Standard Deviations

This summer when I went to the MoMa in New York City, one exhibition in particular there really caught my interest (I actually ended up spending most of my time in this exhibit). This exhibit is called “Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design.” Walking into this exhibit, you are confronted by unusual shapes and configurations of typical household objects such as chairs, lights, drawers and coffee tables. The whole point of this exhibit is to reject the standardization of these objects, and introduce some creativity and originality in the form of these objects. Each object made me question what I view as normal for these objects, and forced me to accept that these objects can take on different structures from the standards society has constructed.

One object still stands out in my mind when I think about this exhibit. It was drawers, not stacked vertically right on top of each other, but instead the placement of the drawers was unorganized, balancing off each other’s edges, and it was shaped almost into a hexagon (pictured above). My friend and I both turned to each other and both agreed that we would want that in our room. The distinctiveness and individuality of it made it more appealing to us. I guess you could say we were craving something original, something that was out of the ordinary, or what we perceived as ordinary. The artist who made this drawer, Tejo Remy, does a lot of art that focuses on breaking the standardization of household objects (Here's a link to his website and some of his work http://www.remyveenhuizen.nl). He pushes the boundaries of normality when making his lights, chairs, and tables. His art, and the art in this exhibit, definitely demonstrates that not everything has to conform to the standards society sets for them. They can exists in other forms and still serve the same function.

 

Cristina Mittermeier

 

Cristina Mittermeier is one of the best known conservation photographers. Her most recent project focuses on the construction of the Belo Monte dam in Brazil and the communities that will be affected by its construction. The dams construction will virtually dislocate up to 40,000 people and the image above captures a few girls from a tribe whose land will be affected. Mittermeier's work begins to capture the relationship that we have with the land. As discussed countless times in class, humans have an extremely inter-connected relationship with nature. In attempting to benefit ourselves, we transform nature into a black box – a tool through which we achieve other goals. The damming of this region will be used to generate power and regulate water flow but will undermine both local communities and many ecosystems. While environmentalists have fought against this move, the government has gone ahead with construction and Mittermeier has used turned to the camera to capture the last of life in the region before the dam is constructed. The photographer captures the unique facets of these individuals life that are directly intertwined with the river. As global populations continue to grow, we put increasing pressure on the dwindling resources that support us. As seen from previous damming projects, both water flow and natural life falter when the water cycles are radically altered. Ultimately, the photographer focuses on the unique relationships that her subjects have with the river to emphasize how much will be jeopardized by the dam. The government simply sees the water as an obstacle and seek to control it. Conversely, 40,000 people use the water daily and their lives remain in the balance of the river.   

Martin Puryear

Martin Puryear's work is increadibly simplistic with a resounding message.  Using sculpture as his method of communication with the viewer, he utilizes natural resources like wood and stone while incorporating wire and tar to hold them together.  His famous works are "Sanctuary" and "Box and Pole."  Their simplicity is shown just by their names, but what they symbolize gives them much more to think about and wonder.  "Santuary" consists of a box connected to a wheel by two sticks.  The wheel, while able to move, is limited by the hold that the box has on it, symbolic of human life.  We often don't feel such a restriction but when you begin to consider how many things we are incapable or unable to do because of the way our society is structured, this message falls into place.  "Box and Pole" is another example of this sort of message.  It's design features a box with a 100-foot pole sticking up into the sky; that's it.  It shows us the things that we have control over, the box, and things that we simply do not have control over, the pole.  It reminds us that there are things more powerful than us and in a way shows us our place on earth.  I was struck by his works because of their minimalist design with an implied message.  For him it isn't about telling, it's about showing his intentionality through the materials he uses. 

 

Here is the link for Box and Pole: http://discosaurus.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/box_pole2.jpg 

Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky is a contemporary artist who started his photography career in Germany. Using large scale full color prints, Gursky’s most famous works consist of images documenting large man-made spaces.  Everyday spaces such as super markets and apartment buildings take on a new form, giving way to the industrial identity that has begun to integrate itself into our general interactions. Gursky presents his works in a very straightforward style allowing the captured scenes to speak for themselves. Although each image is sharp and full of detail, their scale works to take away from individual or single beings within the frame.  When viewed from afar, the viewer is faced with a large system where an individual is simply one among many. The precise and exact repetitions within each image remind the viewer of the generalized nature of an industry where most products are the result of mass production.  This relates to our discussions of how our interactions with the world are becoming more reliant on systems designed to reproduce the things we use on a day to day basis in a strictly generalized manner, leaving little room for uniqueness or individual identity.

 

 

 http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2001/gursky/

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andreas_Gursky

Charla Puryear

"When I am in the woods or at the water's edge, away from crowds and enveloped by nature, I feel connected to my own ‘naturalness’. I feel quiet, like a tree. I feel like air, as the wind blows through me, cleansing and renewing my spirit. I become one with nature, and nature becomes one with me. My heart is nourished and I can more clearly understand who I am. All I have to do is get there." –Charla Puryear

Puryear is a famous contemporary nature artist who uses the natural world as the starting point for all of her pieces. At first glance, her pieces seem rather abstract and varied. The forms depicted in her pieces are all strikingly different. Charla begins all of her paintings by going out into nature and looking for some textured natural object. Shen then wraps the object in canvas, paints the canvas, and then transfers the image of the rock, tree, or other natural object onto her canvas by rubbing. Once she has completed her work outdoors, she takes the canvas to her studio where she completes the work. Methodologically, Puryear’s technique mirrors they way we use nature in our everyday lives. Technology would not be possible without the resources of nature, so we routinely collect items from nature and then take them back to our “workbenches”, which have now taken the form of factories, in order to mold the natural items into a final product. Puryear does something similar, although her goal and end result is something entirely different.

Puryear’s work challenges our conception of nature and how we define natural form. In her piece’s Field and Ascension, it looks like the natural object she began both pieces with was the same object, however it is unclear what object that was. What is particularly interesting about those two works is their striking textural similarity and the variations in color scheme. By keeping the texture constant and changing the color scheme, Charla really speaks to the variety of things we see in nature and the subtle differences that make each natural item unique. The simplicity of her pieces also illuminates how even in its most minimal form, the beauty of nature is apparent. Charla is depicting nature in a novel way through her work. According to her, “my paintings reflect the partnership between myself and the Earth. They are my way of cooperating with nature, amplifying its voice, and sharing it with others.” Like many other natural artists, Charla is utilizing nature to depict her conception and relationship with the natural world, in the same way we each have our own individual conceptions of the natural world.

 More of Charla's work can be viewed on her website: http://charlapuryear.com/
 

Human Impact on the Natural World

  

Although I am not familiar with his other work, this photograph by Ramon Dominguez really caught my attention – both for its composition and subject matter. It took me a second to really process what was going on in the picture, but when I did it I found it very depressing. I found this photograph to be a commentary on both mass fishing and human kind’s negative impact on the natural world. In this shot, a turtle is caught in a discarded net, likely from a trolleying vessel. One can’t help but feel the turtle’s strain as it makes its way across the frame. The way in which the net trails off into the background really gives the photo a dramatic effect. I found this photo interesting also because the fishing vessel that discarded the net, likely because it was broken or it merely snapped off, did not give much thought as to what the consequences might be of their actions. This disregard for our actions can be seen across numerous industries and is a major cause of many of the environmental issues we face today.

 

Blog 6

 For my blog post I decided to examine an artist who coincidentally happens to be my grandfather, William Anastasi Sr. He has worked as a well-known and respected artist in New York City since the early 1960's, and has pieces in the Metropolitan, the Moma, and the Googenhiem.  A great deal of his work has to do with reality versus illusion, as well as the vast webs of technology and infrastructure that man has created or erected in his relatively short history.  The particular piece that I examined here is his Nine Polariod Portraits of a Mirror (1967).  This piece, which I will post in the blog, is meant to be a representation of the immensely dense and quasi-infinite networks that man has left behind as he treks forwards in time.  The first image is taken of himself in a mirror with his vintage polaroid camera.  He then taped that first picture to the mirror and took another picture.  He continued this process until the mirror was covered, and showed that through the relatively simple act of taking a picture and in a matter of minutes, he could create and extremely complex network of pictures as a product.  Furthermore, without the images all over the mirror he would not have a complete work of art, and that the piece would not function without every picture, or every "actant" within the network.  Although he is quite an eccentric man I enjoy spending time with him as he has a very interesting and abstract view of the world that we inhabit, and how man has attempted to mimic nature in the creations of vast networks that are all interconnected and interdependent regarding the outcomes that they produce.

Godfrey Reggio

         Godfrey Reggio is a famous film artist, director and producer. He is best known for producing and directing the Qatsi trilogy, a famous group of feature length films about the human environment. The most famous film of the trilogy is Koyaanisqatsi. What sets his films apart from others is the lack of human speech, time lapse filming and the amazing live music scores done by Phillip Glass.

            I regress though. Godfrey Reggio was born in New Orleans in 1940 and at the age of 14 he was sent to monastery to become a monk. He spent 14 years at this monastery, fasting and meditating. It is thought that the monastery prepared him mentally to release the masterpiece that was and still is Koyaanisqatsi.

            Koyaanisqatsi is Reggio’s most famous and critically acclaimed piece and the one that I will focus on. The film is considered a masterpiece because of amazing footage and visuals that were way ahead of their time. Koyaanisqatsi was perhaps a precursor to the environmental films, it changed how films about nature were shot and edited. Instead of lecturing at viewers, the film lets the audience make their own informed choices about the material they are viewing.

            In Koyaanisqatsi, there were many wide-angle time-lapse shots. These shots let the audience experience the whole landscape instead of being forced to focus on what the director sticks in front of the viewers face. In the upcoming scene (see giant link below) it is a whole cityscape where there are multiple interesting stimuli to look at. The viewer can decide what to focus on, making the experience different for each member of the audience. It is also important to note again that there is no narration, giving the audience more freedom to choose their own meaning of the events flashing before their eyes. The upcoming scene is also taken with time lapse, meaning that normal mundane events, such as cars driving are sped up and look fascinating.  Lastly, there is the music score. Phillip Glass wrote an amazing score that was played live by a chamber group when it was recorded.  Glass is a prominent American composer who is famous for creating music that can be played live but sounds like it is from a synthesizer because of its trance like properties.

 

Now please watch about ten minutes of the film…. Click on the link below please I believe it is cued up to my favorite part.

 

http://www.ratdiary.com/2008/08/09/the-grid-koyaanisqatsi/

 

             For me the film was looking at mans interactions with technology. The audience is shown a rather congested city that is made to look beautiful. When the cars were flying around entrance and exit ramps, it looks like a blood vessel to me. The music was also pulsing in the background, giving man’s concrete constructs a very real and living identity. I think Reggio was pointing out the simple beauty and interesting form of the human constructed world. It is possible for man’s urban environment to be a place of wonder. I do however believe that under beauty, there is an underlying message that man is becoming wholly dependent on technology to exist; shown by the constant swath of technology shown to the viewer’s eyes.  

synthesis

 Sifting through the other blogs was extremely eye-opening and rather fun!  Especially since part of my assignment was to seek out certain consistencies in the other blogs, which was relatively simple.  Cellphones were a big one as far as  a physical, tangible technology went.  However, there was a broader consistency that could be found in every blog: our connections with technological networks such as the internet.  "Mspagnol" said in their blog that their computer crashed and that they therefore lost all of their documents, pictures, etc.  However, in what way is that essentially different from an office full of files or a household burning to the ground.  The consistency was in the latter part of this blog when they began talking of life without access to these "online communities" and reference sources that we all take for granted when we have them so regularly available to us.  This concept carried over into Dan's post about our addiction to the media, in which he spoke of our immense dependence on media sources of all types, even if they remove us from our immediate surroundings.  So once again it is a removal from where we are to somewhere else, and an addiction to this removal.  Even the out-there interesting blog about the old comics came back to this addiction, except now comic book addicts don't even need to leave home to buy their stories, but can rather buy them from the comfort of their private, enclosed home.  A question I have with regards to all this is what will happen to our ability to communicate with others in person when we are so enthralled with this distant, virtual world? Even grocery stores are beginning to switch over to self-service registers which would mean even less interaction than we have now.  This idea also connects back to what we've been talking about regarding automobiles, and the personal little bubbles that we create to exist with just our media devices.  What will happen to us as a race if we cannot exist where and when we are?

First Hand Experience: Life without a Computer

For this blog, I was going to try to use a technology that is a small component of our lives and one that rarely comes to mind, but due to recent events, I decided to go with the computer. Four nights ago, my computer’s hard drive crashed on me and of course my first reaction was horror. I thought it was the end of the world, having the perception that my whole life was on that computer (luckily I was smart enough to save all my senior thesis work on as USB hard drive). At that moment, everything else going on in my life didn’t matter. I dropped everything I had to do that day so that I could take my computer to Geek Squad at Best Buy to see if there was any way they could recover some of my stuff.  Needless to say, that day was the low of my week.

Now, four days later still without a computer (and with my bank account, probably going to be without a computer for a lot longer), daily life for me really has changed. I know you may think I’m exaggerating, but I never realized how much my own personal computer is part of my daily life. Of course I knew it was a big component of it, but it really not only structured my day, but also my interpersonal relationships. I wrote in an earlier blog on the internet about how people are spending more time with their “online communities” and networks than their immediate community, and while I knew I could include myself in this group, I didn’t realize the extent to which I participate in these online communities until now. So during my free time without my computer, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I wasn’t going to use the school’s computer for my online socializing activities. I found myself going around campus looking for my friends to spend time with, or even doing the unthinkable: getting ahead on my all work. It amazed me how productive I actually was this week and I also felt like I’ve seen my friends more these past four days than this whole semester. While not having a computer allowed me to do this, at the same time, it was hard not to have access to information right at your hands. I Google everything and not being able to have that ability was a real pain. I’ve become so accustomed to having this available to me that I guess you could say I forgot how to rely on my own intelligence and rather on the shortcuts the computer provides us.

Having a semi-taste of what life would be like without a personal computer, our lives would drastically change without computers. For one, our interpersonal relationships would no doubt be different. We wouldn’t have the computer as a distraction and we wouldn’t be a part of these vast networks of connections. At the same time however, removal of these networks means removal of instant information and knowledge. We would have to find new ways of spreading information and maybe without the computer, we wouldn’t be programmed to expect information to be available for us at all times. It’s hard to imagine all of this because in short, life with the computer is the life we’ve come to know and expect.

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