some forms of art that are completely dependent on forms of technology, no matter how advanced they are?  Could one be considered a “cyborg” when using the then technology of a rock?

 

The printing press was key not only to the spreading of news in the first books and newspapers, but also in the art of print making, as made evident by William Blake and so many other’s work.  The press that we used in our own class was probably an older technology, but a technology none the less, as would never have been able to create such a clean print, with contrast of black and white, without it.

 

The computer, obviously, is one of the most powerful forms of technology today.  One form of art that the computer has had a great impact on is that of photography.  The computer and digital camera have made the storing and manipulating of photographs and unbelievably easy thing to do at its most basic level.  It has helped some artist create fascinating and surreal photos.  However, as a super amateur photographer, I was originally hesitant to go digital.  I loved the process of developing film and manipulating light onto negatives to create the effect of the photo that I wanted.  This brings up another question about technology in art.  Does technology affect art in a negative way?  Does it take away from artistic creation, which is not easy on any level?  I don’t know.  I’ve questioned these thoughts in my own creations. 

 

Technology and art can be seen to go hand in hand.  The creation of a lot of different forms of art becomes possible with the aid of technology, no matter how simple.  And if you want to go even further, we need art to create technology, in sketches and the building of machinery.  The two can be intertwined in many ways and have been since the beginning of human kind.

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Laplacian? February 18, 2009

Posted by baimeeker in cyborgs, technology.
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Professor Burcar asked me to post this.  It’s about “The Raincoat.”

In “The Raincoat,” Matthew Belmonte reflects on his childhood raincoat, an object that represents the tension between himself and his environment, including other people. He compares this tension to the abnormal obsession with controlling the world that is associated with autism. I was particularly struck by his use of the word “Laplacian” to describe himself. I have searched in vain for a definition of Laplacian other than the mathematical term. Why would someone call themselves a “budding Laplacian”?


Although the actual definition of the Laplacian is based in differential calculus, one way that it can be described is in terms of its usefulness. In particular, the Laplacian is used to find equilibrium points in a system. Equilibrium points are points at which there is no movement. These points reflect the feeling Belmonte describes when wearing his raincoat, as though “immersed in the outside worlds flood yet insulated from it.” The areas around these equilibrium points may be moving in several different directions. They may be approaching the equilibrium point or even flying away from it. But the equilibrium point itself is not affected.


In addition, Belmonte discusses how his compulsion to understand the world, and thus reduce it order, pushed him to study science and creative writing, and in particular to describe the world in a mathematically tractable way. As I continue to study applied mathematics, I become more aware of the simplifications that must be made in order to study the world in this way. In the same way that a mathematician studies equilibrium points, Belmonte is looking for stationary rules that describe the best human knowledge of a system. Yet we must always leave things out of our equations for the sake of tractability. Otherwise we would not be able to find solutions. Because of this, equations that try to describe humanity prove to be difficult to create or to analyze. Belmonte tries to find and to convey the equilibrium points of human interaction through science and art. It is due to his participation in this struggle that he can be described as a Laplacian.

Patchy-work Girl February 18, 2009

Posted by dunemethane in narrative, structure, visual culture, writing.
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At first I was really intrigued by the idea of reading a story that if I clicked on any word would take me to another page like those old-school choose your own adventure books. I started to read and clicked on words and kept going until I realized that I just kept going in circles eventhough I clicked on different words everytime. WTF? I tried this for about a half hour when I eventualy just gave up and accepted that this hypertext business is not as cool as I thought it would be. But I guess it makes sense since it starts with talking about embryo’s and ends talking about the same exact thing (literally).

Battle wounds February 18, 2009

Posted by jr4024 in art, class.
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Now, I know that the linoleum blocks were probably the first time most people experienced printmaking, but what I found the most interesting was watching student’s individual motives. (besides the battle wounds we all took, r.i.p. knuckle) When I first started carving and experienced my first cut, I have to admit that I was pretty ticked off and could not understand why I was even trying. I knew I wasn’t an artist and I was not optimistic. However, now that the project is basically done, I realized that you don’t have to be an artist to portray an image that you believe in. My motives then began to be based on the desire to depict an image that was close to my heart and beliefs. Everyone chose an “object” that had personal significance and I believe we all ended up giving it our all so that our block would be a good representative of what is important to us. Our “linoleum” journey was bumpy, and there was blood along the way, but I personally felt the determination of a “real artist” when it came to how I wanted my artwork to be displayed.

The Artist and His Mediums February 17, 2009

Posted by ah12 in art, visual culture.
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So, I suck at art. Just today, I squished my hand in a printing press. I have issues with stick figures. Ever heard the saying “The Apple never falls far from the tree”? Its bulls**t , my father is an artist, by that I mean  its what he does virtually full time. You’ve probably never heard of him, but none the less at roughly the same age I was when I pulled a C+ in Intro to the Arts my freshman year of high school, my father was working as an apprentice for the restoration of a very old church in Bavarian Germany.

Just as William Blake is known not just for his poetry, but also for his prints on which his poetry appeared, an artist is far more than his mediums. My father uses photography, wire hangers, cigars, and your more typical paints, oils, and so on for his works. He may not be famous, but just like any famous artist, he experiments with many various mediums to capture the imagination and attention of spectators, which is the real talent. Blake was originally known for the quality of his prints, but later on gained the deserved recognition for his poetry.

For proof that an artist is more than just his mediums, but that they DO play a role in the expression of his clips, look at the following. Notice how my father, and two of his famous contemporaries all use different forms of media to capture and evoke

http://stephanhess.com

http://banksy.co.uk

The communicative February 17, 2009

Posted by saraholsen in art, communication, cyborgs, technology, writing.
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Throughout college, I have been forced to readdress my social, political, and personal views on just about everything in the entire world, which is what I believe part of what college is about. However, this semester has been met with a new challenge that I have not been expecting, and that is the reassessing of technology in my life and how I define it.

When first starting out on our little linoleum carving many of us were in doubt about the technology that would be proceeded. However, I feel that after a bit of contemplation, the reality of technology is painstakingly clear in our lives, and we are simply starting with the most obvious, yet most ignored technology, and that is writing. Writing itself, whether it is formed the way Blake did or the method of typing on a computer, is the technology that has literally come to control our every method of thought and action. If we were not a literate culture, we would not have the 200 pages of reading a assigned a night, and therefore, our entire educational system would be thrown off. How would we learn if we did not read and write? If there were no books to be highlighted and no essays to be written, how would our knowledge be measured. We can of course look at the cultures that did exist and the few that continue to exist today that were oral based. However, it is difficult to wrap our minds around the concept that every thing we do would change if we did not read and write. And not just educaiton but I mean everything.

With this being said, moving forward into the fact that technology and writing has developed to the point where this blog post is possible, I must say there is something about it that I do not like. There is something slightly complicated, but moreover, there is not the interaction that should be prominent in our learning. The ideas that people bring about on this blog post are stupendous, to be sure. However, my connection to who is even posting what has become completely lost and I would therefore prefer to have a class discussion about these ideas. I have come full circle to understand what technology is and how it employs are lives and creates the cyborg in all of us, however, there seems to be a line that is crossed that I am not comfortable with, though I am not sure comfortable is the right word.

Response to readings February 17, 2009

Posted by jr4024 in cyborgs, monstrosity, poetry, technology, writing.
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The readings for this week were from Evocative Objects. The first story was about a woman and her bracelet. She discussed that her jewelry box is set up into different sections based on properties and categories. For example, she had shells and stones in their own separate spaces. When I first read this, I automatically made a metaphor connecting with society and how we categorize and group different people based on similar stereotypes of identities and characteristics. In addition, within these different groups lies the same definition for each “member”. We can relate this labeling to societal notions about monsters/deviants and why they are placed in the “Other” group based on appearance and with no correlation to what is considered normal. Her bracelet also had a past, which can be linked to the history of what monsters look like and are supposed to “be”. If we consider ourselves cyborgs, then why does that not make us a monster?  

            The second reading was about a man and his yellow raincoat. I found this story very interesting because I immediately linked some of the author’s ideas to those of William Blake. In the story, the yellow raincoat symbolizes his protection from the outer world and creates a sort of barrier from which he created binaries. As we have read, Blake uses this system of binaries to contrast Songs and Experience. He states, “These conflicting denials of life and death are attached to the coat.” In addition to this binary, the author mentions: self and external world, rocks and people, playing an active and inactive role, and order and chaos. His binaries also tend to have a childhood vs. adulthood aspect to them because he analyzes his raincoat as an adult looking back on what it meant to him.

Blake vs. Cyborgs February 17, 2009

Posted by ml7142 in poetry, technology, writing.
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When discussing the two contrasting works o Blake, the Lamb and the Tyger, I started to question his reasoning in writing two songs that could share so much meaning yet be so blatently apart. The binaries of a lamb and the tyger are symbolistic of good and evil yet blake is obvious in noting as well as questioning how the lamb and the tyger are created from the same. From reading these two songs, I started to realize how the exact thing that Blake questions in these songs are represented in a cyborg or cybernetic organism. A cyborg is a combination of binaries that come together for its creation. Whether these may be human/machine, good/evil etc, the toery of being created by “man” is all the same. In Blake’s song’s the innocent lamb and the aggressive tyger theoretically share a creator. The case can then be made the same for human and cyborg. Technically speaking the human and the cyborg, regardless of how endless their differences can be, share the same creator; a “man”. Since the other topic about these opposing poems talked about was the prophecy and experience piece, I also found a correlation to a cyborg within this idea. A cyborg or cybernetic organism is built upon hte idea of a functioning human. The human being though it has various different stories for how it is created, has a religious connotation for being created as a prophetic organism meant to live and prosper. The cyborg then is much like the tyger in that often times it is an aggressive afterthought that is created or understood as something that is the afterthought of the lamb. This thought process kind of made me question my original point although I hope you can try and understand what it is exactly that I am trying to say.

The Reprogrammable Girl: Dollhouse, Gunslinger Girl, and Battlestar Galactica February 16, 2009

Posted by slickpig in anime, gender, television.
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I know there are a few Whedonphiles out there in the class, so maybe some of you have heard about his new show Dollhouse. The first episode aired on Friday night, but if you want to see it and have no moral scruples about illegal viewing, you can find the first episode, entitled Ghost, here.

Echo getting her mindwiped

Echo getting her mind wiped

Without spoiling anything- Dollhouse is about a group of people known as Actives or Dolls, who have had their minds, memories, and personalities wiped and can be reprogrammed with new memories or skills for various assignments. These new personalities are not fabricated out of thin air, but are actually amalgamations of various people’s personalities. Each Doll is monitored by a Handler and in between their Tasks, lives in the “Dollhouse” in a brainwashed state. The show follows one particular Doll named Echo, and descriptions of the show have implicated that she will become more self aware as the season progresses.

Gunslinger Girl This show reminded me a lot of the anime/manga Gunslinger Girl, where young girls who have been critically injured are upgraded and brainwashed to work for the Italian Government as secret ass kicking agents. Each girl also has a Handler, always an older male agent, who oversees her training. He is allowed to use any methods that he sees fit, and all the girls are brainwashed to give them unquestioning loyalty. I have only read the first couple issues of the manga, so I’m not entirely sure how the series develops/deals with the issue of cyborg self awareness.

What really struck me in these two examples is the idea of the Reprogrammable Girl. Although there are male “Dolls”, the show’s main character, Echo, is female. In each example, new desires and possibilities are being mapped onto a female body. I would argue that this is not just a sexual  fantasy, but something more. Yes, Echo is hot, but that doesn’t account for the fantasy of endless capabilities, of being able to manipulate/upgrade the human body and mind to do anything you want it to- cyborg possibilities. What is it about the female body, or perhaps rather the idea of femininity, that animates this fantasy? (And with Gunslinger Girl, we could also ask this question, not only about the operatives gender, but with their youth as well.) Perhaps it has something to do with the instability of Gender as a social category and ideas about performativity and control. These agents are given powers and abilities which change and challenge the idea of what a woman is, become more then traditional gender roles would ascribe to them. But they also are forced to perform their gender more fully, through their sexiness, their clothes, and additionally through constant brainwashing and reprogramming. Yet this constant brainwashing and reprogramming does not always work, as I think we will see in Dollhouse with Echo becoming self aware.

Sharon "Boomer" Valerii and Caprica Six

Sharon "Boomer" Valerii and Caprica Six

This idea of female cyborgs stepping out and their ability to exceed their programming and dodge brainwashing can be seen in Battlestar Galactica with the Cylon characters Caprica Six, and Sharon “Boomer” Valerii. I am woefully behind in my BSG viewing, so if my comparison is already outdated I apologize. In Season 2, each of them is reborn with all of these attachments to humanity. Because they have become individuals in a collective society, they are going to be “boxed” or have their personities laid to rest so that they can never be reborn, but last I watched they were attempting to persuade the cylons to negotiate for peace with the last of the humans. Out of all of the cylon models that we are introduced to, it is only these two characters that rebel, these two female characters.

Thoughts anyone? I know that was a bit of a ramble…

Blake and the Active Cyborg February 3, 2009

Posted by animatingthecyborg in class, cyborgs, gender, monstrosity, poetry, race.
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Since the next two weeks of class are broken up with travel and printmaking workshops, I just wanted to take a moment to highlight the choreography of the course and how the lecture on Blake today figures into the foundation for the rest of the semester.

Two of the key questions guiding the course, which can be found on the syllabus, are:

  1. What counts as “authentic” human experience and what does it mean to be human?
  2. How is the cyborg narrative been shaped through visual culture?

Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience call into question dominant cultural values (the hegemony of society) by creating fissures in the strict binaries by which society is organized and structured. So, when we consider what counts as authentic human experience, notions of object, personhood and citizenship are destabilized in the matrix that makes up dominant culture in 18th century Britain.

Personhood and citizenship are particularly important here as the Songs act as a prophecy or beacon where the Other has no proper place in society—and while most of you are familiar with the concept of the Other, for those of you who are not familiar with this idea: the Other is a person or group of people who are marginalized or ostracized by the dominant culture. The Other, or “boundary being” (as the Other typically survives on the fringes of society) is usually alienated along gender, race and/or class lines.

Blake shines a light on the “authenticity” or validity of the dominant culture’s binaries by introducing characters such as the Lamb, who, in the Songs of Innocence, appears to be “buying into” the organization of culture and the marginalizing of people as Other. The lamb is a familiar figure to readers (both today and in the 18th/19th century), because of both its Biblical and agricultural uses. However, by Songs of Experience, the Lamb is transformed into the Tyger (although familiar to us today, it was a creature most people in England had never seen), and the Tyger is coded as a strange and monstrous figure.

By taking something familiar and non-threatening as the Lamb and transforming it into the Tyger, Blake demonstrates that the Other is a part of us: every Lamb has the possibility of breaking from the herd, or flock, and expressing its independence as a person and thinker, thereby morphing into a Tyger—sameness (as can be seen in the images of the flock of sheep—sameness can also be read as “Innocence”), then, is abandoned for individuality (or awareness—or “Experience”), a truly scary concept in the wake of the French Revolution and the civil unrest in Britain at the time.

Exploring the binaries that govern the Songs, as well as the fissures that are created within its matrix, we can gain a better sense of how the subject position of the Other (or “boundary being”) is a monstrous concept—which aligns it not only with other monsters, but highlights the theoretical underpinnings that shape current cultural narratives of the cyborg today.

Although we cannot replicate the same relief etching process invented by Blake (which I explained earlier in class), our first project is in the spirit of William Blake’s work. You can even reduce the act of physically engraving the linoleum blocks down to the kinds of binaries that govern different embodiments of cyborgs today: encoded/decoded, full/empty, subject/object, strange/familiar.

In a similar way the cyborg is a hybrid creature (cybernetic, yet organic; constructed and programmed, yet aware and desiring an identity), this class, too, is a hybrid. We’re combining critical theory and creative expression, examining different incarnations of the cyborg in visual culture along the way. It’s a complicated dance (it’s a 300 level course, after all). Right now, we’re merely learning the steps so we can move on to more complicated movements.

So hopefully this helps highlight the diagram of the dance steps.