Week 5/ Midterm Blog Entry/ Ariel Alter

Don’t mistake this for complaining, but there always seems to be technological difficulties in regards to the lectures of Desma 9. Professor Vesna struggles to find a computer that is both compatible with her Power Point Presentation and the projector for the larger screen. While the discussion of global warming rages, the auditorium, up until fifth week, was a veritable Ice Age because of a difficult bureaucracy that disallows direct control over the decision to freeze to death. The situation (very mildly) reminds me of the movie clips Prof. Vesna showed us where advances in science and technology work counter to the notion of a utopian society. The movie clips also primarily demonstrate the modernist idea that art is the vehicle necessary for exploring the alienation of the human subjectivity in the face of a technological industrial society ruled by science and rationalism. The movie Brazil is about a man lost in a monstrous bureaucracy, where an innocent man is mistaken for a terrorist and killed because of a small glitch in the system. Modern Times is a parody of a factory withholding the tenets of Taylorism- Charlie Chaplin is devoured by a machine and comically slides through the cogs powering the assembly line. These movies deploy a tradtional dichotomy between art and science. Prof. Vesna exposes this dichotomy. Art has indeed departed from this traditional (modernist) role as an exploration of human subjectivity in opposition to the daunting hyper-rationalist monster that is science.

Prof. Vesna showed us that because of the permeation of an increasingly technocratic society, the boundaries between the purposes and definitions of art, science, and technology are being blurred. Oliver Kunkel, a German artist, presents an ambiguous art/science object- the Mosquito Box. Because of his knowledge of scientific concepts and deployment of advanced technological skill, it does not “feel” like art. It does not feel like art because you literally feel our hand reaching inside a box full of HIV positive mosquitos. Simultaneously, it illustrates a scientific concept and leaves an open-ended question about the extent of human knowledge about HIV. Is it art or is it science? Does it matter?

In science, a molecule is a specific, uncontested idea- a scientific fact. In the animation by the UCLA grad animation student, a black blob resembled a sperm and various other organisms traveling through an unfamiliar (yet familiar) environment, the forms semi-recognizable but obscured by the fact that they were black silhouettes. Though drawing a great deal from empirical observation inspired by science, the piece retains its art form by remaining ambiguous and open-ended. Thus the post-modern interplay between art and science.

My midterm relates to the breaking down of art/science boundaries because Instead of being overtly didactic, its message is ambiguous and begs the viewer/user to ask him/herself- what are the consequences of experiencing the emotions and environment of another human being that one does not identify with in regards to gender, nationality, physical composure, and so on? The user will be provoked to think about this but will not be told a definitive answer.

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