January 3, 2011

Imaging Energy: Systems, Stories, and Segues

The twenty-plus works in this digital exhibition are the fruit of three months of inquiry into the concept "energy." The word unfolds like a Swiss army knife, with applications in scientific investigations, social relationships, mundane bodily experiences and transcendent spiritual practices. From this welter of meanings, each artist chose something to explore in their work.

Although diverse in concept and execution, their projects can be loosely grouped by approach. Philip Benn, Ryland Cook, Peter Hickock, Kimia Kline, Jon Kuzmich, Mick Lorusso, Fiamma de Montemezolo, and David Peña-Lopera explored systems ranging from physiological to cosmological. Lisé Currie, Lacy Davis, Monique Garcia, Massimo Pacchione, Emilie Puttrich, Anna Rockwell, and Ryan Wylie all included a narrative element, overtly or covertly. Christopher Fülleman, James Galloway, HeoiYun Jeong, Carolyn Martin, and Rachel Weiss emphasized transformation, the segue from one energy state to another.

A word about viewing the exhibition: each artist provided a short text to accompany his or her image. In general, the work precedes the text as you scroll through, but in cases where part of the work is necessarily obscured — as with video that one must click to view or a large installation that could not be fully represented — the text introduces the work. And Ryan Wylie's text is, in fact, part of his piece. In a gallery space it would be posted as part of the installation.

We hope you enjoy the exhibition and welcome your comments. Our thanks to Kimia Kline for designing the site. Additional information about the Imaging Energy course is posted in the "About" section.

December 4, 2010

David Peña: Potential for Darkness

This project was developed as a collaboration with Liliana Sánchez. The work shown here is a first installment, complemented by a different version shown in the exhibition Uncertain Ratio at Imperial College in London.

The initial idea was quite simple: we should propose some kind of black structure that would capture light in a given architectonic space through physical contact with its very source: the lamps. This would explore the energetic dimension of the color black, while also commenting on the physicality of the light sources, objects usually neutralized by the requirements of contemporary functional architecture.

In this installation, black vinyl electrical tape is used to cover half of the total surface of the fluorescent tubes. The average coverage of each tube would be ½, but the deliberately visually complex design is intended to contrast with both the symmetry and regularity of the lamp fixtures (originally intended to achieve an homogeneous distribution of light in the room). In other words, the statistical measurement of the energy is counter-weighted with a non-statistical visual strategy.

In fluorescent lamps, the visible light is produced by the degradation of high-energy UV light into longer-wave visible light. In this perspective, the addition of the black objects would be a second instance of energy degradation to an even “lower” state: radiated heat, also invisible. Some heat is also conducted (even if in an almost symbolic proportion) through the tapes towards the hanging cluster of tape rolls in the opposite end.

December 3, 2010

Ryland Cook

Balancing the human body requires an extremely delicate and complicated coordination of muscular energy. The vestibular (the balance center in our ears), our eyes, our brain and our muscles, all of these parts are responsible for ensuring balance. When even one of these systems is off by the tiniest amount, our balance is compromised. The vestibular is located in our inner ear and houses three small semi-circular tubes, each tube being in charge of a different type of motion. The vestibular as a whole is no larger than quarter and is so sensitive that if it is even one millimeter out of alignment our body will notice.

The project that I have created is an interactive art piece and perhaps more fun, a game. The game is comprised of a four-pointed flat surface that balances on one central point. Any uneven weight placed on this platform will throw off the balance of the piece and everything will come tumbling down. I chose sand dollars to act as the ballast. Originally I wanted to use sand to show that even the smallest fluctuation in placement would upset the balance, but found sand dollars to represent that in an effective way while also being a perfect game piece. The size variation of the sand dollars also provides more interesting placements on the platform as a small piece needs to be out farther from the center-point than a larger piece to offset the weight. When all pieces have been played, the sculpture is complete and balanced.

December 2, 2010

Mick Lorusso: Waste to Light Proposal

The Central de Abasto, in the southern part of Mexico City, is the largest market in Mexico, and has been referred to as the stomach of the city. Fruit, vegetables, meat, and seafood all come into the market in giant quantities, totaling 30,000 tonnes of produce daily. Of course much of the food that arrives also rots, and as a result the Central de Abasto daily produces 500 tonnes of organic waste, which mainly ends up in the landfill. Researchers in Mexico have been looking at ways to put this organic waste to use as an energy source. At the UNAM, the IPN, and the UPIBI, scientists have been developing systems for extracting biogas from the rotting organic matter, while at the UIA they have been working on producing ethanol.

Biodiamond Energy Project:

As an impetus for the construction of a bioenergy plant nearby the Central de Abasto that could supply the energy needs of the whole market complex, I propose to begin a media campaign that involves posters, stickers, pins and educational events. The insignia that I have designed for the project depicts the transformation of organic waste into light via a diamond form, which symbolizes alchemical transmutation and transmission of light. The icon provides the name for the campaign: the Biodiamond Energy Project.

Once the power plant is actually running, each group of vendors that contributes waste to this new system receives an insignia on their stand, indicating that their waste is producing their energy.

Ultimately, the altars they have set up to the Virgin of Guadalupe for the success of their businesses would be illuminated through their contributions of organic material.

Jon Kuzmich

Finite System #3: Blue in Green, Acrylic Paint on Komatex (Foamed PVC), 6 panels, 16.5" x 54.75"

As we learned during the course of this class, energy has many meanings in our culture and can take on many forms. In order to avoid getting completely overwhelmed with the many options one could take, I chose to focus on energy as a force of distortion. As an artist, I create visual systems that act as a metaphor for the fact that our perception as human beings is altered and distorted by our belief in systems that we create. By virtue of this distortion, systems (religious, scientific, political, etc.) change our relationship to the world, manipulate our conception of reality and influence our relationship to the cosmos. In essence, our belief systems keep us confined within a synthetic, human-created world. Therefore, even though I utilize the tools of abstraction and Op-art, I consider my work to be representational because the systems I create alter the perception of the viewer and imply that what we see and what we know are questionable.

The final work I created for this class, entitled Finite System #3: Blue in Green, uses the “energy” of thousands of very tiny blue and yellow dots to trick the eye/brain into believing it is seeing green. Additionally, energy undergoes many transmutations of form and the pattern in this work refers to itself on many levels: the overall work is composed of a pattern that is built by many permutations of itself on a smaller scale. Lastly, the work is an homage to gradients created by gravity: the mightiest form of energy at the cosmological scale.

Ryan Wylie: The Body of Richard Baker

"On October 11th, 2010 Richard Baker collapsed in the emergency room waiting area of Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He was administered pulmonary resuscitation before being admitted into the Barnes Jewish Cardio-Pulmonary wing. He remained unconscious overnight, monitored by a pulse oximeter and breathing only with the assistance of a ventilator. Baker, a technical writer 37 years of age specializing in medical equipment manuals, was initially diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), likely brought about by exhaustion.

After 14 hours of sleep the patient awoke and regained control of his lungs, although his breathing was irregular. Pulse oximeter data showed 85% oxygen saturation (SpO2) with the ventilator and 100% SpO2 within 2 hours of regaining consciousness. The subject's lungs displayed healthy functioning while conscious, with the exception of over-breathing during times of rest. This irregularity was understood at the time to be psychosomatic.

Exhaustion was sited as the cause of ARDS but further interviews and examination on October 12th found Mr. Baker to be experiencing a broader neurological condition, leading to the degeneration of his involuntary responses and eventually autonomic reflexes. Mr. Baker failed a test of monosynaptic reflexes and pupil dilation, before passing both tests during concentrated efforts. The display of voluntary control over involuntary response was anomalous. Upon this finding, Mr. Baker was transferred to the neurological wing of the Mayo clinic of Minnesota for closer study.

A research team led by Dr. Simon Hill, concluded that 13 days after his collapse in the Barnes Jewish lobby, Baker was now under full voluntary control of all monosynaptic reflexes. In addition, he had lost his involuntary epiglottal swallowing response and unconscious lung functioning, rendering him dependent on a ventilator for sleep. Arterial Blood Gas analysis continued to show 100% SpO2. Prolonged rapid breathing episodes with full SpO2 led to an over saturation of oxygen in cellular tissue and a critical imbalance of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Dr. Hill prescribed moderate aerobic exercise to address oxygen over saturation and to reengage the reflexes and lungs.

While jumping rope two days into his training on October 26th, 2010, the subject caught fire, was quickly engulfed and after a period of less than one minute, reduced to ash. Witnesses of this event include Dr. Hill, RN Michelle Davis, and resident Paresh Rana.

Cause of death: Spontaneous Human Combustion.
Correlating factors: Over-saturation of oxygen in cell tissue, imbalance of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and ignition by static flash fire."

Fiamma Montezemolo: Flowing Energy and Stardust

In this installation, I chose to represent the earth through a 1930s globe that takes the shape of a birdcage. The globe parallels evoke both, iconically, the bars of a prison cell and, allegorically, the ‘iron cage of modernity’ described in the early 20th century by Einstein’s contemporary, the disenchanted German sociologist Max Weber. Through this object I wish to express my ambiguous relation to our disoriented and muddled critical perspective as de-centered subjects of modernity. As an artist and an anthropologist, I am keenly aware at how the "Family of Man" often forgets its own sense of relativity, its being just one part of a larger system and flux of energy that ties together 1/ the Sun (here represented through a television monitor tuned on an intense sulfuric yellow color), 2/ its Rays (a five-channel sequencer with special wires that produce waves of light penetrating the globe-cage through 5 parallels I manipulated and opened up in order to let the wires-rays inside the earth, passing through a plant (major and most important producer of photosynthesis and consequently bigger in scale) and finally, but just finally, us, human beings, constantly shifting and modulated figures of Anthropos, represented as very tiny little people walking on the swinging bar situated in the heart of the earth (to give a sense of reduced - not diminished but reduced - importance to our species). This installation is basically a system with several points of intensity (Sun-TV; rays-wires; plant; people).

James Galloway

Inspired by the writings of Wilhelm Reich as they pertain to orgone energy, as well as the cultural phenomena known as the "invisible ether," I decided to focus my attention on the natural energies of San Francisco. Having lived in India and Bhutan, I was greatly affected by the natural energies of those highly spiritual lands. In a constant state of bliss in Bhutan, I had trouble finding that upon returning to the West. Finding my new home in San Francisco, I have reached that state of happiness. Attributing this happiness to a compatible configuration of ley lines, and inspired by the work of Lowry Burgess, I climbed the summit of Twin Peaks to dowse for energy. Twin Peaks for me is my Mt. Mehru, Mt. Kaliash, or even Mt. Jomolhari; though a small mountain, maybe even a hill to some, Twin Peaks provides the city with its source of life. In response to my dowsing readings, I painted Twin Peaks as a void, surrounded by the swirling energetic ether, made from graphite, a material simulating the magnetic realms of ley lines.

Lacy Davis: Yearn To Touch

With my video installation Yearn to Touch I explore human connection and consequent metamorphosis through physical, emotional, subconscious, unconscious, and spiritual approaches. The work stands as an exposition of multi-leveled communication and energetic transformation. I cast a deep yearning to connect as a metaphor for construction of the self and as a conduit for growth.

Ritual and struggle unites the content and becomes a formal stance: a metaphor for both ritual and release. My piece exists not only as a final product, but also as an opportunity to link myself with another via touch and bodily contact. It acknowledges the body as a tool for non-verbal connection and explores contemporary meaning within various modes of communication.

Lise Currie

My work revolves around the seeming contradiction between inner and outer life, which results in materialism, superficiality, and other dysfunctions of the psyche. Reformation, my project for the Imaging Energy online group exhibition, consists of a video and two photographs documenting the surprising transformation of a keepsake. The object seems to be destroyed, but returns, transformed by work and heat. The symbolism is borrowed from the 1st law of thermodynamics—that energy can be transformed, changed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.

Can energy and memory be similarly linked in the idea of transformation—with some things being lost and some retained? In my case, I needed to discard many inherited collectibles not necessary in my life and usurping my needs for space. So many people love to collect these things, collections get handed down, considerable time and energy goes into wrapping, storing, packing, and unpacking them. How much do we really need and what, in my case, would it take to elevate the state of one keepsake to truly symbolize my attachment and leave the rest behind? What happens to people who can’t separate from their things and how does that impact the world and society? This project was an opportunity to examine my relationship to these commercially manufactured items and icons, and their impact. If flip side of love is hate, and creation is destruction: where do our objects exist on that continuum? We love our things while driving the economy and the planet to the brink.

Monique Garcia: Vitality Retainer

The experience of the object lies outside the body’s experience; yet, as the body itself is fragmented, the object comes to function as an extension of the self. The object has the ability to make concrete the ephemerality of experiences that inform the interiority of the self. The leather wallet is an object that carries documentation of our social identity as well as our economic identity, and the material of leather has a relationship to the flesh and age of the body. As a vessel it is an object that stands as a fleshy extension of the body, containing and preserving forms of identity. The wallet plays on the metaphor of energy as money as well as the energy of the food chain made tangible through both animal and human skin. I am interested in the properties of accumulation, duration, and inscription that play in the collaboration between objects and bodies. The wallet is a poignant example of containment of remnants and traces that imply an absent body, as well as the object’s ability to stand in for the body.

Emilie Puttrich: Record of Loss

The human body loses an average of 0.4 oz of skin cells each day. This drawing is a record of this loss from my own body over a period of three days, as well as the loss of other bodily material including hair, nails, earwax, saliva, vaginal fluids, urine, and feces. Within these lines is a record of the evidence of my own existence.

Anna Rockwell

An off hand comment that a student librarian made concerning the book that I was checking out raised my curiosity about the history of the process of checking out books. My questioning led me to discovering the signatures of SFAI faculty members from the 1950s. I scanned each card and compiled six of them, which contained Clyfford Still’s signature. I have titled this piece Still Life, which I think corresponds nicely with a quote by Still himself: “How can we live and die and never know the difference?”

I liked how these collective signatures revealed these artists' whereabouts and interactivity. I began to reflect on the human signature or 'autograph', as an archetypal form of imaged energy. The act of signing one’s own name can be used to acknowledge an individual's presence, to give consent, or to mark one’s authorship of ideas or actions. Human handwriting in general seems to lie on that magical cusp between mental reality and physical actuality.

Thinking about our Imaging Energy class, I wanted to image our collective energy through a similar accumulation of signatures. I decided to use the ones we had already given on our weekly attendance sheet, (so the writers would not be self conscious while writing them). After getting permission to photocopy all of the attendance sheets, I was disappointed with the copied versions. They didn’t seem to resonate with the same authentic ‘aura’ conveying the energy of each individual on a particular day, as did the originals. So I arranged for a trade. After this transaction, I reflected on ‘authenticity’ and the cult of the real. There is definitely a difference between an actual signature and a photocopy of a signature. The former has the person directly behind it, while the latter feels diluted in its energy, its power.

Massimo Pacchione: Tank Momentum

This piece is a metaphorical exploration of mathematics - an invented scenario to determine an absurd answer. In this situation, math and ideas of mass production, play, cooperation and experimentation form a bridge with which to consider the utilization of science to end war. Of course the question posed and the answer derived are clearly faulty, but the questions the piece raises point out the inconsistencies in the education of children and the utilization of science in a society that chooses more often than not to seek destruction over construction.

Carolyn Jean Martin: Alchemy=Energy

Alchemy=Energy. Alchemy is the science of deconstructing and reconstructing matter, turning one element into another, while energy in one form can be transferred to create another form. Elements interacting among one another create energy that is being exchanged and transferred.

The black powder that alchemists created in the 6th Century B.C. is similar to the black powder that I use to capture gesture and emotion on canvas. The three ingredients — Sulphur, Saltpeter and Charcoal — interact with one another, undergoing intense energy exchanges until combustion happens. Heat expands gasses at a rapid rate and produces the effects that can be seen and heard from the powder. What is left is the line I have created. My energy, which created the line, and the energy of the black powder have now become smoke, gas and ash.

I have also used gunpowder on the canvas. Gunpowder is the chemically altered and tightly confined cousin of black powder. Gunpowder burns quicker and hotter than black powder. It is heavier in volume than black powder and leaves more ashes after it has expended its energy. The line it leaves is dark and intense. Black powder and gunpowder are the perfect tool to use for my gestural, abstract expressionist painting style. The direct dialogue that I engage my viewer with is spoken with a gesture that is seared on the canvas. When I use the powder I am left energized, as if I have been part of the energy transfer between the elements.

Rachel Weiss

Woven Bag, part of a larger practice addressing relational aesthetics, employs deep calm colors, a rhythmic weave structure, and an accumulation of bodily imagery (womb, vagina, mouth) to question the divided self, particularly by exploring the enigmatic phenomenon of sleep. Informed by research on changes in energy distribution during sleep, I attempted to capture the way in which the atonic body (rigidly held in position and without muscle control) becomes a mere shell for the wandering mind of the REM stage sleeper whose visual cortex is rapidly firing to create the dream experience. The fact that the dreaming brain (in stages 2 and 3 of sleep) operates at the same hertz measurements as the waking brain, but without the self-awareness of consciousness, explains why REM sleep is often called paradoxical sleep.

This hand-dyed and woven sculpture evokes the exterior of a sleeping bag molded around the human form, yet when the viewer peers inside this shell, the void is revealed; thus, the form and presentation of the bag refer to the paradoxical nature of dreams characterized by one’s ability to separate wandering mind from rigid body in this unique state of consciousness. Further, the sculpture’s reference to cocoon, body bag, or any sort of containing sack from which the essence of the human form has departed address a frequent inability of these elements to cohere in the human experience.

HeoiYun Jeong: BBong

BBong, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2010

According to Isida Hidemi, in the book The body the aura flowing, a body is a fluid and the mind is inside of the fluid. In the fluid, the aura inheres to the mind and as the aura flows all over the body, the mind also flows all over the body, creating emotions according to its state. In other words, the emotions are expression of the state of the body. What I like to do is imagine that my body transforms to another figure depending on how I feel. I felt empty, for example, after I had a shock. I felt as if there was mud in every wrinkle of my brain, so it was super heavy, and my whole body turned into a bubble except for my legs. In my imagination, my transformed body parts turned into a representation of the body aura. And there is just rest of my meat. Where did the aura go?

Peter Hickok: Upstream

My research for this installation developed around ideas of entropy, futility, labor, and equilibrium.  On a base level all life is a structured struggle against forces of entropy threatening to break it back down to its inert state.  Though always fighting against entropy – and always ultimately loosing the battle – life creates levels of equilibrium which allow it to sustain itself and develop over long periods of time.  Popular ideas of catastrophe and entropy are common elements of contemporary thought due to our experience of ecological destruction.  We live in a time where we see and feel the entropic results of our actions.

Unlike popular conceptions of entropy as a chaotic and destructive force, I tend to think of it as state change from one level of equilibrium to another.  This is evident in the behavior of whirlpools where water moves from a stable state to an unstable and entropic state and in the process creates a new behavior based on a new model of stability and equilibrium.  This can also be seen in the idea of Cultural Entropy.  Cultural Entropy is the theory that cultures change over time at an accelerating rate which coupled with technological advancements and population growth create heightened levels of complexity until the culture is unable to sustain itself in a functioning manner.  As it breaks down it reaches new levels of equilibrium as people assimilate into existing or new modes of being.

Christopher Füllemann: Accidanto

Accidanto, 2010, wood, sand, wax, plastic, acrylic paint, polyurethane, latex, 90x90x200cm

The starting point of the sculpture Accidanto is the idea that our history can be seen as an accumulation of different organic components and that each of the layers of the accumulation represent an imprint of different kind of energies that the evolution of nature as well as our civilization create. For that reason, I assembled different forms of pieces of wood and plastic leaves, from bottom to top, creating a fluid elevation. A mix of sand and wax was added as a coat of mineral component and then a large quantity of wax with different layers of color, each color representing the color of the human aura. The use of wax is relevant as a warm, skinny and living material. As the final gesture, I put a balloon filled with foam to accentuate the elevation movement and the contrast with the movement of the gravity of the wax cascade.

This sculpture aspires to expand out of its material limits, to play with the surrounding space, with the different directions that it creates through its abundant colors and shapes. The idea of being physically involved with the sculpture as well as creating an energetic sculpture motivated my creative process. The human scale of the sculpture reinforces that physical aspect.

can be seen as an equilibrium of different ideas. The physical experience of walking around the sculpture and the various proposals of view and movement are its strength.

Philip Benn: Fractal Piece

There is a growing body of knowledge relating to fractal geometry; it defines our world and who we are in terms of growth, form and motion. The currents of energy and the flow of life can be explained and visualized using fractal theory. In terms of rational measurement, the physical and the virtual bodies that fill the space which we occupy and that which is implied by computer simulations, Euclidean geometry serves  well. However the underlying mechanisms and structures appear to be, in one way or another, a function of fractal theory. I can imagine countless lifetimes of research into the mysteries of the emergent properties of this self-similar process of geometrical formation.

Fractal Piece is a video of fractal imagery created by Philip Alden Benn for Meredith Tromble's Imaging Energy class. The visual sequences are edited to Dmitry Kormann's Coral Reef Symphony Part 2.

November 29, 2010

Kimia Kline: The Tyranny of Beauty

 Delicate Creatures, oil on panel, 24"x36", 2010

 Untitled, oil on panel, 24"x36", 2010

 Veiling, oil on panel, 24"x36", 2010

After reading A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History by Manuel Da Landa, I was particularly struck with his analysis of the “circulation of flesh”. This term conjured up countless images of female bodies, reduced to nothing more than flesh to be visually consumed. Da Landa explains that, “the main form of matter-energy flow in the biosphere is the circulation of flesh in food chains (De Landa 104).” This pattern seems to be repeated in advertising, as female flesh is the main form of “matter-energy” flow in media.

In addition to the paintings, I created a small sugar cast sculpture of the female body. This sculpture denies the woman her hands or head, serving to further objectify her. She is seen in a kneeling position, one that is often associated with submissiveness and servitude, revoking her a sense of empowerment or independence. Sugar was chosen as the medium for this casting, as it is a staple of indulgent physical consumption. The sugar sculpture lends itself to the idea that women are depicted as nothing more than “eye candy” and further plays into the notion of consumption and energy flow.