Sculpture for a possible future

Ashley Zelinskie works in a future where we have reached the singularity and machines live on par with humans. Her work examines the way machines and humans view the word differently and how works can be made that can be appreciated by both. Her laser cut and 3d printed objects are covered with hexadecimal code which, in the simplest sense, allows both human and machine to observe the object – if a computer were to read the code it would ‘see’ the object.

There are some interesting questions within her work around how to teach machines to see art, how to give them an appreciation of the subtle, the non-logical. But I’m not sure where the work goes from there? If this future she imagines is not reached then does the work become less? If machines do become able to read the work does it lose it’s place as an artwork and become utilitarian? What is the value in machines being able to appreciate art? Is it an attempt to make them understand the human experience? Why would they need to do that?

There are also some questions for me around the use of laser cut and 3d printed materials to produce work that has meaning beyond being an aesthetically pleasing item. I love the aesthetics of her work, but being seduced by aesthetics is an easy trap to fall into. I feel like the use of these new technologies is a very tricky area thats more complicated than, say, the use of fabricated works by the Minimalist sculptors, because it’s such a seductive method that allows the maker to easily create things that would have previously required intensive labour. But like Adobe software doesn’t necessarily create good design, a method like laser cutting doesn’t necessity make good art and, as artists, we need to be careful of being seduced by new technological methods unless our work specifically requires use of those methods. It seems to work for an object that can be appreciated my a machine to be machine-made, but what if it was handmade? What would that mean?

An Overly Optimistic Take on Our Post-Human Existence

http://www.ashleyzelinskie.com

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From left to right: Ashley Zelinskie, “Octahedron” (2014); “Dodecahedron” (2015); “Icosahedron” (2015), all 3-D printed nylon, various sizes

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Golden Ratio 2013, 6.5″ x 4″ x 1″  3d printed gold plated stainless steel

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Ashley Zelinskie, “US Hexahedron” (2013), laser-cut aluminum, 5’x 5’ x 5’

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Pre-seminar Inspiration

Yolunda sent me some things to get me motivated before April seminar. All of the quotes in this article were great, but my two favourite are below:

“Creating a non-purposive, free space in which to play and have fun is essential. You can tell when you are looking at art that was a drag to make: it’s a drag to look at.” Carol Bove on keeping things clever yet playful.

I love this quote because I’ve seen it so many times, both in myself and in the work of others. If you had absolutely no joy in the creation and it was nothing but a boring and painful birth then that is how it is experienced by everyone. I get caught up in making sure my art ‘works’ or it’s read how I want it to be, or it’s going to be something that other people will ‘like’ instead of just making it, enjoying the process and seeing what happens.

“Stop making ‘art’ and start making your work. […] It’s so easy to make things that look like art, act like art, get sold like art, yet in the end aren’t really art, but are phantoms, mere commodities, or quantifiable digestible sound bites.” Stephanie Syjuco, on staying clear of Zombie Formalism and finding one’s own path (see Have Art Fairs Destroyed Art? Zombie Abstraction and Dumb Painting Ruled in Miami).

Another piece of advice I find so incredibly relevant. I struggle with the feeling of whether I’m making ‘art’ or not when that is actually totally irrelevant. If I’m researching and thinking and creating, then I’m making my work and that’s what is important. The truly amazing work comes from a place of honesty (is that cheesy?) and is unencumbered by the second guessing and worrying that goes into trying to make ‘art’.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/top-12-artist-tips-for-a-successful-career-283277

The hexagon appears in the nests of bees and wasps, in the faceted eyes of insects, in different kinds of skin, shells and skeletons, in footballs, in the paving stones of Barcelona’s Passeig de Grácia… A circle encompasses six others, equal and tangential to itself. When they are compressed the interstitial space vanished and the hexagons emerge: the hexagon paves.”

Wagensberg, J. Fontcuberta or the investigation of the intelligibility of forms in Fontcuberta, J (no date) Twilight Zones. Actar. (no page numbers)

Lisa Reihana – Digital Marae

Lisa Reihana’s project Digital Marae is an ongoing conversation between the traditions of Maori marae carving and weaving with the use of digital techniques to create a modern visual language that honours the Atua and creates a space in which they can exist in a form outside of time on a continuum of past present and future. A digital marae with digital tukutuku panels, digital poupou, a whole digital wharenui.

Her large, singular portraits of import Atua are reminiscent of the carved poupou that hold up the roof, and the placement of her images plays around with conventions of both gender and importance of ancestors, determining their place within the wharenui.

In Devenport, R (ed) (2009) Digital Marae; Lisa Reihana. New Plymouth, New Zealand: Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Reihana talks about the spiritual foundations of the marae and how she creates a welcome space within the wharenui by acknowledgement of the ancestors through the sacred karanga song;

“The karanga creates spatial form as the hosts and guests move through metaphysical zones of engagement.” (interview with Devenport, R. No page numbers)

The use of image, space and sound create an immersive installation space. I saw these works in Australia and found the size and luminosity of the works very powerful. There was a relationship between the atua and the human viewers through bodily connection – in my minds eye they were slightly larger than human, giving them an imposing otherworld quality. I appreciate the emergence of the figures out of the primeval darkness, the strong chiaroscuro effect and the richness of the colour and texture. I have always have an aesthetic fascination with the single figure portrayed in this way. They become a symbolic icon of an idea or archetype. It interests me how the Maori word ‘Atua’ is so similar to the word ‘Atu’; the term for the Tarot Trumps. Both are symbolic images that represent an archetype. I also see relationships to the work of Miria Kalman in the digital weaving; bright digital light, acidic, non-traditional colour, non-natural depiction of the weave.

There are certain Maori words I have picked up through my reading about Reihana’s work that I love;
ihi – powerful presence
wehi – awe
whare wanaga – house of esoteric learning

For me the images from Digital Marae with the most ihi are the 2 images where the Atua is facing front, is gazing at the viewer and has very little obvious digital manipulation.
Mahuika depicts an Atua who dwells in the underworld. She is fooled by the trickster Maui into giving him the fire that she carries at the tip of each finger (these powerful figures always seem to fall prey to the trickster!) Her dress smokes and runs with the lava of the underworld and her powerful gaze burns the viewer.

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Dandy shows a rather otherworldly figure, dressed in the garb of the Victorian gentleman, who engages with the viewer directly. He is a representation of takatapui (the closest western term would probably be transgender or non-gender). Rhine wanted to recognise and honour this section of Maori society by including them in the esoteric ancestral pantheon.


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Devenport, R (ed) (2009) Digital Marae; Lisa Reihana. New Plymouth, New Zealand: Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

Curnow, W. Leonard, R (ed) (2010) Unnerved: The New Zealand Project. Brisbane, Australia: Queensland Art Galllery.

Smith, H. (ed) (2007) Taiawho II: Contemporary Maori Artists. Wellington, New Zealand: Te Papa Press.