Artist-in-Residence Alix Villanueva’s display at the Scottish Poetry Library

ASN’s artist-in-residence Alix Villanueva has one of her handmade books displayed at the Scottish Poetry Library on Crichton’s Close.

« How do you do Bobby Blue? » is a poem printed on handmade lavender, nettle and comfrey paper, exploring the themes of health, connection, love, loss… Structured around 4 plants, the narrative takes the reader around the different themes like a pollinator around flowering plants. « Storytelling as pollination…. »
The book is displayed alongside hand-stitched ritual gloves made to the exact size of the artist’s hands.

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The work will be on display until the 9th of September.

 

 

 

ASN student exhibits in COAST exhibition at An Talla Solais Gallery

Pin-Erh Chen was one of twenty artists selected from an international call-out to exhibit in An Talla Solais Gallery, Ullapool. The exhibition looks at issues of climate change that affect coastal communities. The exhibition runs until 8 th September, 2019.

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Pi-Erh’s work, VIOLENCE OF SLOW TIDES, is a collage of quotations from climate change
deniers – details here..

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ASN Student commissioned to create work for Brandon Country Park

ASN student, Kaitlin Ferguson, has been commissioned, from an open competition, to create a new work for Brandon Country Park in Suffolk, England.

This adds to Kaitlin’s success, with fellow student Natalia Bezerra, in being commissioned to create a work for Poldra in Portugal – 

https://asnse.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/two-asn-students-win-commission-for-collaborative-sited-work-for-poldra-viseu-in-portugal/

CONNECT will consist of a series of geometric rope and copper wire ‘branches’ which will form a network which stretches across trees in Brandon Country Park. They will be dotted through-out the forest, encouraging visitors to the festival to travel through the woodland on a trail to experience the entire installation.

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The work draws on ecological research of the forest, specifically how trees communicate with one another. Trees send messages to each other and across species in complex underground networks made from mycelium the root systems of mushrooms. These pathways connect the roots of plants and trees by distributing nutrients and information to support the health of the whole ecosystem

ASN Programme Director exhibits in Saõ Paulo

Art, Space + Nature Programme Director, Donald Urquhart is currently exhibiting six drawings in the MEMORIAL DO DESENHO exhibition at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea of the University of Saõ Paulo, Brazil.

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Urquhart was one of five contemporary artists asked to exhibit work alongside a selection of the museum’s extensive collection of modernist drawings. The exhibition continues until 28th June, 2020.

 

https://jornal.usp.br/cultura/quando-os-modernistas-encontram-os-contemporaneos/

ASN Films exhibited in Mexico

Two films, RUSTING and CORAL involving ASN student Ana Cecilia Parrodi Anaya have recently been presented at the Capilla del Arte Gallery in Puebla, Mexico.

Both films looked at fragility in the landscape. RUSTING, was made in collaboration with two other ASN students Claire Burnett and Pin-Erh Chen. CORAL, being a solo work, consisted of stop motion documentation of a piece of coral slowly dissolving in water, made acidic by the addition of CO2.

Bound/Unbound

Natalia Bezerra

 

Each moment in time presents a unique stage in the evolutionary cycle of any ecosystem, being representative of the interconnectivity among all living and nonliving entities. Growth and Decay… Life and Death… Action and Impact… Bound and Unbound… Here, these seemingly rigid dualisms merge into coexistence, which is translated into a complex series of lines that intersect and cling to one another across space. My gaze is constantly fixed on this linear language presented in the uppermost branches above, where our individual and collective actions are documented in the dynamic metamorphosis of the forest, and moreover our societies. My focus on the intricate branching systems of trees, originally entirely aesthetic, has become ontological, as I’ve come to realize the ramifications of our actions on a global scale. As the impacts of the Climate Crisis accelerate, our chances of walking into a charred forest increase as we continue to establish rigid boundaries and break off into separate limbs. What started as a small and controlled flame becomes a massive wildfire, devastating the ties that bind our lives together.

I’ve always been drawn to woodlands and forests from an early age, forming a deep attachment to those behind my house in the area of Maryland, USA where I grew up. Having such a strong presence in my life, they’ve always represented a place of imaginative retreat and boundless exploration in the natural world. In this place of interconnectivity, each visitor is seeking connection in some form or another, whether with oneself, with others, or with the landscape. This unbounded connection with the natural world is present in the absence of boundaries and borders. However, what does boundless connection look like in our emerging future? How will our relations with all living beings be impacted by rising tensions over borders and the exploitation of our planet’s resources? My concerns with these issues seek to explore how humans have become powerful geophysical forces in our current global environmental crisis. My practice, which is based upon tension, boundaries, and interconnectivity, seeks to examine notions of boundedness and unboundedness through linear complexity.

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Photographed at Yosemite National Park, California (USA)

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Photographed at Yosemite National Park, California (USA)

Gaining a sense of place through direct immersion and engagement with my immediate environment plays a vital role in my creative process. Whether it is camping in a local wood or exploring the backcountry of a national park, these experiences help me to seek new awareness and union with the natural world. My experiences exploring landscapes have also led me to observe environmental destruction, from remnants of wildfires in Yosemite National Park California, USA to deforestation in the Amazon cloud forest in Peru. These direct observations and immersions into devastated environments have formed the basis of my practice-led research in an effort to establish a dialogue between our actions and the natural world.

My interest in woodlands and forests led me to undertake a residency at Pishwanton Wood, near Edinburgh, in January 2019. When I first visited the site, I became fascinated by a dense patch of birch wood and how tightly spaced these trees were together, many as close as one arm’s length distance. When exploring the woods, I could not help but notice that the views into the tree canopies above presented a uniquely complex interconnected language that amazed me, as an endless series of lines cross one another against the moving sky. Although appearing static against the sky, these lines are dynamic in their own right, moving across a spatio-temporal continuum.

I cannot help but think that what is in these canopies reflects what is below ground, and essentially what is all around us in the world: the inextricable links among all phenomena in life. Following these lines presents us with this idea that they can head almost anywhere and that in a world of life, everything is in movement and nothing is certain [1]. This idea makes me wonder whether this sense of connection I seek in the woods can be traced to these overlapping and intersecting lines in what anthropologist Tim Ingold describes as the meshwork [2].

This idea of the meshwork has influenced a great deal of my practice-led research when exploring interconnectedness. My first encounter with this insight occurred during my first visit to the Blackwood of Rannoch back in March 2018. Being one of Scotland’s iconic landscapes, the Blackwood is one of the only remaining ancient Caledonian Pine Forests. This is due to a long history of deforestation and land clearances dating back to Neolithic times. The rich social, cultural, and political narratives embedded in the forest, from the 18th – 19th Century highland clearances to timber exploitation during World War II, influenced my perspective on what constitutes the evolution of a landscape beneath its surface.

IMG_5702NETWORKS, 2018.

During my experience in the Blackwood, I became particularly interested in a fallen granny pine spread across the forest floor. Although dead, its sprawling branches and striking form made its monumental presence in the landscape. Noticing the many directions these branches took across space led me to consider the temporal markings of the forest’s evolution embedded in these linear forms. Having survived for hundreds of years, the impacts of human activity throughout time can be uncovered in these markings. The inevitable role humans play as powerful geophysical forces in shaping landscapes made me realize that this too is included in the meshwork, or as author and philosopher Timothy Morton calls it: the ecological entanglement.

In his book The Ecological Thought, Timothy Morton claims that, “no being, construct, or object can exist independently from the ecological entanglement [3]. This interconnectivity constitutes a vast entangling mesh, in which life-forms constitute a nontotalizable, open-ended concatenation of interrelations that blur and confound boundaries at practically any level: between species, between the living and non-living, between organism and environment” [4]. When reflecting on this notion of the mesh, I cannot help but think about how our everyday actions as humans impact this entanglement and what this means for our future existence in an age of environmental catastrophe.

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MOSAICS, 2019. In collaboration with and photography by Audrey Yeo.

c_00055MOSAICS, 2019. In collaboration with and photography by Audrey Yeo.

This idea of the ecological entanglement has led me to explore how I could imagine myself being entangled with the landscape. In MOSAICS, merging with my immediate environment through direct sensory engagement becomes an intimate and embodied experience in the woodland. This idea of delicate empiricism [5] by J.W. Goethe influenced my understanding of how close observation and direct engagement with the natural world can be imperative in introducing a sense of unboundedness and renewal for humanity’s relationship with nature.

As our world becomes more connected due to globalization, so do our impacts in the ecological entanglement. We are vastly connected yet disconnected, or rather disassociated, from the impacts of our actions. This tension manifests itself in everyday life, resulting in endless consumerism and neglect in ecological preservation. Reflecting on these ideas brings into question what Eco feminists Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva describe as the objectification and exploitation of nature, like women and other minorities, in our globalized world [6]. My concerns with this disconnect from our impacts have led to an ongoing series of sculptural works which explore the tension between our actions and the natural world.

The moment I step foot into the landscape is when I become completely embodied in the process of my work. Following the lines of my intuition become key when searching for fallen limbs. Which forms strike me most? The thought that these ecosystems may vanish with time slowly sinks into my consciousness. Impermanence prevails in a world of life as clearly evidenced with our warming planet.

As global catastrophic wildfires and deforestation activities are on the rise, we can no longer live in denial about Climate Breakdown. With 2018 being the fourth hottest year on record and with scientific predictions of Earth’s rise in temperature to reach 1.5°C by 2030, how can we imagine the state of our forests then? How can we imagine our forests and societies by the end of the century? Where will we fit in that picture? I cannot help but think that global tensions will only heighten if we continue to progress into a significantly warmer world. It’s like being trapped with several people in an enclosed space without enough resources to keep us cool in the middle of a long heat wave. I worry that aggression and hostility will thrive in the name of survival. Our actions will follow the lines that bind as environmental destruction and violence become so tightly entwined.

 

BOUND, 2019.

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CAPITAL ‘N’ NATURE, 2019.

As I reflect on these aforementioned concerns, complexities and tensions, I come to question what unboundedness entails in a world where humans tend to keep both other humans and nature bound. The ecological entanglement is unbound; however, we continue to create rigid boundaries and fragments of life. As people and the rest of life are restricted to boundaries, capital can move freely across borders. Has global capitalism really become the exception to boundedness? With these questions in mind, I seek to understand how this notion of boundedness contributes to the heightening of geopolitical tensions in our current global environmental crisis.

When we look at maps of the world, we observe the dividing lines that mark territorial boundaries at the macroscale level. These boundaries being dynamic are constantly changing with time and are embedded with endless power relations and tensions. Zooming into one of these territories shows us more and more subdivisions until we finally arrive at the experience of walking along these borders. Wall after wall… fence after fence… this feels strangely ordinary until the sudden realisation that these barriers are merely social and political constructs — anthropocentric attempts at separating from the ecological entanglement.

The privatization of land, and therefore establishing of borders, can be traced to what author Jason W. Moore calls the Capitalocene, which focuses on the endless accumulation of wealth and commodification of the natural world in our current era [7]. This global drive for endless capital has strong links to environmental degradation, systematic oppression, and geopolitical conflict. The idea of capitalism as a way of organising nature is one that troubles me deeply as I actively attempt to bring attention to these issues through my practice.

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WOUNDS, 2019.

Wounds_finalWOUNDS, 2019.

List of 21 current and emerging border conflicts (displayed from left to right):

Antarctica (UK) Overlapping Claim • Antarctica (Argentina) Overlapping Claim • Antarctica (Chile) Overlapping Claim • South Sudan – Sudan • North Korea – South Korea • Palk Bay (India – Sri Lanka) • Taiwan – China • Western Sahara (Morocco – Polisario Front) • Afghanistan – Pakistan • Gaza (Israel – Palestine) • West Bank (Palestine – Israel) • Golan Heights (Syria – Israel) • Kashmir (India – Pakistan) • Cyprus (Turkey – Greece) • Tibet – China • Kosovo – Serbia • Crimea (Russia – Ukraine) • Arctic (U.S. – Canada claims) • Arctic (Norway – Russia claims) • Arctic (Russia claim) • Arctic (Denmark – Canada claims)

Reflecting on these ideas directs me with a newfound perspective on boundaries and borders, viewing them as false lines carved into the landscape that attempt to further disconnect from the ecological entanglement. These lines are meaningless in the face of environmental catastrophe, but are the cause of so much violence and outrage in many parts of the world. To think that the expanding threats of border restrictions and conflicts can be closely tied to the Capitalocene greatly concerns me.

Ecologist C.S. Holling, in his theory of Panarchy, makes connections between the forest and human societies, claiming that these complex systems become less stable and resilient to change as they have completely adapted to rising connectedness and efficiency in their production cycles. During the late stage of its growth phase, the forest becomes extremely efficient as it effectively adapts to maximize the production of biomass from the flows of energy and nutrients in the environment. Comparatively, our societies have become extremely efficient and productive in maximizing profits from the exploitation of natural resources. However, this growth phase cannot go on forever; the high connectedness and efficiency of these systems eventually produce diminishing returns by reducing their capacity to cope with severe outside shocks [8]. As a result, these systems become more vulnerable to these shocks, which can trigger the collapse of the whole ecosystem.

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CIVILISED, 2019.

CIVILISED, 2019.

We have become completely adapted to ‘the way things are’ in society: the endless accumulation of wealth and race towards exhausting our planet’s finite resources in the name of advancement. These measures have become unbounded and self-regulated in a sense whereas life has become heavily regulated to the confines of its boundaries. There is something about Panarchy that resonates with the idea of what it means to be civilised in a world in urgent need of a healing and transformation. I believe achieving an unbounded connection with the natural world requires a radical shift of our ideas on boundaries and advancement, and deep consideration of what it means to be human in the ecological entanglement.

Throughout my work, I have sought to capture the complexity of interconnectedness through drawing, sculpture, installation, and printmaking. Investigating the role of humans as lines in shaping our planet forms the basis of my practice as I explore the tension between our actions and the natural world through notions of boundedness and unboundedness. The processes embodied in my work, from exploring the landscape to entwining branches, constitute an integral component of this inquiry in understanding what it means to be human in our current ecological crisis. When gazing up above in the forest, can we see the coexistence among all phenomena in life? Can we realize that the ramifications of our actions will inevitably impact us as the Climate Crisis progresses? Perhaps that gaze must be held a little longer for us to gain a deeper understanding of how to achieve healing and renewal for the human condition.

 

Bibliography:

Ingold, T., 2016. Redrawing Anthropology: Materials, Movements, Lines. 2nd ed. London, England; New York, New York: Routledge.

Ingold, T., 2015. The Life of Lines. 1st ed. London, England; New York, New York: Routledge.

Morton, T., 2012. The Ecological Thought. 1st ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press.

Morton, T., 2010. Guest Column: Queer Ecology. Modern Language Association of America, [Online]. 125, 273-282. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/25704424 [Accessed 22 May 2019].

Mies, M. and Shiva, V., 2014. Ecofeminism. 2nd ed. London, England; New York, New York: Zed Books Ltd.

Homer-Dixon, T., 2007. The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilisation. 1st ed. London, England: Souvenir Press Ltd.

Moore, J.W., 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. 1st ed. London, England; Brooklyn, New York: Verso.

Robbins, B., 2006. The Delicate Empiricism of Goethe: Phenomenology as a Rigorous Science of Nature. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, [Online]. 6, 1-13. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/20797222.2006.11433928 [Accessed 22 May 2019].

 

References:

[1] (T. Ingold, 2016, p. 2)

[2] (T. Ingold, 2015, p. 3)

[3] (T. Morton, 2012)

[4] (T. Morton, 2010, p. 275 – 276)

[5] (B. Robbins, 2006, p. 5)

[6] (M. Mies and V. Shiva, 2014)

[7] (J. W. Moore, 2015, p. 26)

[8] (T. Homer-Dixon, 2007, p. 227)

 

Breathing is breaking

Becky Sutton

 

The thread folds and pulls apart,

A breath

Breaking.

 

When I initially considered the underlying theme of my work, I thought of journeys, the natural world and certain climate issues. It seems obvious, when considered closely, that the subject tying all of my extensive work together is the study of lines. It is something so ingrained in my work that I don’t always realise. The line, inherently seen as a simple structure, moulds together to form the intricately complex subject matter that my work explores.

The world is made up of lines. Every object and being has an edge, a border with something else. Whilst roaming several areas of Scotland, I’ve focused on these borderlines, reducing these elemental boundaries to their simplest linear form. The screen print series, THREAD, wholly focusses on this theme. The prints focus on the curvature of the line, each minuscule fraction differing from the next. The unpredictability of process and subject is reflected in my working practice. By manipulating this control, intervening in the standard printing process, I allow the work to create itself within the given variables; nothing is predictable. This self-creation reflects the organic subject matter I focus on.

IMG_E7536                    THREAD I, 2019

In modern life, we are constantly bombarded with information. As with the repetitive printing process that I employ, a mass of intriguing unforeseen qualities come from complex layering, pushing the work to a point of abstraction. This abstraction allows the viewer a moment to reconsider their perspective of the natural world. Furthermore, by presenting the work in spatial installation form, we no longer look at the subject from a higher position, but are equal with it. The viewers become an integral part of the piece, a living object within the constructed environment. This all-encompassing quality of the work stays true to the subject; we are embedded within this environment, as we would be in the natural landscape[1]. Ronald Hepburn discusses a viewer’s presence within the natural world in his text, Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature. He discusses the creation of work that is true to the natural world, demanding more of the viewer than an artwork on a wall that ‘[controls] the spectator’s response’[2]. The viewer no longer observes, but becomes a permanent object within the fabricated environment. By offering a new perspective of the natural world, we are reminded the value of our undeniable interconnection with all living beings[3].

Timothy Morton explores this theme of interdependence in his text, The Ecological Thought. Morton persuades us that all living beings are within the ‘mesh’[4], interwoven without choice. We do not exist independently. A work that explores this interconnection is my relief print installation, THEY BREAK. This work draws on research made whilst exploring the waters of Loch na Cartach, the Isle of Lewis. Sitting next to the water, isolated linear patterns emerge, each one a separate entity from the next. Unpredictable and ever-changing. THEY BREAK asks the viewer to give value to the smallest of details in this piece. All of these minuscule fragments are connected, every object affecting the next. The installation aspect of the work begs the viewer to come closer and explore the many hidden details within the piece. They break: line, water, connections we see, feel and hear.

 

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IMG_4348                   THEY BREAK, 2019

Another work that specifically studies this state of immersion is the video piece BETWEEN STILLNESS AND MOTION. This work presents a minuscule part of a stream, filmed in Uig, the Isle of Lewis. A singular line, oscillating back and forth. What drew me to this specific detail was intrigue. When isolated, the line is no longer a reflection, but a compelling object. As Tim Ingold reflects in his writing, Lines: A brief history: ‘it is in the very nature of lines that they always seem to wiggle free of any classification one might seek to impose on them’[5]. The line, as an object, has the ability to be, become and have been anything it may choose, reflected in the ambiguous nature of this film. The layered projection is cast upon an architectural installation, the organic subject matter colliding with an angular urban setting. The viewers are asked to step into the space, walk within the objects and intervene with the piece. The creation of this installation encourages me to question: does the abstraction that my work puts forward distance us further from the truth, the works origin? Or, perhaps it gives the viewers an invaluable opportunity to explore their connection with these distant parts of the natural world.

IMG_3285 copyBETWEEN STILLNESS AND MOTION, 2018

Searching for these captivating fragments in the natural world drives my whole practice. Using mindfulness as a tool, I allow myself the most important factor: time. I sit by the water, and wait. Waiting for, as Barry Lopez perfectly states in Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (as cited by Andrew Patrizio in Out of Ice): ‘that moment when something secret reveals itself within the mundane’.[6] A piece that reflects this time-based working method is WATERLINE. The video piece presents the curving edge of water meeting rock, in the waters of Loch Eigheach Gaur Hydro Power Station, Scotland. The creation of this piece was one of the first instances that I applied this mindfulness, looking deeper into the scene before me, allowing the living scene to reveal unexpected details. By avoiding the standard cinematic frame, WATERLINE asks the viewer to employ a new way of seeing the subject. The film presents raw unedited footage, revealing the true wonder of this overlooked detail.

A0 1                   WATERLINE, 2018

My most recent work, BREATHING IS BREAKING, questions a human’s place within the natural world: where do we fit in? The installation distances these fragile details from the common gallery ‘frame’. Viewers walk amongst the fragments, their reflection upon and presence within the work integral to its completion.

The screen printed wall installation encompasses us within the elemental border of water and land. The piece encourages the viewer to look up close, revealing the countless minuscule details within. By transferring the subject matter from paper to wall, the lines and shapes become free objects, separate entities in their own right.

IMG_3887IMG_4012BREATHING IS BREAKING, 2019

Around the corner, a darkness looms. Entering this space we are confronted by two obscure living fragments. The animated details have a presence, ominous pillars in the dark space. The dominating forms show us that these organic fragments are more powerful than we may have once thought. Plunging into the black floor are reflections, giving us a sense that the ‘real’ world lies beneath our feet, making us to question the alternative existence we live in.

49f87501-7f7f-43b3-937e-ee999ab8eef2b7d0e498-0ad7-4244-b935-336ceb1456a8.jpgBREATHING IS BREAKING, 2019

Is it ever possible to create work that is true to its origin?And if so, why is it important to create work that is true? Art is always a recreation of something, a way to engender a new way of seeing. Therefore, I believe that it is this alternative perspective that will offer humans the reason for our existence amongst all sentient beings. After all, as Morton states, ‘existence is always coexistence,’[7], reminding us of our complete interdependence with these countless living fragments.

 

 

Bibliography:

Hepburn, R. (July 1963)‘Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature’, The British Journal of Aesthetics, Volume 3, Issue 3, p.195-209.

Morton, T. (2012) The Ecological Thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Ingold, T. (2007) Lines: A brief history. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ogilvie, E. (2017) Out of Ice. London: Black Dog Publishing.

Lopez, B. (2001) Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. New York: Vintage Books.

 

References:

[1]Hepburn, 1963, p.197

[2]Hepburn, 1963, p.196

[3]Morton, 2012, p.28

[4]Morton, 2012, p.28

[5]Ingold, 2007, p.50

[6]Patrizio, 2018, p.12

[7]Morton, 2012, p.4

Sculpting the hyperobject.

Luis Guzmán (1984) is a Chilean multimedia artist with experience in bioart and bioethics. His work focuses on the biopolitical potential of art as a valid epistemological discipline with the power to provide alternative forms of knowledge to the current techno-scientific framework that mobilizes late-capitalist societies in the age of ecological entropy. 

By participating in the dialogue between the arts and sciences, Guzmán seeks to offer alternative points of view on the post-human world to come, where nature is defined by engineering logics and humanity is mediated by a technological interface that aims to govern the most intimate aspects of life. 

His work is a hybrid combination of sculpture, architecture, digital media, and synthetic biology that seeks to modulate forces and tensions between ideas from a populated array of conceptual references from the areas of philosophy, arts and sciences. 

Those ideas articulate a conception of the artwork in which the art process is a way to “build a space” in terms of creating spatial-temporal interactions between matter, ideas, and processes. 

In his work, he connects ideas about biopower and technique, expressed in the thoughts of Foucault and Heidegger as matrices of energy or tension that articulate the contemporary world, in which beings are moved, impacted or transformed by technological reason apparatuses.

In Guzman’s thinking, this sense of our time must be overcome by new elastic articulations that allow “transmutation” towards a sense of the human that surpasses the logic of action and resistance characteristic of discursive power apparatuses in dialectics based on the subject-object relationships that have articulated contemporary epistemologies.

In this sense, the idea of rhizome enunciated by Deleuze and Guattari, and Morton’s concept of hyperobject, are shown as conceptual windows that allow being expressed in the field of plastic creation, and that allow to “elasticize” the human-world relations or human-nature without exiling the technique.

Both concepts, rhizome and hyperobject, are motivators of the sculptural will of the artist. The idea of space, like an umwelt. where different entities of diverse nature collide, would allow a holistic exploration of being-in times of what Terrence Mackenna calls the “approach to the transcendental object at the end of history”.  According to Mackenna, the human history would be a phase that takes place between the evolution of the monkey and the disintegration of the human by the combination of factors such as the ecological crisis and the advent of artificially intelligent systems.

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CAPTURE 2017. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/microscapes/

In works such as LIGHT MODULATOR (2017), the artist seeks to create an architectural element whose function is to transform the specific space of the work through the modulation of sunlight. In this work, a transparent crimson tetrahedron is presented as an object based on synthetic relationships between shape, materiality, and color that effects the reduction of the temperature inside. This is done by filtering sunlight, allowing only the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum to enter, which is useful to activate the photosynthetic process of a moss culture located inside the volume. In this case, the sculptural action would be expressed in the implementation of a minimum amount of physical objects for the modulation of a non-physical hyperobject such as the light of the solar star and its intimate activation-translation within the photosynthetic process.

In BIOARCHITECTURES (2017) the artist seeks to extend the relationship between technique and nature through the elaboration of procedural objects aimed at diminishing the sterilizing ‘will’ of modern architecture. The use of biodegradable biopolymers has a sense of elaborating structural objects that can be devoured by microorganisms. In this way, the subjacent idea in architecture of separation of the human world from the non-human world is inverted, as soon as its meaning is shifted towards the production and reproduction of the non-human.

bioarch

BIOARCHITECTURES, 2017. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/de-compose-re-compose-asn1/

The work presented at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) entitled RHIZOME (2018), is the result of a formal investigation of the rhizome concept articulated by Deleuze and Guattari ( A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1980 ). The idea of the rhizome is attractive since it seeks to pulverize the power relations established in hierarchies established by the “arborizing structure” or “central stem”. Rihzome

RIHZOME, 2018. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/asn-exhibition-at-ecci/

The idea of the rhizome is Stimulating to insofar as it contains a subversive potential with respect to the hierarchical forms of organization, which tend toward standardization and control. For its part, the rhizome offers a generative and open form that can be understood almost as a formal archetype in multiple biological and ecological forms, from the organization of galaxy clouds to the molecular level of proteins in living organisms. In the work, a polycaprolactone structure was contained in a transparent cube of plexiglass, this structure supported a crop of grasses, which fed both the moisture and nutrients contained in the transparent cube and the carbon dioxide emissions inside the building of the ECCI. The work seeks to articulate natural rhizomes and artificial rhizomes to modulate the atmospheric carbon, understood as a sculptural gesture on the hyperobject-climate.

The parallel between the pulverization of the ecosystem and the pulverization of the human is a structural theme in the artist’s work. In 2018, Guzmán created a proposal for Queens Medical Research Institute (QMRI) that presented the possibility of creating a robotic body for a cerebral organoid, which is the result of a culture of human neuronal cells. This work entitled OTHER (2018) projects the sense of the transmutation of the human into a “strange stranger” as Morton understands it, where the rhizome of neurons is conceived as the “connective tissue between all things”. The work seeks to put the human between parentheses, as a result of technological layers that present it as technical detritus, or as a synthesis of humans expressed in the relationship between neurons and their mechanical corporeality.

In the artist’s book VIRUS (2018) the body is presented as a landscape under the premise of dislocating our own conception of the object body-landscape. In the book, the idea of the contamination of bodies opens two main tensions. In the first place, it seeks to explore the theme of latent fear in being colonized by entities of an invisible scale. In the second instance, it seeks to explore the understanding of the body as a biome, or as a rhizome composed of related entities in certain times and spaces that are not accessible to us.

virus

Extract fromVIRUS 2018.

In April  Guzmán participated in the design of the proposal for Land Art Generator (LAGI) with a team of artists belonging to the ASN program, the proposal for the St. Kilda area in Melbourne Australia, consisted of a piece of geomimetic design constructed with an agglomerate of transparent solar panels made of recycled glass titled GLASS BOULDERS. The objective of the proposal was to generate an integrated space with local geography, capable of producing electricity. 

The proposal was created with a focus on the interaction between the social landscape and the geographical landscape, where architecture is understood as an element that can give rise to the emergence of relationships that connect both poles to the same level. The project was published in the book ENERGY OVERLAYS by LAGI in 2019 and the project included in the contest’s exhibition.

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GLASS BOULDERS, 2018. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/asn-success-in-the-2018-biennale-land-art-generator-initiative/

In the work titled CAPTURE (2018) presented at the Patriothall gallery in 2018. The artist sought to focus on the sterilizing potential of modern architecture, represented by the gallery  space. The white cube is presented as a paradigm of the idea of space that transcends diverse spaces within the architectural imaginary of the technological era, which are expressed especially in the gallery as well as in the laboratory, but which bases an idea on the space that emphasizes the efficiency and productivity in the modern world. The cube, in this sense is an ideological element that poses formal minimalism as an ideal of rationality. The work sought to oppose the sterility of the cube by producing the minimum conditions for the autonomous survival of a handful of mosses and small plants. In the work this was achieved by creating a hermetic space capable of maintaining the necessary humidity for the subsistence of that group of plants. In this case the cube lends itself to non-human life and at the same time it is configured as a space inaccessible to the human, disarticulating its architectural sense.

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CAPTURE, 2018. https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/black-wood-exhibition-by-asn1/

In June 2018, Guzmán participated in a joint project between the faculty of biological sciences of the University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh College of Arts (ECA). In this instance, research on rhizomatic structures materialized in the observation of the fungus’s hyphae. On this occasion, the team focused on imagining the interactions between fungi and robotic systems to generate a type of architecture based on biomaterials. The work titled MYCTERIALS (2018) was presented at the Biodesign Challenge 2018 at MoMA in New York.

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Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/asn-student-participates-in-museum-of-modern-art-new-york-presentation-and-at-the-2018-london-design-fair/

As part of the same project, Guzmán presented the sculpture titled ECOSPACE (2018) at the Biodesign Here and Now exhibition at the London Design Fair http://biodesignherenow.webflow.io/exhibitors, and later a reprint of the same work in Saint Etienne Biennale du Design 2019. On this occasion, the proposal consisted of a piece of biological architecture made with a biopolymer capable of integrating a mycorrhiza into the polycaprolactone structure. In this way the biopolymer would be biodegraded by the set of fungi and bacteria, finally leaving a rhizomatic structure of plants and fungi to maintain the initial shape. This piece marked an advance in the concept of generative sculpture present in the work of the artist. The idea of generative sculpture is transversal in the work of Guzmán, and has its origin in the understanding of nature as a creative system coherent with the same plastic will  expressed in his sculptural practice. This way of seeing nature is associated with the artist’s reference to the figure of Joseph Beuys, who impregnated associations between art and nature in the DNA of ASN by presenting THE PACK (DAS RUDEL) at the Edinburgh College of Arts (ECA ) in 1970. While the concept of Beuys extends from sculpture to social sculpture, Guzmán’s idea goes from the object to the hyperobject, as expressed by Timothy Morton in his book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World ( 2013).

During the summer of 2018, Luis Guzmán and his collaborator Diego Estrada, made a residency at Burren College of Arts, Ireland, as part of the activities of the Collective Natural Signs http://www.naturalsigns.net . The result of a month of research in collaboration with a group of scientists members of the local community was a permanent ecological intervention on the landscape of the Burren National Park, entitled GRIKE (2018). The purpose of the project was to create a biopolymer sculptural piece to transform the conditions of the local ecosystems due to the restoration of the soil that was eroded five thousand years ago with the first human occupations in the region. The residence involved field research as an investigation of the geological, social and biological characteristics of the site. The residency experience, including the research process and on-site work, was presented in a documentary, which has now been distributed to two hundred schools in Chile, as a way to foster dialogue between art and the natural sciences in the Art education curriculum. https:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZaIv0ugPCw&t=38s . This film was presented alongside the sculpture titled GENERATIVE (2018) in the exhibition that took place in Tent Gallery titled GRIKE: Sculpture as resistance in the Anthropocene.

grike

GRIKE, 2018. https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/11/17/grike-sculpture-as-resistance-in-the-anthropocene-luis-guzman-and-diego-estrada/

In the work entitled MOSAIC (2018) the artist explores the process of human pulverization driven by the exponential development of synthetic biology. The work consists of a mosaic of colors, where each pixel is the expression of a process of translation of the genetic code that goes from the four letters of the DNA to the binary code, and from there to the universal color-coding. The work exposes the potential of the human body to become a language through its treatment as transferable code sequences. The result is a “photograph” of a protein, which is a visually imperceptible molecular entity given that its scale is lower than the frequencies of the visible spectrum. The idea of understanding the body as a language is the fundamental motor of the artist’s understanding of the human step towards the posthuman state, where being is no longer understood as a “being in itself”, but as a matrix of language and code.0G6A8712

In LOUPERKALION (2019) Guzmán makes use of the ritual imaginary of the Roman holiday called Lupercalia dedicated to the horned god Luperko to subvert the celebration of Valentine’s Day. In the artist’s imagination, sexuality, which is the central theme of the Roman festival, is understood as a creative force, intimately linked to the idea of nature (natura). The idea of this performative work was to offer a blood sacrifice to generate a non-capitalist gesture dedicated to nature. In the piece, the artist irrigates with his own blood a small birch (Betula Pendula), which was planted in the vicinity of the ECA.

By comparing the Christian and the Roman version of the festivity, the work aims to raise questions about the ways we relate to nature, as a generative force (which is a concept that the artist explores in depth through his sculptural practice). While the Roman ritual took into account sacrifice in order to offer the vital energy to nature, the Christian-capitalized version lacks any form of giving back to nature. In change, sexuality was sublimated into romantic love, which is ultimately expressed in economic transactions and over consumerism. The lack of retribution in contemporary social (and mental) systems is a sign of alienation created by the inversion of cultural symbology. “Giving back” to nature was slowly transformed into “taking from it”, in the same way, that sexuality was slowly transformed into a tamed form of happiness. 

In his degree work, called CLOUD LANDSCAPE (2019) Guzmán seeks to bioremediate the symptoms of advanced capitalism by producing an installation that is proposed as a concrete application for the problem of the relationship between urbanity and atmospheric carbon emissions. In this work, the idea of a cloud ecosystem is the materialization of a synthetic ecosystem designed to absorb greenhouse gases. The installation represents the point of further development of his work in the line of bioarchitecture, where the sculptural gesture is projected from the object exhibited in the gallery, to the climatic hyperobject as a modulation of the suspended detritus of an entire era of human development that extends from the industrial revolution to our days.

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CLOUD LANDSCAPE (2019)

The idea of spraying the landscape and the human is the central theme of the video installation entitled LOST LANDSCAPE (2019), presented at Talbot Rice gallery. The work mixes video and digital animations made from fragments found in Ciénagas del Name, a wet ecosystem that was severely affected by the most catastrophic fires registered in Chile, during the year 2017. Both the video and the animations have an almost forensic function which records the destruction of nature as a consequence of the exploitation of the soil by the timber industry. The objective of the work is to explore the ashes as if they were a premonitory sign of our own extinction.lost-landscpe2

 

 

Topics such as extinction and pulverization are treated as objects that speak of the current state of the human. A state that is constantly stressed by the fundamental contrast between creative forces and destruction, both poles are sources of sculptural energy that manifests itself in the sensitive forms. The question for Guzmán is that model or what “scheme” allows to cross transversally the hyperobject Human-world or Human-nature? the always provisional answer is: the rhizome.

 

References:

DeLanda, Manuel (2006). A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 120. ISBN 978-0826491695.

Deleuze, GillesCapitalisme et Schizophrénie 2. Mille Plateaux (1980). Trans. A Thousand Plateaus (1987).

Foucault, Michael (1976). History of Sexuality (The Will to Knowledge: History of Sexuality).

Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time: A Translation of Sein Und Zeit. SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy.

Mackenna, Terrence. The Transcendental Object At The End Of Time (2014)

Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Posthumanities ; 27.

 

 

I attempt . . .

Audrey Yeo

I grew up in Singapore. I heard stories from my father about when he was a child and how it used to be in the ‘kampungs’ – Malay for traditional villages. He would go out with a net to hunt for frogs early mornings before dawn and scurry down drains to catch tadpoles and small fishes. Amidst many other kampung stories that feels like a whole other world to me. The experience of the same land has shifted drastically within a short span of one generation. Singapore, a place that can be seen as a notable example of rapid urbanisation whilst attempting to ensure urban greening proliferates the city. Despite being known as a ‘Green City’, I often catch myself questioning the artificiality of the arrangements of these ecological entities surrounding me – how many of these are native to the land, is the diversity human-imposed? It became apparent that a question as such, was the beginning of conceptually blurring the lines between urban greening and ecological landscapes and what they meant to me.

“the knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finished, and can thus only develop in combination with others”[1] 

The main body of my work serves as an avenue to continuously put into question my human-centred perspective of the world around me. In part, it can be seen as an almost futile attempt to detach my perspective from itself – or perhaps the only thing that will be accomplished is quite the opposite. On further contemplation, what we come to commonly deem as ‘Natural’ and ‘Unnatural’, it seemed to me as a classical example of human nature to categorize the experiences around us in order to make sense of the world. Can we step out from the primacy of human agency? Is the over reliance on our consciousness the root of the inside-outside manifestation as Butler captured in her writing of heterosexist gender performances[2]? Understanding and awareness of the inside-outside manifestation changes the way we relate to living organisms around us. Another word that captures this is dualism. Imagine, the dualism between man and nature. As Bateson suggested, the mental processes we engage in reinforces the dualistic mind-body assumption that what happens in the natural world is mechanical[3]. By this, the division causes a divide, instead of being influenced and co-influencing by process and organisation of entities.

During a field trip to Forsinard, in the Highland area of Scotland, I stood between the fences which formed the boundary between a section of untouched peatland and a section of pine trees that was introduced onto the landscape by man. The breeze was picking up. I closed my eyes. It was distinct – I could hear the manifestation of fences in the landscape.

Detached in Tent Gallery, November 2017

Close ups of Detached, November 2017

I interpreted the fences in the landscape as an analogy to the inside-outside manifestation of how we categorize and order the world around us. Through DETACHED, the process of physical line drawings of the map-perceived boundaries within the landscapes of Caithness and Sutherland, I was further imposing on the alienation that was derived from categorizing ‘nature’ as an entity which exists outside of my body. The use of the gallery wall as canvas was an attempt to undo the single momentary impression of the impermanent and ever-changing landscape that I had taken.

I wanted to find comfort in the process of returning the wall space to its original condition as a metaphor for (re-)entering into another state of mind. Perhaps one day, we are able to embrace a state of being that does not drive the inside-outside manifestation. In contrast, do other living organisms struggle in finding this balance or engage in the inside-outside manifestation? How can we begin to comprehend the reality of other organisms? Questions that led to the wanting of understanding ideas and reality from a different perspective.

I attempt to investigate . . .

My starting point was through interactions with those coming from different disciplines, specifically the sciences. Crossing disciplinary proves to be stimulating and engaging, leading to more questions than answers. With the reliance on our cognitive abilities – is it the case that the majority of us humans are trapped within a frame of mind that has been shaped and we shape, (perhaps irreversibly) by a perspective that is enabled only via western science? Coming from a family with ancestry line from China, paired with rapid westernization in our social culture, I grew up with shadows of eastern beliefs and practices. Such as, the teachings of Confucius and herbal remedies for illnesses from the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It feels like a difficult reconciliation which creates tension. Drawing upon this tension as an analogy for the narrow perspective we hold of comprehending ecology and other living organisms around us, it gave rise to the starting point for my next piece of work.

“There was a time where I teetered precariously with an awkward foot in each of the two worlds – the scientific and the indigenous. But then I learned to fly. Or at least I try. It was the bees that showed me how to move between different flowers – to drink the nectar and gather pollen from both. It is this dance of cross-pollination that can produce a new species of knowledge, a new way of being in the world.”[4]

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A BOTANICAL GLIMPSE, May 2019

“Taxonomy, i.e. the classification of the natural world whilst a useful tool, is a system of order imposed by man and not an objective reflection of nature. Its categories are actively applied and contain the assumptions, values and associations of human society”[5]

Through the process of creating A BOTANICAL GLIMPSE, I partake in the beginning phase of a knowledge creation process in a systemically and scientifically acknowledgeable way – by ensuring the process and methods I engaged in is sound. Fully aware that I have no formal training in such scientific processes reflects in itself a process to re-iterate our ways of curating knowledge; is in itself based solely from an anthropocentric belief system. In this method, I placed myself in the role as a creator of knowledge, as an attempt to grasp knowledge and the way we come to perceive it in this world. The isolation of each species found within the field sample area draws attention to and serves as an analogy of how within knowledge creation today, we place significant emphasis in looking at things in parts; broken down till the molecular level – in an attempt to understand and sense-make of the world around us.

A BOTANICAL GLIMPSE, May 2019

The piece attempts to reconcile and put to question the outcome of such an approach i.e. western scientific methods and the role of cultural institutions, in our perception and relationship to the world around us. Through the use of a theatrical setting of a botanical collection whereby viewers enter into, it lends itself to the embodiment of authenticity as a way to validate the models of knowledge we have come to rely upon – familiar yet circumscribed.

The use of resin casts to present a part of the collected plants in an immortalized, encapsulated form echoes the further limitations of just relying on the present-day sense-making systems that drive society – emphasizing the routine of separating ourselves when observing what is around us.

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Video still  from A BOTANICAL GLIMPSE, May 2019

Close-up of wall painting in A BOTANICAL GLIMPSE, May 2019]

The sampled area was determined via a process of walking through an urban and bordering ecological landscape with botanist, Dr Heather McHaffie. The choice of area intended to draw attention to our entwined and co-existence with often overlooked ecological entities. The biodiversity found within the small sampled area of 0.07m2 further highlights this.

I attempt to deconstruct . . .

REVERSAL, Photography, May 2019

In REVERSAL, the series of photos presented a deliberate moment of constructed vulnerability and objectification of the human body in ecological spaces. In Western tradition, the tendency to recognize human beings at the top of the hierarchy of beings[6] is perhaps the seed of the capitalistic approach we take towards living. What would happen if we were able to experience the animacy of the world and give equivalence to all ecological entities? How have we drifted away from the animacy of the world? 

“The language is the heart of the culture; it holds our thoughts, our way of seeing the world” [7]

One of the indigenous languages of the Americas, Potawatomi, an Anishinaabe language, is a predominantly verb-based language and holds most as animate beings – rocks, bays, apples, trees and the list goes on.  Items that are man-made are inanimate, for example, a chair[8]. In every sentence then, it allows us to incorporate respect to the animacy of the world and reminds us of our kinship with the animate world around us. Imagine, relating to the world in this light instead of separating anything non-human, as an it.

The photos were shot in Scotland between the months of January and April. By subjecting the bodies to nakedness, the work invokes a sense of vulnerability. The use of photography further lends itself to the sense of objectification – as we have come to do with non-human entities – reducing them to their usefulness for our needs. In the first instance, the instrumentalism aspect of the work is elusive. Instead, the photos come across as primitive, rebirthing, clean and natural. On closer inspection, each photo presented contains an interpretation of interruption – alluding to the lack of embeddedness of us to life.

I attempt to reconstruct . . .

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Set up of UNKNOW, April 2019

In collaboration with artist Cody Lukas I presented a virtual reality (VR) piece titled UNKNOW. The choice of medium enabled a sense of transposing into another world. In this way, the piece attempted to reconstruct the boundaries of perspective and put into question worlds and the sense of otherness.  The distinction we place on humans and non-humans reinforces the failure to understand our embeddedness and dependency on nature[9]. The use of VR as the medium to convey the blurring of boundaries, alludes to the possibility of reconciliation between indigenous and scientific knowledge for our understanding of a new way of being in the world.

 VR video of UNKNOW in collaboration with Cody Lukas viewable here: 

https://youtu.be/yX9CCIkDvMM

The piece intended to confront viewers with feelings of discomfort and helplessness as an acute scenario of vulnerability and complete surrender of one ecological entity – that of the same species as the viewer i.e. human, to another i.e. Pinus sylvestris, played out. The dependency of this ecological entity to that of other(s) reflected how I tried to reconcile the human/nature dualism. The process of suspending an ecological entity allowed me to place my trust in the mind-like aspect of nature – that she would hold onto the subject’s life knowing that he is depending on her.

In the end, my attempts do not answer, instead, pose more questions about what it means to be a living organism. Perhaps the only certainty I can hold for myself is there is a gap between how the world appears to us and the world as such. Through my practice, I attempt to experience this gap.

audreyyeo.weebly.com

[1] Haraway, D.J. (2000). Situated knowledges.

[2] Butler, J. (2014). Bodies that matter on the discursive limits of ‘sex’. New York: Routledge.

[3] Bateson, M.C. (2008). Angels Fear Revisited: Gregory Bateson’s Cybernetic Theory of Mind Applied to Religion-Science Debates. In J. Hoffmeyer, ed. A Legacy for Living Systems: Gregory Bateson as Precursor to Biosemiotics. Biosemiotics. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 15–25.

[4] Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, p47

[5] Dion, M. et al. (2005). Mark Dion: Microcosmographia. South London Gallery.

Dion, M. (2018). Theatre of the natural world. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.

[6,8] Kimmerer, R.W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. First edition.. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Milkweed Editions.

[7] Great grandmother quoted by Robin Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, p50

[9] Plumwood, V. (2009). Nature in the Active Voice. Australian Humanities Review, (46).

ASN Degree Shows

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 ______________

Cody Lukas

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.

 

OTHER

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]

 

CONCLUSION

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