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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.

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.

Fuzzyness or Clarity? January 29, 2009

Posted by ml7142 in communication, poetry.
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After reading Songs I tried to grasp a deeper understanding of why this book was chosen for us to read. When I thought about it I realized that this book is a perfect symbol for what our class is about.  The technique of storytelling throughout this is very intriguing to me.  If you were to read the text by itself without knowing what the image that stands by it was, chances are you would conjure a vision in your mind of something different than that which is portrayed by the artist.  Most often when reading a novel or poetry, the fun or beauty of the read lies in the vision you create for yourself without a previous notion of what the text is “meant” to depict.  For example when you saw Harry Potter for the first time the sudden rush of excitement or dissapointment as the images flash on the screen from a text book you had already read can either be a great thing or a nightmare.  When you read a text and simultaneously view an image that is meant to further describe it, you are somewhat set up for interpretation.  Throughout this semester the goal of this course is to look into different forms of stories and decipher how media and art play their individual roles.  This book to me was a great example of how such a simple form of image making can bring ancient words to life adding a little something extra.

Reproduction of Songs of Innocence and Experience January 28, 2009

Posted by baimeeker in art, visual culture.
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I do not think it is weird that most publications of Songs leave out the prints. Although our text does include these prints, they felt the need to also include the text. Copies of these prints are hard to read. This reflects one of the difficulties of reproductive technology.

When David Mack gave his talk last semester, he brought original art from his comic. Although I had seen some of these pages in Kabuki Art books, I was stunned at how different they looked in real life. The art took on another dimension of clarity, a different medium, and even a literal thickness missing in its copies. Copying results in fuzziness, everything printed in the same medium (computer ink), and a loss of the third dimension of thickness produced with heavy paint or Mack’s pasted borders. This can be seen in the fuzziness of the text in Songs. The ink and method of printing are different than in the original.  And of course, it is also a copy of a copy.

I am not saying that we should read only the text, but that if we lose a dimension by leaving out the pictures, we also lose a dimension through the copy machine. My question is, how much do we lose and how important is this dimension to our understanding of Songs?