Southeastern College Art Conference

I presented a paper titled “An Autoimmune Aesthetic” in the panel “Visualizing Disability” chaired by Ann Millett-Gallant from UNC – Greensboro at the Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC) at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) a couple weeks ago. Ann wrote a book called The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art that I’m really looking forward to checking out. I’m hoping to continue my work on that paper, so I’m not going to post it just yet…

However, I am going to post some links to other projects I found interesting. I went to a panel called “Stoking Hephaestus’ Fire: Linking Art and Science” and saw some interesting art projects presented.

The artist Matt Kenyon’s talk “Techno-Activism and Inverse Biotelemetry” showed projects from his collaborative work with Douglas Easterly “SWAMP“: Studies of Work Atmosphere and Mass Production. One work that I particularly liked was the improvised empathetic device (i.e.d.). This device worn around the arm, tracks the deaths of US soldiers in the Middle East, oftentimes because of improvised explosive devices, I.E.Ds. The device delivers a prick to the wearer when data is updated. (This project reminded me of Wafaa Bilal’s performance piece titled … and Counting where he had the dead tattooed on his back from the war in Afghanistan. However, in Bilal’s piece, he draws awareness to our lack of attention to the deaths of Afghani civilians; he tracks their losses as well as the US’s.)

The next talk in the panel, “Ut Pictura Scientia: The Studio Lab” given by Shona Macdonald, had many projects! I’m just going to list them here:

Katy Schimert, A Woman’s Brain (1995): investigates differences in the brain based on the separate sexes

Marilene Oliver, I know you inside out (2001): a reconstruction of the convicted murderer who was convinced to donate his body to science, becoming the basis of the Visible Human Project.

Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim, The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef: “a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world.” The project interestingly also involves an appropriation of mathematics in making the crocheted forms.

The next talk was “Leveraging Public Experience in a  Scientistic Approach to the Arts” by Wayne Madsen. He presented his own works, and the one I was most interested in was wiki_panopticon which engages with deleted data that is stored from entries in wikipedia: Art, Artificial Intelligence, Ideology, Justice, Anarchism, Truth, Consciousness, and Tradition.

The last talk was “Printmaking on a Micro Scale: An Art and Science Collaboration” by Al Denyer and Erik Brunvand. This project involved a new technique of printmaking on silicon chips. These are super tiny! Only 300-500 microns large! We’re talking millimeters big. They use integrated circuit manufacturing to make the prints, and it is basically a process of layering metals to create the image.

I thought it was interesting that the approaches to science and technology were so different between the projects. Many of the projects were much more political in their themes whether it be about war and the loss of life, communication and the way data is saved and surveilled, disciplined bodies and biomedicine’s interventions, or environmental disasters. I’m not so sure about the politics of the printmaking on silicon wafers still though; it seems like a more straightforward aesthetic and material enterprise. However I can see a critique of its being problematic in terms of classism (?) – who would be able to own these? What are the conditions of production that make that project possible?

These projects all seem to point to ways that science and technology can both be used and examined in artistic practices. Can we use technology and science in a way that is self-reflexive of its conditions while also talking about something else? Must the artist always need to be aware of the conditions of the material, the technology?

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