My first assignment for my Conceptual Strategies class is to research three artists that are intersecting art with science, technology, and culture. One of the first artists I thought of was the Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. He’s a photographer and sculptor that creates mixed media pieces made from everyday materials to recreate iconic masterpieces or pop culture imagery thereby re-exploring what those images may represent in our current settings. One example of this is the documentary he did titled “Wasteland”, in which the artist travels back to his home country to document the largest garbage dump in Brazil and the people that pick through it looking for recyclable items. During filming, Muniz found himself shifting the focus of the film away from his artwork and on the individuals he was working with. Throughout the film, the artwork begins to reflect not only the culture of the people who pick through the garbage, what motivates them to live this kind of life, but also to how wasteful we as a society are. He creates these massive pieces where he begins with a photograph of either just the picker going about their business, or a recreation of a famous artwork with one of the pickers as the model. Then he projects the image onto a large canvas where it is then recreated via actual trash taken from the dump. He then photographs the final piece. The project reflects how many view these people as “trash” in how they chose to live their lives in actual trash, almost like its the visual representation of “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure”. The ecological messages that shine through his work on this project also evoke an emotional response of revulsion at the mountains of garbage they swim through, and when they are done, the amount that was easily recycled is equally as revolting. A perfect example of Muniz’s work for this project is his recreation of the Jacques-Louis David’s painting “The Death of Marat”, seen here:
The film also documents how Muniz’s project effected each of them, some of them seeing beyond the dump for the first time ever in their lives.
Another artist I thought of was the street artist known as JR. His medium of choice is photography, but his installations are out in the streets. He views the world as his own personal art gallery, which presents a defiant question about the exclusivity of how art is more conventionally accessed by the masses that can afford to enjoy it. His projects focus on how art can be used to start a dialogue between cultures, and how art can be capable of triggering political action in how it is presented. His one project titled “Face-2-Face”, is extremely powerful in its message of how historical hate distorts perception. In this project, which was a highly illegal and extremely dangerous feat to create, involved large portraits of Palestinian and Israeli, who in pairs do the same thing in life, being pasted together side by side on both sides of the wall that separates the cities as well as throughout the cities in the area of the wall. None of the images are marked as to who is from where, which presents the simple question to the viewer: “Who’s is from where? How can you tell?”. All the images evoke thoughts of how we in reality are all the same, that we all talk the same and at our very basic core are human beings that are allowing a distorted perception of “differences” build walls between us. Here is an image of how the images along the wall were laid out:
For my third and final artist, I did a Google search for “artists working with technology” to find someone I may have not heard of before. I happened upon an article on Make, which is an online magazine that focuses entirely on making things. The Maker’s Faire that happens here in SF every year is featured on the site. The article I found didn’t interest me, but a link to another article on the site did, which led me to the kinetic artist Anthony Howe. His work involves the “mechanical complexity” of wind turbines as sculptures. His metal sculptures are immensely large, in that they designed to withstand at least 90 mph winds, and when in motion are like watching a steel kaleidoscope in action. Complex in their intricate layouts, the patterns he creates move and flow like water in a stream when air flows through them. He provides videos of each of his pieces in motion for viewers to get lost in, one of which is here:
Its as if the sculpture is breathing and swimming at the same time. His work is simply hypnotic to watch, sensual in how it moves, and soothing in its gracefulness. Through the scientific principals of how kinetic energy works, he is able to design artworks that embody those principals with a visionary elegance.