Our five graduating students, have just held their degree shows in the ASN studio, to great acclaim. The space was beautifully curated to present a range of works in a cohesive exhibition.
Each of the students present their work as a culmination of research and practice that has developed over their two years on the Programme.
Each student has outlined that journey in a reflective practice paper. We will present these as the next five postings on this Blog.
AGE OF ______________
THE AGE OF ____________ constitutes Cody Lukas’, research into the dynamics between various forms of living systems and processes across the geo-, bio- and technosphere.
Comprised of 3 series’ of inquiry, A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…, OTHER, and IN THREE BODIES, Lukas’ work across the study focuses on the practice of remediation, as it is to be understood in the context of new media, rather than environmental restoration, along with its impact on dissolving perceived barriers between living systems.
The following text will break down each of the groups of work, respectively in relation to Lukas’ methodological approach to artwork design, conceptual relation to the represented subject matter, and underlying theoretical framework.
WEBSTER, Vinyl Installation. As installed at the TRADING ZONE exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…
As an interdisciplinary artist, I don’t contain my practice to any one given medium or technique, but rather approach each new project as a means of problem solving; applying the most suitable methodology for the given context. In so doing, I seek to push myself into new fields of knowledge, as to constantly broaden my own perception of the world.
At a glance this means the individual pieces that comprise my expanding body of work, often appear; Fragmented. Detached. Isolated from one another.
However, with my background being in immersive and interactive technologies, as well as environmental practice, my works can actually be mapped with regards to their individual relation to media, as living process, and technology, as craft, technique and equipment.
See, media is traditionally defined as a method of interpreting and conveying various forms of information, which is conventionally expressed through speech, text, photography, radio, video, etc. In the words of Bolter and Grusin, remediation is “the representation of one medium in another”[i] serving as the defining characteristic of the new media, i.e. video being the remediation of photography. They continue in saying, “[c]reators of other electronic remediations seem to want to emphasize the difference rather than erase it. In these cases, the electronic version is offered as an improvement, although the new is still justified in terms of the old and seeks to remain faithful to the older medium’s character.”[ii]
In relation to my practice, I do not look to conventional forms of media as a point of departure for a work, but rather to living systems and processes as “old media” and remediate them through modern technology.
This approach to creation is no more present than in A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME… In this series I investigate the full spectrum of life, as it ranges from geological processes, to those of synthetic biology and artificial intelligence, with each instance applying its own technique as it is most relevant to the original process.
HOST, Oil on canvas.
HOST converts digital code from computer viruses into DNA sequences, which are then plugged into my own generative software, in order to give them physical forms. These are then stored inside various oil painting within Augmented Reality.
Here, the process of the work’s creation is pivotal to its conceptual value, as today biological viruses are highly debated as to their classification as living organisms, due mainly to the fact that they do not have their own cell bodies; but rather they leach of other organisms in order to carry out all the other characteristics and functions associated with living organisms.
PROCESSING, Digital prints.
PROCESSING acts as a rudimentary artificially intelligent computer software, capable of generating an endless amount of caudal fin nerve networks; a digital remediation of the zebrafish’s natural regenerative abilities. This piece’s significance stems from the segment of NASA’s definition of life being, “a self-sustaining chemical system”; where the work remediates one of the processes that makes the zebrafish the self-sustaining chemical system that it is, and ascribes it to a mechanical system, currently defined as a biosignature, merely trace evidence that life once existed.
CELL PORTRAIT (Proposal).
CELL PORTRAIT and NEWBORN then flip to dynamics between media and technology, taking a very physical approach to remediation praxis. In CELL PORTRAIT, the complexities of synthetic biology and the ability to grow human skin cultures in a lab, apart from their parent body, is met with not only a remediation of the organic biological process of skin growth but also the aesthetic form and language of minimalist painting.
NEWBORN, Wall Sculpture. As installed at the TRADING ZONE exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery.
Then, contextually residing on the polar opposite end of the spectrum of living processes, NEWBORN looks to the thousands of years old geological processes of rock creation as “old media”. Appreciating the fact that an igneous rock’s age is linked to the last time it underwent an igneous process, the work then regards traditional casting technique as the method of remediation, by effectively baking the geological samples at temperatures of over 1000 degrees, giving birth to new manmade rocks in the span or just 20 minutes time.
Again, although diverse in their physical expressions, each work within the series adopts the same methodology in their creation, correlating to media, as living process, and technology, as craft, technique and equipment; effectively paralleling a wide variety of geological, biological and technological living processes as to blur the borders between systems and present a rose as nothing but a name that divides.
Acknowledging the current state of the geo-political climate we live in today, at the turn of the Human Goldilocks Era, through my work, I aim to instill my audience with a form of critical thinking process, where I want them to challenge their own anthropocentric perceptions of presented subject matters and get them to step back and view things objectively, for what they are.
In so doing, this is a process I myself undergo in my own practice, when interpreting and designing new work. Going into a project, I am self-aware as to my own subjective relationship with the given subject matter and actively try to view it through various lenses, exploring the discrepancies that arise as a result; in this manner, paralleling both the physical and conceptual methodologies of my artistic praxis.
That being said, juxtaposing my rhizomatic approach to art making; thematically, my practice is underlined by its correlation to the ideas of other, otherness and othering, as determining agents of most actions carried out on a daily basis. “The Other, being defined as being dissimilar to and the opposite of The Self, of Us, and of the Same […] Otherness as the characteristics of The Other, the state of being different from and alien to the social identity of a person and to the identity of The Self […] and Othering, the reductive action of labeling a person as someone who belongs to a subordinate social category defined as The Other.”[iii]
Homing in, when investigating dynamics between various forms of living systems and processes, I inherently operate within the narrative of perceptions of, and dynamics between, various manifestations of Other, and the systemic categorization of life as Us and Them. This paradigm is fully explored in OTHER; a self-proclaimed self-reflective series investigating expressions of Otherness from my own lived experience, as they relate to larger social constructs.
Amongst this body, three dynamics are explored.
A SIMPLE ACT OF MASOCHISM, Electrically charger aluminium Installation.
Drawing the line between Us, as mankind, and Them, as all other organisms within the life-web, A SIMPLE ACT OF MASOCHISM challenges man’s perceived dominance as “the intellectual alpha”, highlighting the presence of masochistic action within the human condition. Drawing from my own relation to the subject matter and viewing my passion of rowing through a critical lens, the counter intuitive nature of the sport as a self-harmful action becomes apparent. Rather than depict the ailments that arise as a result of this action, the process of self-harm through rowing is remediated in the gallery; where audiences are presented with the choice of electrocuting themselves in the space through interaction with metal casts of my own two rowing blades.
DESIGNING GAY BABIES, Installation
L’HOMME QUI MARCHE, Bronze Sculpture.
DESIGNING GAY BABIES and L’HOMME QUI MARCHE are two works that operate in opposition to one another, with regards to their relation to myself. Two categories of Other amongst humans, one in which I find myself in the perceived majority, not as a male but CIS gendered male (meaning I identify with the gender I was ascribed at birth), and the other in the perceived minority, as a homosexual male. In this way, I approach the creation process, acknowledging my inescapable subjective relationship with the subject matter but then attempting to portray it from a place of objectivity, manifesting itself in two distinctly varied finished works.
OTHER, A SELF-PORTRAIT.
Then, akin to Jacques Lacan’s portrayal of the Other as “but a projection or effect of the EGO, the prototype being the specular image with which the subject identifies in the alienation of the MIRROR-STAGE”[iv], the digital animation OTHER, A SELF-PORTRAIT acts as a manifestation of the uncanny. Constructed from images of myself, the form emerges simultaneously embodying fragments of both The Self and The Other; this resulting in a piece that speaks to the dualistic character of the entire series.
Collectively the series plays with the ever-shifting nature of the border between Us and Them, as it changes in response to varying contexts, as well as one’s own subjective understanding of self; prodding audiences to critically reflect on their own process of Othering and the subconscious actions they carry out as a result.
In times of urgency or struggle, there is a tendency to protect the Us;
but where does one draw their own line in the sand.
IN THREE BODIES
As an artist operating within an ecological context, my work, especially as it pertains to the remediation of living processes and the exploration of shifting borders between manifestations of Other, inherently engages with the dialogue of human interactions with the inhabited world.
Therefore, in trying to align my practice within a given theoretical framework, I recognise two dominant portrayals of this relationship, as they are depicted in mainstream society.
The first conducive to Jean-Paul Sartre’s depiction of “the relationship with The Other [as] always conflict-ridden and antagonistic as it is based upon a dialect in which the only possibilities are being dominated or being dominant”[v], meaning any perceived interventions by man into his inhabited environment are inherently negative and dominant by nature.
The second scenario, lobbying for a reintegration of man with the spectacle of the natural world, in which there is no perception of Otherness between the two at all; commonly being utilized in attempts to mobilize individuals to save, protect or restore nature, through the promise of mutual survival.
Fundamentally, my issue with these romanticized narratives of nature as the inherently good and balanced paradise from which we stem, effectively deifying the natural world, is their origin in anthropocentric understandings of the earth as homeostatic, in opposition to how we view all other known life as evolving process.
In this way I find myself in agreement with Koert van Mensvoort’s Next Nature framework and his biocentric conclusion of the natural world as a dynamic entity, acknowledging the geo-, bio- and technosphere; the technosphere being both mankind’s creation and successor as evolution goes on, and nature being comprised of all 3 living systems, co-evolving together.[vi]
Now, as products of synergetic relationships between geo-, bio-, and technological systems, each of the works comprising the series IN THREE BODIES exemplifies the variations that arise between different categorizations of interactions between humans and their inhabited world, with respect to human interpretations of intention and impact, akin to the views of anthropocentrism and biocentrism.
VEGAN FRIENDLY, Dried Kombucha Installation.
As a physical body created from a symbiotic relationship between cultures of bacteria and yeast, VEGAN FRIENDLY is a large scale Kombucha SCOBY, strung up and left to dehydrate within the walls of the gallery. Although a harmful process for the living colony of organisms, when viewed anthropocentrically, the grown material is branded as ethically farmed vegan leather, ignorant to other forms of living entities operating outside of humans’ immediate perception, due to disconnects in scale, both temporal and spatial alike.
1 ROCK, 3 FORMS, 23 carat gold and Dolerite rock Jewellery. Photography by Audrey Yeo.
UNKNOW, Augmented/Virtual Reality Installation. Created in collaboration with Audrey Yeo.
Then speaking to Sartre’s dynamic of dominate or be dominated, both 1 ROCK, 3 FORMS and UNKNOW address the matter, in dichotomous outputs. The former, exploring the impact of interdisciplinarity, amidst the current age of entanglement, on acquiring various degrees of control over man’s surroundings. The latter, a digital performance where the roles are perceived to be reversed, as man is placed into a state of submission with relation to his surrounding environment.
At first glance, the two appear as clear portrayals of dominance between the depicted subject matters. However, this becomes less so as one steps back and examines the impact and intent of the acting parties; as submission does not actually equate to the act of “being dominated” without an agent dominating party and the process of crushing rocks, ultimately cannot be judged with regards to its impact upon the geosphere, without any non-anthropocentric understanding of a “normal” state for the system.
ROCK RING, Augmented Reality Sculpture
Finally, UNKNOW and ROCK RING act in contrast to VEGAN FRIENDLY and 1 ROCK, 3 FORMS in their zero physical intervention approach to art making, through the use of energy intensive digital media. Here, digital landscapes are developed, with ROCK RING acting as a geological structure in its own right, as the creation of a computer generative software, repurposed to deconstruct and re-configure, existing geological structures within the technosphere for the sole exploration and enjoyment of humans.
Ultimately, each of these works, comprising the series, is underpinned by its process of creation, where individual interpretations of the portrayed dynamics between humans and their inhabited environment, vary in relation to contrasting ethical points of view.
To me, I find it fundamentally problematic when individuals either idolize and romanticize the natural world or claim the full dissolution of boundaries between humans and our surroundings, in order to promote a healthy relationship between the two. We should be able to view our surroundings as Other, without the need to dominate or be dominated, acknowledging the geosphere in the context of another form of living system, equal to the Bio- and Technosphere, with which we find ourselves in the form of a coevolutionary or even ectosymbiotic relationship.
After all, akin to the ideologies of Adam Smith, the wealth of nations is based upon respect for the other.[vii]
Graduating from the Art, Space and Nature MFA program at the University of Edinburgh, Cody Lukas is an interdisciplinary artist whose work studies the dynamics between various forms of living systems and processes in the world today; at the turn of the Human Goldilocks Era. Working amongst an ecology of institutions such as ASCUS Art and Science Labs, The Queen’s Medical Research Institute and The Grant Institute, Lukas’ artistic practice remediating living processes within the geo-, bio-, and technosphere, spans a wide variety of fields, ranging from synthetic biology to geological sciences to artificial intelligence.
Most recently Cody’s work has been exhibited at The Royal Scottish Academy, Talbot Rice Gallery, The Lighthouse: Scotland’s Center for Architecture and Design, and An Lanntair contemporary art gallery.
[i] Bolter, J. and Grusin. (2003). Remediation. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, p.45.
[ii] Bolter, J. and Grusin. (2003). Remediation. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, p.45.
[iii] Wikipedia. (2019). Other (philosophy). [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Other_(philosophy)#cite_note-5 [Accessed 22 May 2019].
[iv] Macey, D. (2001). Other. In: Dictionary of Critical Theory. London: Penguin Reference Books, p.286.
[v] Macey, D. (2001). Other. In: Dictionary of Critical Theory. London: Penguin Reference Books, p.285.
[vi] Next Nature – The Nature Caused by People: Koert van Mensvoort at TEDxDanubia 2013. (2013). Danubia: TEDx Talks.
[vii] Smith, A. (1791). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London: Printed for A. Strahan and T.Cadell