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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Behind the Scenes of Brett's BFA show "Bring Ya Lunch SNC"

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood & if the woodchuck is Brett Varga and if the wood is styrofoam?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Zines at Holland project

Monday, February 4, 2013

JAPR Fall 2012

In fall semester of 2012, nine Juniors (including myself) participated in the Junior Art Portfolio Review. The program is required for all art students for graduation and allows for the artist to display their work in a gallery-like setting. All of the art faculty facilitate the event and the general public is free to attend. Each student presents their work from conception to completion and engage in a Q & A from the faculty, students and the public. Each presentation spans about 10 minutes, including the Q & A. The JAPR is held each semester during the school year and goes from about 10am to 2pm on the selected presentation day.

You can get an overview of the JAPR process through the first video on the art department's home page, here.

Art Thought

There was a very interesting interview a couple weeks ago on Science Friday, with the data visualization pioneer, statistician and sculptor Edward Tufte. As you could guess by that collection of descriptions – from statistician to sculptor, Tufte has thought a lot about crossing boundaries and disciplines. One of the benefits of Arts Education is that it helps students to see connections between disciplines more clearly, a very useful skill in our modern climate of technical specializations, where the idea of "interdisciplinary" studies is on the ascendance.

Tufte specifically speaks to some commonalities between the disciplines of science and art:

" and art, at least at a high level, have in common intense seeing, bright-eyed observing and deep curiosity."

Beyond theory, he mentions a project of his that brings science and art into direct contact, a series of sculptures of physicist Richard Feynman's diagrams of quantum electrodynamics.

Tufte also talks about a current project of his called "The Thinking Eye," (a title borrowed from a collection of Paul Klee's teaching notebooks, with material drawn from his lectures at the Bauhaus). To me, this title speaks to art-making as a cognitive process. One of the reasons art programs get cut in times of lean budgets is that the arts are seen as less "academic" – they are sometimes viewed as breaks from the "real work" of school.

Of course, if art is taught with integrity, it's not a form of "mental recess," and not in contrast to "real thinking" – the arts are modes of thinking unto themselves. Tufte talks about trying out a sort of "seeing exercise," where he deliberately tries to allocate space in his brain to see more clearly. When he's asked whether seeing better is related to thinking more clearly, he says:

"Well, I sure think so... In some ways, seeing is thinking. The light comes in through the lens and is focused on the retina. And the retina is doing - is pretty much working like brain cells. It's processing. And then the two optic nerves are sending what we now know are 20 megabits a second of information back to the brain... 

And so the seeing right then is being transformed into information, into thinking, right as that step from the retina to the brain. And the brain is really busy, and it likes to economize. And so it's quick to be active and jump to conclusions. So if you're told what to look for, you can't see anything else. So one thing is to see, in a way, without words."

As an expert in data visualization, of course it's Tufte's job to tell the viewer "what to look for" – but this speaks to his integrity as a designer. You have to be able to see what's really there in order to abstract it in a meaningful way, to make sure you're genuinely visualizing reality, and not some figment of your biases.

Our world has become more and more data-driven, from the way sports teams acquire players, to the way complicated financial instruments function (or fail to function, as the case may be), to the way weather data is compiled to create models of climate change, to the way companies harvest the information we leave like breadcrumbs on social networking sites. Visualizing and interpreting that data has become a crucial component of navigating our world – doing it well has both utilitarian and ethical ramifications. Tufte implies that artists have an important part to play in that process. Towards the end, he's asked "Is there data that can't be visualized well?" He replies:

"Not if you allow artists into the arena."

The full interview is well worth listening to – you can stream it by clicking here.

"Landscapes Mythology" Gallery Opening Thursday, Jan. 31st: Visiting Artist David Semeniuk

     This week, the gallery hosted Landscape Mythologies, an international collaborative show. Featured artists included David Semeniuk, Christine Nyugen, Oscar Lhermitte, and Mike Ruiz. Here are some images from the opening:

     David Semeniuk came to Thursday's opening to talk to us about his two pieces: a composite photograph titled "Landscape Permutation 2" and an installation titled "Mechanical Weathering 1".

     Semeniuk grew up in Alberta, Canada. His photography practice partially responds to influential Vancouver-based photographers. During his talk, he referenced artists such as Jeff Wall and Thomas Roof. He seemed interested in the way these artists changed the functionality of photography as a medium. Semeniuk reflected on photography by highlighting its unique quality in the way that "no other medium is so temporal". It lacks a passage of time: it can only represent a moment in time. But, in contrast, it sustains and lives through time as an object. Relating to time, Semeniuk referred to his interest in representing liminal spaces through photography. His piece "Landscape Permutation 2" features two photographs of fenced landscapes compiled into one cohesive image. The notion of compilation forces the viewer to deal with a push and pull between time, space, and context.

     His installation piece, "Mechanical Weathering 1", includes 1500 6"x4" black and white images put together to create one large piece. This piece functions in a unique way: Semeniuk gives the curator, (in this case Logan), the chance to arrange the 1500 images instead of arranging them himself. The size of this piece is intended to confront the viewer and force a realization that the work inhabits a part of the gallery that isn't normally used. The fans blowing onto the piece represent the idea of weathering, and Semeniuk's investigation into the relationship between photography and time. The fans "weather" the images, and even blow them onto the ground, changing the piece as a whole. Over time, these images become "permanently modified" and in Semeniuk's words, become a "frozen representation of process". 

Photos by: Justin Carella
Text by: Maggie Newman