Archive for January, 2009

Medicine and Human Body - By Abraham Harn

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This week’s lecture on medicine, especially the part on plastic surgery, made me wonder about what is the right thing to do when it comes to human intervention of nature. Ever since humans started to understand the use of chemicals to alter natural medical facts, different drugs and technology have been developed to change different aspects of life, some for the better and some for the worse. In years to come, we might be stepping into an era where technology will allow us to be physically (or maybe even mentally) perfect. What kind of change in our values would that bring? What effect would it have on the society?

The increasing knowledge of the human body and advancements in medicine and other related technology has allowed us to improve the images that we have on ourselves. Cosmetics industries have been popular and successful, convincing customers (especially female) to cough up more and more money. Plastic surgeries, especially here in Los Angeles, have also grown increasingly popular in improving people’s physical appearance. Is this normal? Is the ability for people to alter their biological facts going to lead us to a better future?

Chemicals that have been developed to help countless number of lives do exist, and have very clearly benefitted the qualities of lives of many people. Medicines such as pain relievers help people function through their daily tasks. What people do not usually know however, is that most drugs either stimulate or promote what our body is already capable of making, such as neuron transmitters. So in a way, this differs from techniques such as plastic surgeries in those plastic surgeries change medical facts of a person.

But is it bad for people to be able to change the way they look? If it means that it will boost that person’s self-esteem or the way other people look at him/her? Certainly not to that person or to people who enjoy his/her “new look”. But a question arise, where do we draw the line? Or should there be a line at all? Several years from now, technology will reach to levels that are beyond our understanding right now. What if besides the improvement in plastic surgery, we are able to say, be as tall as we want to be, or have a predetermined genetic blueprint that’ll shape us into perfectly looking, disease free individuals?

                There are already rules set for certain drug use. Performance enhancement drugs in sports for example, have been somewhat monitored throughout the course of the years, and regulations exist that attempt to stop the use of recreational drugs. But what would it mean for something like plastic surgery, where there doesn’t seem to be a check and balance system (nor is there any reason to have one) to restrict how people want to look?

                Personally I think it’s interesting to think about these things now because science breakthroughs are happening on a daily basis. Soon, we will be able to use the knowledge we have to alter the intended course of evolution of human beings.



By Abraham Harn

Week 4 - Plastic Surgery by Esteban Torres

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Week 4 - Esteban Torres

carverIt is interesting to try and understand human behavior and human reaction, not from the point of view of a person in our society, but as an outsider.  Society has so many strange things built into it, yet we criticize strange things that try to make their way in because we see them as unnatural.  But the fact is, so many things we do are already so unnatural, this can’t be the reason we are critiquing new methods.  The new methods, such as certain types of plastic surgery, are “un-societal.”  I believe that society gets things right sometimes, and gets things wrong sometimes. 

            We do things to change our appearance all the time.  Just today, I went to get a haircut.  Hair does not naturally cut itself.  Someone had to go in with scissors to cut it.  Yet it is completely normal for me to have gone to get my hair cut today.  I changed my appearance – whether or not it was a good change is hard to tell for me.  Anyway, I altered my body and changed my appearance.  The same goes when someone gets their ears pierced.  Or gets a tattoo.  Or decides to whiten their teeth.  Imagine telling someone at the beginning of the first millennium, that some people today pay to make their teeth more white…  Somewhere along the way, society decided that white teeth were more attractive than dark teeth.  But then again, I don’t think this decision was completely arbitrary and just a stupid decision made by brainless society.  Lighter teeth do seem to look better.  But have you ever seen someone whose teeth are way too bright?  It looks really bad.  And people acknowledge this.  I believe people do have a sort of innate sense of beauty, and the beauty that society praises, although it might not be spot on regarding a REAL beauty, it must be pretty close.  I don’t think that it is ALL teachings of society.  There are things that are not beautiful in this society and they would not be beautiful in any other society. 

            Back to the question of plastic surgery, which we spent a fair amount of time on during lecture.  It seems like it is just one more way of altering your body.  It almost seems that if a person criticizes plastic surgery, they should also criticize haircuts.  But when you think about this statement, something inside you tells you that these two are obviously not the same.  Yes, they are both alterations of the natural state, but they are different.  And here is where I think we should trust that natural reaction that we have.  It is kind of like the sort of “sentiment” that Hume spoke of.  I see the face of a woman that has had surgery to the point where she does not look human, and it is discomforting.  But of course, people should be allowed to change their physical appearance if they really want to, right?

            It seems like the answer should be YES.  You would think, well, it is just a shame that they focus so much on their aesthetics and not on other things that might be more important.  But you think that they can change their bodies if they want to; that they are unfortunate to have such obsessions with appearances.  This seems like a reasonable thing: Let each person do what they want with their bodies.

            But then I though, what if one person decided he wanted to get plastic surgery to make his face look like a horrifying monster.  He would simply be doing what he wants to his own body.  But if you think about it, he will be horrifying to a lot of people, to a lot of kids who live in his society.  If humans choose to belong to a society, which is the case pretty much most of the time, there are certain things they actually have to do to not disturb the society.  I don’t know about you, but if I decided the law, I would not allow a person to change his face into that of a monster.  It would hurt too many people round him or her.

Week 4 / Justin Kiang

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This week’s focus on “body” is completely confusing to me.  Some of the videos we saw in class were actually quiet disturbing to me.  In my opinion,  the natrual state of a body is the “art”.  Some people think tattoo, piercing, body modification are “arts”, but I think those are actually destroying the piece of art we already have.

Our obsession with “beauty”, is the main cause of the unnecessary emphasize people put on the so-called “body art” in our society.  People spent so much money on these, and these money could be spent somewhere else more useful.  I think if you buy a sculpture, and most people will appreciate it, saying “oh, what a piece of art”.  But when you spend your half of your paycheck, getting your whole body tattooed, most people will say “oh my god, what a freak.  I wonder what is he thinking.”

I don’t have much time this weekend, and definitey do not want to spend the time that I already lack into something that I don’t have any interest on.

Week 4: Anatomy and Art by Leah Sitler

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Anatomy is a strange but interesting thing.  Humans are always searching to dissect and disassemble in order to understand the way things work.  We see that with the use of math to break down motion and color and nature.  We see that with robotics-trying to recreate from what we know.  Desiring to understand the inner workings of others’ creations.  It is the same with the human body.  There is a constant strive in the medical world to understand why things work, why the brain does what it does.  In Renaissance times, human dissections became public events, comparable to theatre.   

Vesalius was famous for his skills in dissection.  He was a pioneer for hands-on exploration of the human anatomy, and would often encourage people to reach in and feel the organs during the dissections.  

A depiction of a public dissection.

A depiction of a public dissection.


Nowadays, Walmor Correa is an artist who gets his inspiration from biology.  He draws mythical and hybrid anatomical representations, getting his inspiration from evolution theories, taxidermy, and Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical studies.  His art includes anatomical drawings of mythical animals, such as mermaids, but also ways in which the human body can be improved. 


This is an example of the way biology and the human body is incorporated in art.  While the drawings are of nonsensical creatures, they are done in a biological and anatomical matter.  Through art, Correa explores what may one day be possible with science; hybrids and mythical creatures.  He approaches them as if they already existed, on the dissection table in front of him.

Correa says about himself: 

These Hybrid mammals and insects, birds and fish, mammals and birds, mammals and fish point to a whimsical world and represent the taxidermy of a fantastic wildlife that boggles our mind, all the more so because, in today’s world, they are no longer mere artistic hallucinations, but actual scientific possibilities.

For more information about Walmor Correa, visit his website: 

Week 4: Medicine and Body by Michelle Wong

Friday, January 30th, 2009

During class Professor Vensa spent a great deal of time relating medicine and art through the practice of plastic surgery. I used to think that people who used plastic surgery for aesthetics misdemeanor the purpose of medicine, but after watching the video of Orlan, it gave me a different perspective. Medicine is a form of art. The practice of medicine requires accuracy, precision, and according to M. Therese Southgate, MD, the strive to “complete what nature what nature has not.” These qualities are quite parallel to those of an artist.

I believe the movie GATTAC is the work of medicine, technology, and art merged together. The idea that the second a person is born it is calculated when they will die is a bit overwhelming. Mix and matching genes to eliminate the problematic ones and to create a favorable human, otherwise artwork is an understatement of how far medicine has come and the obvious integration of art. Japan, known of its state of the art plastic surgeries, is perhaps the most advance in terms of plastination. Plastic surgery is a reconstructive technique to restore, preserve, create, and express beauty. Perhaps plastic surgery is the where medicine meets art – they both strive for perfection. Furthermore, in Japan ads regarding cosmetic surgery are a common sight. Just as Professor Vensa pointed out, the study of medicine connects to the general public through artistic representation.

Billboard in Japan

Billboard in Japan

From the guest speaker presentation, I found Philip Beesley’s installation to be very interesting and meaningful. I particularly liked the organic battery. A scientific concept, chemical energy from natural reactions, is beautifully incorporated into Beesley’s work. I don’t really know how to look beyond the surface when it comes to art appreciation, but Beesley’s work was a whole new genre. The Hylozoic soil was awesome how it can move in response to the observers’ body heat. I also found the geometric architectural aspect of Beesley’s installation to be very interesting. I also looked at Beesley’s other installations and I found the Erratics Net (stage 2) to be the most interesting. This installation was a net “made with wire joints clamped by sliding flexible tubes that lock each link to its neighbor making a tough, resilient structure.” What caught was attention was that it was able to respond to the surrounding atmosphere. The net is capable of expanding into multiple layers in respond to humid states, such as heavy fog and wet ground soaked in fog vapor. When it expands, each layer serves as the base for the new expanding layer. I really like the sensitivity and the connectivity.

Erratics net 2nd stage by Beesley

Erratics net 2nd stage by Beesley

Since the beginning of this class, I think Beesley’s work has left the deepest impression because it really gave me a concrete example how to express science in terms of art. I really like the standard, geometric structures because it expresses law and order. The interaction that Beesley’s works have with the observers and the surrounding is marvelous. I learned that looking at scientific concepts from a different angle can be very pleasing, and at times easier to understand.

Erratics Net:

By: Michelle Wong

The Art of Robotics by Adam Wyatt

Monday, January 26th, 2009

As technology advances more and more, people fear of it rises.  People fear that it can and will take over the world.  They fear the power that technology possesses.   Many people use art to portray this fear.  For example, the book and later move I, Robot illustrates the fear of robots taking over the world from us.  The robots start off as an integral part of society.  They then develop the ability to think on their own and make their own decisions.  They break their programming and begin to take over and attack the humans.  This is the people’s fear of technology displayed in artistic form of a book and movie.  This, however, does not mean that technology and art are separate, showing possible problems of the other. 

The movie I, Robot uses a ton of new technology for special effects in the movie.   The movie depicts the robots using complete computer graphics.  The technology meets the art form.  The ability to show the book in a graphical way made the movie possible.  The use of technology to do art is the ultimate combination and overlap of art and technology.  The Matrix is another great example of this overlap.  This movie displayed cutting edge technology to make the piece of art better.  The amazing fight scenes could not have existed without the technology.

The constructing and development of robotics is an art form in itself.  To try and make a machine move an act like a human seems impossible, but robotics attempts this.  It is just like a sculpture with a human being as the model.  However, not only does this sculpture have to look like a human, it as have to move like a human.  It also does not only have to move like a human; it has to attempt to think like a human.  This is the artistic attempt of a scientist studying robotics.  A very difficult task that they attempt everyday and are making great strides in.

by Adam Wyatt

Art inspires technology, and technology inspires art

Monday, January 26th, 2009

My mom is a painter who uses pastels.  The medium she paints in requires special technologies in order for her work to succeed.  Because of the field of pastels a special sealant was developed that makes the pastel stick to the canvas.  My mom also extensively uses photo shop to create mock ups of her artwork before she paints it.  In this way different technologies were developed for the purposes of artwork.
I went to a comedy show on Sunday where I saw technology inspiring art.  Throughout the show different technologies were joked about in what is arguably one of the only improve forms of artwork.  One particular joke involved the history of communication where the comedian talked about how a drunk telegram would sound when the telegraph was a major form of communication.  There were also jokes about facebook, as well as many other modern technologies.  In this way comedy and modern technology are inextricably linked.  One thing we have not talked about yet is the affect communication has had on artwork.  Now when someone creates art its ability to proliferate in society has greatly increased.  This allows artists to make a political statement and actually expect to have an influence on the world.  One example of how pervasive art has become lies with YouTube and this video on wall paintings:
<a href=’′ >wall painted animation</a>


Monday, January 26th, 2009

Walter Benjamin claims in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” that works of art have often been reproduced for various reasons. Some of these reasons include educational and monetary gain, and these replicates have been crafted by the hands of men. In this age of mechanical reproduction, however, new technology has made it increasingly easier to reproduce works of art, faster and more efficiently. Of course, the copy still cannot match up to the original in terms of historical value or authenticity.

Douglas Davis claims in “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction” that as science and technology develops, art feels the repercussions of these changes of well. During the age of mechanical reproduction, the copy could still be distinguished from the original, whose value does not diminish due to the existence of a copy. But in the age of digital reproduction, it’s a whole different story. Now, technology is able to so flawlessly reproduce a work of art that it is practically indistinguishable from the original.

The topics discussed in these two articles are very closely related to what we are currently studying in class. Our main focus is to address the coexistence of science and art, and how they affect each other. The discussions in these two articles provide an important insight into the nature of the relationship between science and art. They suggest that although artistic ideas originate through man, the actual creation of art is facilitated by science.

I agree with the articles and think that this is a reasonable conclusion to make about the relationship between science and art. There can be no doubt that the ideas and inspiration for art are found in the minds of men, but the physical appearance and quality of works of art are determined by the level of technology. A good way to put it is to say that science is the tool that makes into reality the artistic ideas that originate in our minds. For example, suppose an artistic or sculptor wants to create a painting or a sculpture. In order to do that, however, the artist needs to utilize pencils to put his picture down on paper. The same goes for the sculptor, who needs materials with which to sculpt his work. These tools are provided by science. And the more advanced that the technology is, the more sophisticated the work of art will turn out to be.

The two articles not only convey that science is the tool that creates art, but they also address specific effects that advances in science have on art. Going back to how easily art can be reproduced now, the point to be made here is that the level of science determines the quality of the artworks produced. Benjamin mentions that the Greeks only possessed two methods of reproducing art, both of which were not very satisfactory. Then, as science developed and we arrived in the age of mechanical reproduction, replication of artworks became much easier to do on a wide scale, although the authenticity still failed to match that of the originals. But in the age of digital reproduction, even that problem is gone. Now the originals and copies are so similar that it is difficult to distinguish between them. This progression of science demonstrates the point that as science develops, the quality behind the creation of art also increases.

Science will probably never be able to “think” up new ideas for artworks, but it does play an important role in the physical creation of art, and greatly affects its quality.

Wen Wu

Week 3 - Stephanie Mercier

Monday, January 26th, 2009

You know when you Adam asked if anybody was in Psychology and was studying vision? Well I am. The last chapter I read in my Introduction to Psychology book was about the senses, mainly vision. Besides describing how the eye processes images through axons and what not the book taught me a few things about vision which I thought were interesting. Like how what we see is not actually what is there. For example, if you look at one light bulb and you look at another that’s twice as bright we don’t perceive the second bulb as being twice as bright. Or when we look at the horizon moon it appears bigger than the overhead moon even though they’re the same size.

Also, there was a picture in the book which Professor Vesna showed in class. It was of a blind man with a device over his eyes and electrodes connected to his occipital lobe. Here the point was that a camera could record what was in front of the man and that information could be sent straight to the occipital lobe for processing. In the lecture however, I think the point was to show how robotics and technology have advanced. Anyway, I thought it was cool that the picture that was in my Psychology book was used in the PowerPoint. I would post a picture but I can’t seem to find it on the internet and don’t know how to copy it from the PowerPoint. It’s on page 33.

Overall, I really liked this week’s lectures because I wasn’t as confused. Many of the topics she talked about such as industrialization and Taylorism I had learned about in my Work, Labor, and Social Justice Class that I took last year. I remember watching the Charlie Chaplin video and other videos like it and laughing, but feeling a little discomforted at the same time because that really is how working in a factory is like minus the comedy. Here’s a classic video from I Love Lucy.

I Love Lucy

Both are a criticism of the components of industrialization such as Ford’s assembly line and Taylor’s theory of scientific management. According to Taylor’s theory of scientific management, work could be reorganized into its simplest components so that a task could be done as efficiently as possible. Along with Ford’s introduction of the assembly line, industry was revolutionized. Workers on an assembly line each did a small task to produce a larger object which made the process of production efficient. The management treats the workers like robots trying to extract as much work as possible from them.

-Stephanie Mercier

Week 3 - F64, Andy Warhol, & “Authenticity” by Diar Nejadeh

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

ansel-adams-yosemiteReflecting on this week’s discussion of Industrialization and Walter Benjamin’s work The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, I turn to two examples of famous works of art and artists to explore these topics.  The use of aperture in photography can be one of the most powerful tools in altering of course the amount of light that enters into the camera, but also the depth of field.  Several years ago in a course on digital photography, my teacher brought up the interesting example of the San Francisco based F64 group.  The group comprised of many different photographers but importantly Ansel Adams, who’s work I use as my image examples. The term f/64 refers to the smallest aperture setting on a large format cameras, which secures maximum depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life. aperture

ansel_adamsThe group used the small aperture in an effort to capture life as seen by the viewer, and this was exclusively expressed in the groups mission statement:

The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image, which is an important element in the work of members of this Group.

The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself.

Obviously F64’s works are not reproductions, but they attempt to reproduce what is seen by the view and many photgraphers utilize tools such as the aperture to alter the depth of field and add artistic elements. aphoto1

Recalling Benjamin’s work, we are reminded of the discussion of “aura” as the sense of reverence the viewer experienes in the presence of “unique works of art.” According to Benjamin, this aura inheres not in the object itself but rather in external atributes such as its known line of ownership, its restricted exhbition, its publicized authenticity, or its cultural value.  The work of an artist like Andy Warhol can be deemed “authentic” by many, but in respects to its method of production, Warhol used a silkscreen method and produced his works in his studio named “The Factory”, a commentary on industrialization:

In August 62 I started doing silkscreens. I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. When Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face the first Marilyns.andy-warhol-marilyn

Andy Warhol used a photograph shot by Gene Kormon for a publicity shoot and in its most literal sense, Warhol’s Marilyn works were altered reproductions of an original photograph.  Much like photoshop today, Warhol altered color to add an element of “Pop Art” to his works.  This example of Warhol’s works is brought to pose he interesting dichotomy of a piece of art that in my opinion is extremely authentic in originality, yet in the words of Warhol, intended to seem mass-produced as if made on an assembly line. 



-Diar Nejadeh