M.F.A. Theses 2008
2008 M.F.A. Degree Recipients:
My work is about the fear of the unknown capabilities of biological sciences, specifically Genetics. I am not anti-science. I am pro-caution. The leaps of technology we are making in Genetics present a frightening parallel to the leaps we made in nuclear sciences that led to the development of nuclear weapons. We created weapons, and now we have a road ahead of us that could lead us down that same path. We are replacing the womb with a test tube, and approaching a very steep precipice that may lead us to disaster. We now have large portions of our food stores that are genetically modified, and we have specifically bred pets for millennia. Now is the time to be aware of what we are doing. We must ask the question: should we do this, versus can we do this? We must advocate caution, or we truly face the End Of Nature.
With God on Their Side
The twentieth century bore witness to the dark side of modernity, from total war and genocide, to the breakdown of utopian ideals into Totalitarianism. In an extreme sense, modern history could be read as one of catastrophe, the modern experience, that of trauma. Modernity, connected to rational empiricism, sought clarity in a continual move toward progress, as such cleansing enabled homogeneity and absolute rule became politically justified. Categorization was everything.
Religious fundamentalism is not, as generally conceived, a throwback to ancient forms of religion, but is rather a reaction to the traumatic experience of cultural modernization coupled with revulsion to what is seen as a dominating secularist agenda in popular and political life. Considered radicalized, extremist factions of traditionally compassionate faiths, there has been an increased move towards militancy in establishing the saved versus the damned. This project attempts to deconstruct the visual structure utilized by monotheistic fundamentalist groups to mythologize and promote their faith, while also seeking to understand the seduction of ideology on the individual, mainly the female. I have focused on Evangelical Protestantism in America, Religious Zionism in Israel, and Militant or Jihad-based Islam in Egypt and Iran.
The installation is meant to mimic the mindscape of the female fundamentalist. The secular and the spiritual battle for visual attention, projected onto opposite walls creating an immersive, yet highly disruptive and fragmentary space. The onslaught of footage refers to the bombardment of an everyday viewing experience and the confusion involved in navigating a path through a repetitive, often propagandistic glaze of right and wrong. The audio and visual content for the video montages are appropriated from video networking sites such as YouTube, GodTube, JewTube, and IslamTube. The last three sites cater to a niche market of religiously minded individuals, which seem to imply for the participants, communication with like-minded peers. As such, the source footage reveals an often raw, unmitigated look into the visual structure utilized by fundamentalists for fundamentalists in order to affirm beliefs through a common language. I have re-contextualized parts of this source material in order to illustrate the overwhelming certainties in each of the three religions.
I have situated a female figure in-between such imagery to question the role of female participation. While power can be seen as a clear motivator for male involvement, the female is locked in a grey zone between a secular culture that would offer more personal opportunities and freedoms, and a religious existence that guarantees after-life salvation for its holy believers and a sense of belonging in an often alienating world.
Radical fundamentalism movements can no longer be safely ignored. I ask the viewer to enter into this mindset and question the inevitability of the situation. Are the communication gulfs so deep and the beliefs so certain that compromise becomes impossible? Are we a world on a nihilistic path towards annihilation, a future of continued traumatic acts against humanity? Or are there possibilities for resistance? Possibilities for change? Possibilities for compassion?
Documenting the Impermanence of Clay
As a university trained Horticulturist, multi-media designer, and functional potter, I find my goal is to combine all of these disciplines in my chosen medium.
I am an artist who documents the impermanence of clay. I use the Scientific Method as the framework to observe, explore and record. I document through the use of computer, film and video this process, which began over two years ago. This work is not ceramic; it is clay.
Wake is a series of paintings that explores how we imagine and respond to the contemporary landscape. Working with Romantic elements such as the infinite and sublime, I situate the viewer within a fragmented panorama where the landscape is on the edge of collapse and upheaval.
The icy landscape lacks human markings or other indicators of scale, as a result, we are doubtful we belong in these places and the potentiality of landscape is diminished by our exclusion. As we struggle to position ourselves in this collapsing space we face a disappointing realization- there is no conclusive image, no grand answer in the landscape.
In the end, I ask viewers to question the potential of landscape, their navigation of landscape images and to confront the sense of loss that results from encountering this unstable, fractured scene.
Design off the Grid
The work in this exhibition addresses the challenges and opportunities inherent in designing for the portion of the population of the world that lives without access to an electrical and/or water and sanitation grid. In the rural areas of developing countries this constitutes a majority of the population; moreover, in the urban areas of most developing countries a large portion of the population has only partial or sporadic services of electricity, water, and sewage. The challenges of living without access to basic services are enormous, and have the most effect on the poorest, and particularly women and children. With this in mind, I have endeavored to design products that most directly affect and are used by women in poor and developing countries.
My stove, for example, burns wood, which is the most available and commonly used fuel throughout the developing world, but does so in a clean, safe, and efficient way. Additionally, it is able to convert low grade bio-fuels such as garden waste to charcoal using surplus heat. Since women and girls devote a great deal of time and energy to collecting wood - often doing permanent damage to their bodies in the process - the ability to use garden waste for cooking represents a decided advantage to these populations. My washer is designed to alleviate some of the drudgery of washing clothes by hand. By washing more than one item at a time and applying mechanical advantage to the process, clothes washing is markedly speeded up and the effoty required reduced. Also because the machine allows work to be done standing or sitting, it significantly reduces the effect on body fatigue.
In all my work I try to create systems rather than specific objects. What I mean by this is that the artifacts that I have built for this show represent only one among many possible configurations of these objects. The way the stove or washer works can be interpreted and given different forms in response to local environmental, social, cultural, and economic realities. By designing products that can be locally built and that leave room for local interpretation, my hope is that my work creates a space for experimentation and innovation. Finally, this work is meant to contribute to a dialogue on sustainable approaches to development. With the impacts of human economic activity on the planet becoming increasingly destructive, the moment to consider alternatives has certainly arrived. My intention with this exhibit is to shift emphasis from production determined primarily by profit, to one that prioritizes human/environmental values.
A new exhibit illuminates the early days of bio-tech innovation, circa 2000-2005, through stories embedded in the era's visual landscape. Utopia/Dystopia: The Early Years of the Bio-Tech Age, 2000-2005 consists of a visual retrospective including major works of advertising and grassroots protest, many on view for the first time.
On hand for the show's unfurling at the Snite Museum of Art, curator Jonathan Harper drew parallels between bio-technology and the gold-rushes of the 1800s. "Those first heady days of the [bio-tech] revolution proved bracing and lawless," he said. "The Utopia/Dystopia show echoes the fever that swept the country. It taps us into some of the fears and hopes of an era."
Culled from over 150 visual artifacts, each of the 18 pieces in the show reinforces a theme of cultural flux abetted by technological revolution. The ads, fliers, brochures, posters, spreads and signs making up the exhibit show a world on the brink of new promise and possibility, but also laced with fear and hostility. Utopia/Dystopia lights up the intersections where public debate, occasionally lagging behind consumer offerings, abruptly awoke to a new scientific and ethical frontier.
Among the exhibited pieces are early bio-tech ads for 'designer babies,' bumper-stickers decrying the same, and samples of visual ephemera from magazine spreads and protest posters. Advertisements for early gen-tech products and serivces dovetail with visual sampls of culture-jamming and protest.
"It shows us the wild speculation, the occasional hucksterism, the medical miracles, the discoveries that did not pan out," said Dr. Stanley Kashimov of the Stanford Histo-Cultural Institute. "It shows our country riding a crest of new possibilities - full of wonder and awe, but also simmering with suspicion and, it must be said, occasional rancor. Each piece of this exhibition is like peering through a window into that time, where people were just starting to hitch moral thought to new technological possibilities."