Tuesday, January 8, 2008

new semester.....crunch time


I would like to introduce Dan Flavin, a well known artist who creates works of art using colored fluorescent light tubing. His light works are of a minimalist nature because he utilizes only the simplest materials - light and color. In other words his sculptures are devoid of the usual ways arts of work are framed or exhibited.

Flavin comments on the meaning of his work in this way: ("The Strange Case of the Fluorescent Tubes", article by M. Gibson in magazine, "Art International" 1, Fall, 1987, pl 105:

"It is what it is, and it ain't nothin' else...There is no ovewhelming spirituality you are supposed to come into contact with...It's a sense of a "get-in-get-out" situation. And it is very easy to understand. One might not think of light as a matter of fact, but I do. And it is, as I said, as plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find". An example of Flavin's work is Monument, 1967, as displayed in the image above. One's response to Flavin's work then, will also be of a minimalist nature: that it is what it is - light is an essential element used in art.

Flavin usese commercially available fluorescent light tubes. The modern, simple and uniform lines of his light works add to the minimalist nature of his work.

I feel that this piece speaks to my own practice and my tendency towards minimalist aesthetic, simplicity and artificial light. I consider a lot of my work to be poetic, and the contrast of darkness/light can be easily married to the idea of poetry or the empowerment of a single idea with many posssibilities within that single thought.

I am planning to exhibit my ideas with light boxes. Standing between two illuminated images, one at the micro scale and the other at the macro scale, you can "see" the unseen. You can see the microcosm of the blood cells because light illuminates the tiny cells. Looking at the cosmic phenomena in the macro scale is possible because light is emitted by the stars.

In either case, seeing these images requires that we use our imagination, and believe that what we see through a microscope or telescope is what is truly there - since there is no way to physically be in either microcosm or macrocosm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last update of the first semester

My project will consist of two walls parallel to each other. One wall will display 6 LCD screens configured together to create a larger frame from 6 individual frames. The blood footage will be edited in such a way that the image will exist as one, interconnected through each LCD screen which will take up one portion of what is seen on the final video image. Together they will show the whole image in its entirety. The video will be edited so that the decomposition of the blood is sped up and there is an evident process of transformation in front of the viewer suggesting life, death and the impermanence of living organisms.

On the opposite walls, light boxes will be featured with images of the macro (universe) superimposed with script. The script is intended to be a poetic manifesto of my own contemplation of my experience watching my blood deteriorate and relating my own personal existence and the universe within me, to the universe as a whole (cosmos). It is intention to evoke ideas of the macro, micro perceptions, and how they mirror each other, as well as bring our attention to the surface level that we experience life as human beings.

The project is called "Interiors Illuminated" because of my contemplation of the micro world that was revealed to me at the naturopath's office. I watched he synchronicity of my cells drop bouncing off each other that paralleled the movement of intergalactic bodies in space. At some point while observing my blood, I could see my own health being described by the naturopath: the scientific use - diagnostic tool.

I decided to use the ideas and images because there is an aesthetic, a sychonicity of movement, a life force, and a randomness that can be compared to the greater picture. There is beauty in the forms of the unseen that has been observed by other artists, and have been explored by artists and scientists alike, both in intuitive disciplines.

I am using artificial light and technology to capture the dynamic motion of the blood as opposed to what we see in still photographs. In viewing the mini-universe of my blood,the aesthetic takes form - there is a certain geometry. As well life at this level mirrors interstellar space of stars and planets governed by the same laws of physics. The fluid in the blood allows cells to move around similarly to how interstellar bodies move in the vacuum of space. Then there are the random "rogues" that can be viewed - I could identify a cluser of bacteria floating by and a nutrifil slowly bouncing across the frame.

Another comparison could be a super nova and cancer. A supernova is a star that reaches a critical mass, and all the energy is depleted. The star explodes and ceases to be. Cancer cells multiply, until they overwhelm the body, and the body ceases to be.

In space, there are those intergalactic events that take place. Stars collide, meteors and asteroids hurdle through space to crash into planets, or other stars, galaxies sometimes merge, and so on.

My project is an extended metaphor of things that happen at the macro level. I am viewing the universe within, the unseen universe of my blood. In doing so, there is light and dark, there is impermanence: life and death. Overall, there is a synchronicity and also a randomness that occurs. I seee it in the sample of blood and it exists in space.

This project attempts to capture these ideas.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

December 6, 2007

...Exploring the micro and macro worlds

I am putting together the physical parameters of my grad project. I am attempting to express the processes of life's organisms that includes impermanence, into art, motivated by my experience with the naturopath's visits and technology.

As technologies develop in all aspects of life, including for scientific and medical reasons, I am exploring an organism - the red blood cell - in an artistic realm. The red blood cell has been a subject of inquiry and diagnosis in the medical and biological fields. The idea of this is that in the micro sense, technology has given me an idea to explore the interior of my body. In the macro sense, what are the implications for technology and the body in the future? Another question as an offshoot of this project is: How will art evolve as technology evolves?

This project looks at my red blood cells. This implies the interconnected relationship between artists and scientists. Scientific inquiry and artistic expression. By this imagey to explore the interior of my body is more than red blood cells - it is a visual metaphor for my own biological fragility, life and death.

In framing these ideas within this project, it is called "Interiors Illuminated". Although I am still working out ideas on script, and visual images, that depict my trip to the naturopath, I am becoming clear about the medium of expression I would use - visual images illuminated by light, photography and script in a multi-media installation that features actual footage of my red blood cells.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


One influence in the development of my idea for "Interiors Illuminated" began with discussions I had with John Noestheden, artist and Professor at the University of Regina. John's recent collaborative exhibit at the Dunlop Gallery explored the universe beyond the borders of the earth. His interest in astronomy inspires him to look outward into space. His examination of the macro-level of existence triggered my own contemplation of the micro-level of existence. I have chosen to look at my own blood, from a microscopic perspective.

I wish to convey a message that our blood exists as a living inter-dependent part of our body. It is alive, and remains so only for a brief time if removed from our body. My work will convey this message by showing 3 different video images of my blood, arranged on a timeline that shows its activity when first removed, and 2 subsequent video images of it, as it begins to die, and when it ceases to have life. This will effectively convey a metaphor of birth, life and death. In doing so, I am meditating on the impermanence of my own body - that death is connected to birth. Life itself, then, is a manifestation of impermanence.

In my investigations of the images created at a microscopic level, I encountered the commentary of Martin Kemp in his book, "Seen/Unseen". It caused me to contemplate about the fact that we don't ordinarily think of blood at the microscopic level, just like we don't often think of the macro view of existence from the celestial viewpoint.

At some level, this work will represent a self portrait, but from the microscopic viewpoint.

My work will be viewed on 3 video monitors and will be accompanied by an artist's statement.


Each form of artistic mediums presents its own challenges, and intermedia is no different. Recently, at the very time I was to record the 3 stages of the state of my blood, the video camera link to the microscope failed for some unknown reason. The technology is an old one - a VHS system - and it appears there is a mismatch between the monitor, the digital camera, and the VHS system. The digital camea has some intermittent flickering as well.

My attempt this morning (Thursday, November 22) was to try a new connector. This also did not work. Another problem is that I can only work within the time constraints of the naturopath's appointments schedule, and we agreed to look at this again when he is free.

In the meantime, I am making inquiries to a local medical laboratory to get some footage. They will contact me next week.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The book, Seen/Unseen, by Martin Kemp, has been a great source of information in the process of researching my graduation project.

The journey to the "unseen" or interior of the human body began with modern technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries. The invention of the camera and the subsequent discovery of x-radiography by William Rontgen in 1895, was the technology used for imaging unseen worlds of the interior - the micro view.

The expansion of the use of a variety of rays that lie immediately outside the invisible spectrum has resulted in the common use of medical scans such as cat-scans and ultrasounds as methods of seeing a world that otherwise would be invisible to the human eye. For example, the ability to utilize the electron microscope allows one to see the beauty of cellular structures.

Martin Kemp can be considered a "historian of the visual". He has examined the progress in science and of x-ray photography, and how that led to the 3-dimensional models of such structures of the DNA molecule. He notes that technological machines, or our use of them, allows us to "see" the world of the DNA molecule. Even then, it required a certain act of genius by Crick and Watson (theorists) in 1953, who produced a 3-dimensional model of the double helix. Prior to that it was just a mathematical theory. Crick and Watson turned the mathematical model into a visual representation. Here is where science meets art.

Kemp writes that we can no more "see" a molecule than we can "see" what an insect sees through its multi-faceted eye. The most we can do is to take the data from a particular machine (example: x-ray or electron photography) and use it to construct a visual reality that we can comprehend.

The great advances in electron photography at the molecular level are the result of being able to process large amounts of raw data in high speed computers, and then render a visual image of the "unseen".

It is through this range of technologies that I am exploring my own cellular structures. I will be using a more modest form of imaging by using a high-powered microscope to view the composition of my blood. I am able to view a part of me that would otherwise be "unseen".

One last comment on Martin Kemp's exploration of the Hubble Telescope - The Hubble Telescope looks into the macro world - the universe. The telescope was named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, whose work in the 1920's came to be known as the "Hubble Constant". It is the scientific theory that: "the proportional relationship of the distances between clusters of galaxies and their speeds, and proposed a constant - for the rate at which they are moving away from each other". (Seen/Unseen, p. 241). The telescope is suspended in orbit enabling it to provide us with images of distant planets, without the distortion that occurs from the earth's atmosphere.

Friday, October 19, 2007

An Interest in the Use of Artificial Light as an Artistic Medium

The study of light began with painting and its study and depiction of light from the universe - the sun and the moon. With the invention of artificial light at the turn of the century, there was a paradigm shift from "representing light" to "using" light. The visual world is a world of light, and art has always been connected to the visual and to light.

With the invention of artificial light, it became a sign of the modern world as homes and cities lit up. This inspired artists in the electronic age to develop a new medium - light art. In the 1920's and 1930's, basic sources of light art emerged from new technologies of photography and film.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The following are artists who use blood as a medium in the expression of their work:

Franko B expresses a strong relationship between the body and power. A London-based, multi-media and performance artist, his work focuses on an extreme and powerful expression in his art. He utilizes his own body as a canvas, and his blood as paint to express strong feelings he calls: "the pain, the love, the hate, the loss, the power and the fears of the human condition". Michel Foucault, French philosopher, was also interested in the human body, its history, and how the body is manipulated by the various types of power and social control - that the human body is connected to personal, social and political conflict. He writes: "The relationships of power operate an immediate grasp upon it, they attack it, they mark it, they train it, they torture it, they force it to perform certain tasks, they oblige it to participate in ceremonies, and they demand signs from it". ("Extreme Bodies", p. 30)

For Franko B, the representation of "wounds" upon his body arouses negative reactions and rejection for the viewer to want to flee the spectacle. He states: "A wound obliges us to an almost primitive confrontation and relationship in an era in which we often claim that the image has lost all power". (Extreme Bodies, p. 35) In an image-saturated world, where society is numbed to violence that confronts us in the media and on other levels, everyday, Franko B has found a forceful way to penetrate the human psyche and extracts strong responses to the reality of his work and his message.

I will discuss one of his performance works he called: "I Miss You" held at the Art Live Festival in Turin, 2000. This is an excerpt from Jennifer Doyle in her "Critical Tears: Melodrama and Museums", Nicolas Baume, editor.

"In this piece, naked, covered in white body paint, Franko B walks a length of canvas. He is lit up on either side from the floor by fluorescent tubes, and bleeds from catheters in his arms that hold his veins open as he slowly and ceremoniously walks the length of the canvas toward a bank of photographers at its base. Blood pools at his feet at each end of the "catwalk", where he stands before turning around and beginning his march again. The performance is structured to resemble a fashion show, and the blood-splattered canvas Franko leaves in his wake is used to make unwearable or at least unmarketable haute couture, to mummify household objects, and to make pocket-sized souvenir paintings".

Franko B expresses a great deal of his own personal meaning in his performance as a way to communicate his concepts and meanings. In this particular work, he seems lonely, and the theme of powerlessness comes through.


Stelarc is an Australian performance and multi-media artist who elicits a powerful depiction of hybrid and machine. To quote Donna Haraway (in class notes Senft, Theresa M. "Reading Notes on Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto"), a cyborg is defined in four ways: "The first is a "cybernetic organism"(communication, internet). The second is a "hybrid of machine and organism". The third is a "creature of lived social reality", and the fourth is a "creature of fiction" (virtual reality).

Stelarc has explored the idea of body that interfaces with machine/technology to become a hybrid of both - a cyborg. He considers the body as an ideal host for "insertive technology" - using his body to insert a range of mediums that include systems such as the internet, robotics, medical prosthetics, etc. He filmed the interior of his body (the Seen/Unseen theme). He performned with a robotic arm that operated through nerve impulses from his own body. He suspended himself above a street in New York, suspended by skin hooks. Like Franko B, Stelarc uses his body as a host, in this case, to insert technological devices in his performances to express the idea of "cyborg". His work is an exploration of the technological possibilities of the body plus machine. Stelarc's explorations probe themes about how humans may be able to alter, repair or redesign their bodies in the future. He also suggests that we need to think of the future of technology and design, and which directions and controls we should take - at the very least, to begin the discourse that explores those ideas.

Stelarc has this to say: (taken from his website)

"Bodies are both Zombies and Cyborgs. We have never had a mind of our own and we often perform involuntarily - conditioned and externally prompted. Ever since we evolved as hominids and developed bipedal locomotion, two limbs became manipulators and we constructed artifacts, instruments, and machines. In other words we have always been coupled with technology. We have always been prosthetic bodies. We fear the involuntary and we are becoming increasingly automated and extended. But we fear what we have always been and what we have already become - Zombies and Cyborgs".


Istvan Kantor is a Canadian performance artist (live art), and multi-media artist. He also uses blood as a medium for paint, like Franko B, although Kantor improvises and also uses "pig blood". His performances, called "The Blood Campaign", were a series of performance and art works displayed and accompanied by electronic music (sometimes ear-piercing and unbearable). The whole of this "subcultural network" was youth-oriented and began in the 1980's. He referred to it as "Neoism". Like the word itself (neoism), his art is "packed with contradiction and abstraction, but Kantor presents it in a way that bypasses the intellect and appeals directly to the body." (Self repreenting Artists Magazine, April 2005)

Kantor's work expresses a dystopian reality of technology. Like Stelarc, Kantor also explores ideas around "cyborg", but in a more dark way suggesting that technology is a double edged sword - it can free us, and it can imprison us. Like both Franko B and Stelarc, Kantor's work has elicited negative reactions (he was arrested several times for his blood art). As an art of a subculture, Kantor's themes have radically challenged the mainstream culture and symbols of authority - institutions of law, education and politics.


Paul McCarthy, a multi-media artist, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1945.

Review of Video: "Destruction of the Body", (Films for the Humanitieis and Sciences, 2004)
Paul McCarthy's video was provocative to say the least. He is interested in film because it can depict action, and he likes representation. McCarthy speaks about the mediums he uses in his performances, and in this film they are liquids such as motor oil, and packaged foods like flour, milk, chocolate, mayonaise (represents sperm/mucous), ketchup (represents blood). He says he chooses these products because they are commodities of the consumer culture he grew up in. He uses his body in conjunction with these products, both as a canvas and as a paintbrush. In her featured performance, "Painting Face Down White Line", he crawls along a surface using his face and body as a paintbrush to paint a long, white line.
One theme McCarthy explores are the icons and myths of "utopian idealism", for example portrayed in Disneyland, and its subsequent "negative conditioning" to children who grow up idolizing the characters. This video features his performance as "Pinocchio" - the liar. Much of his work is shocking and he pushes the limit to express the dark side of American culture.
McCarthy uses the idea of blood in a represented form - "ketchup". He differs from the other "blood artists" by representing blood, and he differs from my project, that examines my blood at a cellular level.