.::..Nicholas Sagan..::. …:.::..artworks and experiments…::.:…nicholassagan@gmail.com

Panel Brainstorming

As part of a class I’m in called Connected Studio Practices (taught by the chair of our dept, Michelle Citron) we are required to present panel discussions at the end of the semester. These are meant to be open to the public and in the past have generally been well-attended by faculty and peers.

Our class has divided up into two separate groups and, naturally, we will be presenting two different panels. One of the challenges each group faces is the deciding upon of a topic that is scholarly viable AND relevant to each panel member’s own practices. The faculty all had input on the creation of each group. This way the challenge of picking a topic is taken to a higher degree…so we’ll see what happens.

Luckily, we are all familiar with each others work for the most part and were able to come up with some through lines between all of our work.

Chip Duggan has recently been addressing the notion of utopia/dystopia through the ego of the artist. Some of his work began as a reaction to Paulo Solari’s Arco Santi and how one man’s vision or ego can cloud the vision of the many. It has turned into an exploration of the artist’s ego as the “dystopic perfection of society” and the unattainable aspects of perfection.

Hale Ekinci‘s work explores the nature of absurdity in relation to memory, cross-cultural language barriers and the embedded connections between seemingly random events.  Her most recent work has been focused on how these topics can be expressed through creative fiction and performative readings.  The through-line from Chip’s work is that the act of recalling a memory actually physically changes the protein structure of the memory (yes, memories are really just the instructions for creating a string of proteins).

Think of a photocopied set of instructions and every time you need to use them you must first make a copy.  As more and more copies are made the instructions degrade and the information can be distorted.  But in effort to correct that distortion you fill in the blank spots or erase some of the toner artifacts.  This process of reconstructing a memory will never yield a true memory and hence the unattainablilty of the true (or perfect, if you want more of that through-line).  The WNYC program Radiolab has a really interesting episode on memory that discusses this.

Laurie LeBreton is a sculptural paper-maker who’s recent Buddha-inspired series evoke a sense of interpretive meditation and spirituality.  In some respect her investigations into the Buddha making rituals of Eastern Asian cultures have informed her general thesis of Popular Culture and Religion, or simply the spiritual by-products or absences in Popular Religion.  In this context we can find that there is a certain “unattainability of the truth” in these larger forms of religion.  Again, it’s almost like the Xerox example where the information degrades as it’s disseminated even more.  As aspects of religion grow to encompass more and more followers, the message becomes diluted more and more to satisfy or accommodate.

This last point may actually be the through line between all of our work…entropy or degradation of truth…

Within my own work and practice there is a relationship to degradation and the attempt to resolve impossible distances or observable scales.  The video abstractions in Before We Were are street lamps zoomed in so much that they are unreadable for what they are…and the last installation piece, Waking the Invisible, was about compressing the scale of something vastly beyond our own and in the process losing bits of information for the sake of representation.  So this attempt to recreate the night sky within a patch of dark matter is an exercise in unattainability because there is no way to show ALL of the information from that scale.

So…degradation of truth…or the entropy of truth…art is the by-product of the entropy of truth?  The process of creating any piece of art usually begins with an idea or some realization of truth.  I think it’s safe to argue that the process of creating art is about recreating these truths, or reinterpreting through the mediums we work with.  Many of the ideas we are working with or truths we are aspiring towards (artist as (im)perfection, nirvana, acquisition of knowledge and reconstruction of memories) are about an unattainable goal whereby the process of working towards this goal yields aesthetic results.  Another way we could put it is that as we work towards these larger ideas/truths, the original truth might degrade but we get art out of the process…so then is our art about the process of finding a lost truth?  Hmmm….

A next step is coming up with resources that support much of this thesis/panel topic.  I think Trevor Paglen‘s writing, Blank Spots on the Map in particular, can apply to an extent because much of his work uses an inversion of surveillance and revealing truth through long-distance observation.  While his writings deal more with the secret government activities there is some relevance to observational scales and the impossibility of truth to some degree…other resources forthcoming…

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