How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood & if the woodchuck is Brett Varga and if the wood is styrofoam?
Guest post by Chelsea Cunningham:
In fall semester of 2012, nine Juniors (including myself) participated in the Junior Art Portfolio Review. The program is required for all art students for graduation and allows for the artist to display their work in a gallery-like setting. All of the art faculty facilitate the event and the general public is free to attend. Each student presents their work from conception to completion and engage in a Q & A from the faculty, students and the public. Each presentation spans about 10 minutes, including the Q & A. The JAPR is held each semester during the school year and goes from about 10am to 2pm on the selected presentation day.
You can get an overview of the JAPR process through the first video on the art department’s home page, here.
There was a very interesting interview a couple weeks ago on Science Friday, with the data visualization pioneer, statistician and sculptor Edward Tufte. As you could guess by that collection of descriptions – from statistician to sculptor, Tufte has thought a lot about crossing boundaries and disciplines. One of the benefits of Arts Education is that it helps students to see connections between disciplines more clearly, a very useful skill in our modern climate of technical specializations, where the idea of “interdisciplinary” studies is on the ascendance.
Tufte specifically speaks to some commonalities between the disciplines of science and art:
“…science and art, at least at a high level, have in common intense seeing, bright-eyed observing and deep curiosity.”
Beyond theory, he mentions a project of his that brings science and art into direct contact, a series of sculptures of physicist Richard Feynman’s diagrams of quantum electrodynamics.
Tufte also talks about a current project of his called “The Thinking Eye,” (a title borrowed from a collection of Paul Klee’s teaching notebooks, with material drawn from his lectures at the Bauhaus). To me, this title speaks to art-making as a cognitive process. One of the reasons art programs get cut in times of lean budgets is that the arts are seen as less “academic” – they are sometimes viewed as breaks from the “real work” of school.
Of course, if art is taught with integrity, it’s not a form of “mental recess,” and not in contrast to “real thinking” – the arts are modes of thinking unto themselves. Tufte talks about trying out a sort of “seeing exercise,” where he deliberately tries to allocate space in his brain to see more clearly. When he’s asked whether seeing better is related to thinking more clearly, he says:
“Well, I sure think so… In some ways, seeing is thinking. The light comes in through the lens and is focused on the retina. And the retina is doing – is pretty much working like brain cells. It’s processing. And then the two optic nerves are sending what we now know are 20 megabits a second of information back to the brain…
And so the seeing right then is being transformed into information, into thinking, right as that step from the retina to the brain. And the brain is really busy, and it likes to economize. And so it’s quick to be active and jump to conclusions. So if you’re told what to look for, you can’t see anything else. So one thing is to see, in a way, without words.”
As an expert in data visualization, of course it’s Tufte’s job to tell the viewer “what to look for” – but this speaks to his integrity as a designer. You have to be able to see what’s really there in order to abstract it in a meaningful way, to make sure you’re genuinely visualizing reality, and not some figment of your biases.
Our world has become more and more data-driven, from the way sports teams acquire players, to the way complicated financial instruments function (or fail to function, as the case may be), to the way weather data is compiled to create models of climate change, to the way companies harvest the information we leave like breadcrumbs on social networking sites. Visualizing and interpreting that data has become a crucial component of navigating our world – doing it well has both utilitarian and ethical ramifications. Tufte implies that artists have an important part to play in that process. Towards the end, he’s asked “Is there data that can’t be visualized well?” He replies:
“Not if you allow artists into the arena.”
The full interview is well worth listening to – you can stream it by clicking here.
Karl himself, in piscatorial attire:
He walked up to one of his pieces, attached a small bellows, and began pumping with his foot.
Along the way to inflation, a few adjustments were made.
The crowd watched the emergence of a green silhouette.
Once the green silhouette was raised to its full stature, Karl produced a poem from his slicker, and read it (the title of this blog post is taken from the poem’s concluding line).
The poem was returned to its pocket.
The performance’s devolution was diligently recorded.
The bellows was used to deflate the inflatable.
Or perhaps the inflatable should simply be called the “deflatable” at this point.
And I’ll leave you with a few more images from the show, both populated an abandoned.
The book “The Things They Carried,” by author and Vietnam Veteran Tim O’Brien, was chosen as a community read at Sierra Nevada College. This short video documents O’Brien’s visit to the university, and nearby Incline High School. The video includes excerpts from an interview conducted by Jason Paladino, a student writer for “The Eagle’s Eye,” the college newspaper, and a story told by O’Brien after a public lecture and conversation with author and Iraq Veteran Brian Turner, director of Sierra Nevada College’s MFA Writing Program. The video was shot and edited by SNC students Nick Cahill and Trevor Jackson, in collaboration with Associate Professor of Digital Art Chris Lanier.
Here’s the full Eagle’s Eye Interview as a streaming audio file:
The full audio of O’Brien’s lecture:
And the conversation between O’Brien and Brian Turner:
Student Nick Cahill has shot and edited a couple travel videos worth sharing. Together, they make for a nice contrast in climates – the top video was shot in Nicaragua, the bottom in Alaska.
Nick has a video production company with fellow SNC student Trevor Jackson – MHMM Productions. Click the link to see more of their work.
Savannah Hoover of the Eagle’s Eye posted an audio interview/slideshow with Russell Dudley and Logan Lape about their Overlook Project at Burning Man. It’s very well put together, and can be found here:
Here’s a short interview with Katie Lewis – her artist’s talk is tomorrow night (9/6) at the Tahoe Gallery. Come by to see the finished work – the reception is 5-7.
I was glad to hear her talk up the Prelinger Archive, a great resource for public domain footage, which I’ve used in tandem with a number of video and animation class projects.