Go on, you know you want to pass judgement

If you’re familiar with David Fincher‘s, The Social Network, adapted from The Accidental Millionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, you may remember the scene where Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, creates Facemash in one evening. [If you’re not familiar with the movie, click on Facemash to learn more about it.] Although comparing women’s level of attractiveness is rather offensive (to many, not all), people do this everyday (yes, break out your Malcolm Gladwell). People are critical especially when there’s a high level of anonymity to the judgement.

OKFocus created ART or NOT, which is a way for you to rate whether something is art or not. Quite honestly, it was challenging for me to rate anything because much of the art experience depends on context. The environment and space around a work is just as important. Or, is it? With so many works of art across disciplines and mediums, anything is art. Right? Well, here’s your chance to pass judgement. ART or NOT allows you to rate works (or non-works) and see what percentage of the population believed whether it was art or not. You will find, soon enough, that you question what you believe and perceive as art. Quite the mental exercise if you ask me. Make it a family activity, if you want to avoid the awkward obligatory holiday conversation, this will definitely be a good discussion topic. Enjoy!

Lastly, Happy Holidays to you! 🙂

Funny how a picture (any kind of picture) is a mere representation. I wrote a couple of posts about perception some time ago. One on eye anatomy and the other on eye anatomy related to mental capacity. So, it was great to see a Calamities of Nature comic strip paying homage to Magritte (and Foucault).

Recently, I had a conversation with someone about new media not being able to escape language, which is one of the reasons why painting is not going anywhere. It’s reliance on the artist’s gesture and capacity to visually problem solve make it an admirable art form (still). An aspect of New Media Art that fascinates me is the dependence on language (yes, programming is language) even if the result is to represent or create something organic looking. I’m working on a piece at the moment and will delve deeper into this topic. For now, I’ll just let you, dear friend, enjoy Ferd and company. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂

All of Rembrandt's Eyes

In contemporary art, it’s not only about the retina, which disappoints a few people I’ve spoken with over the past week (I’ve got a lively post baking in the oven! You will just have to wait and see what I’m talking about). Truthfully, I’m unable to deny the sense of sight being that my day job involves assisting in the oversight of ophthalmic trials, which is quite the interesting parallel to my life outside of the office. Being such an avid follower of the Arts, it makes sense that I’m going to relate (almost everything in my life) to Art. However, recent conversations and suggestions have led me to believe that discussing one topic on a weekly is probably much more effective use of my brain and gives both of us (yes, you, dear reader) ample time to explore topics to have a deeper, richer dialogue.

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Our senses can deceive us, especially the sense of sight. With art evolving and constantly being re-defined, I wanted to start out with eye anatomy, primarily, because it’s the way in which many people engage and participate in the arts. People rely on their sight to give them the data and information required to form a perception. I am aware that this topic can and will go in many directions but I’m trying to create some foundation (more for myself than anyone else). As the week progresses, we’ll see how the other senses come into play. 

In any case, I’ve attached the guide to “How the Eye Sees” (Courtesy of WebMD).

Your Guide to How the Eye Sees (as posted on WebMD)

Travel inside the eyes — our window to the world — and learn how they allow us to see objects both far and near.

In order to see, there must be light. Light reflects off an object and — if one is looking at the object — enters the eye.

The first thing light touches when entering the eye is a thin veil of tears that coats the front of the eye. Behind this lubricating moisture is the front window of the eye, called the cornea. This clear covering helps to focus the light.

human eye

On the other side of the cornea is more moisture. This clear, watery fluid is the aqueous humor. It circulates throughout the front part of the eye and keeps a constant pressure within the eye.

After light passes through the aqueous humor, it passes through the pupil. This is the central circular opening in the colored part of the eye — also called the iris. Depending on how much light there is, the iris may contract or dilate, limiting or increasing the amount of light that gets deeper into the eye. The light then goes through the lens. Just like the lens of a camera, the lens of the eye focuses the light. The lens changes shape to focus on light reflecting from near or distant objects.

This focused light now beams through the center of the eye. Again the light is bathed in moisture, this time in a clear jelly known as the vitreous. Surrounding the vitreous is the retina.

Light reaches its final destination within the photo receptors of the retina: the retina is the inner lining of the back of the eye. It’s like a movie screen or the film of a camera. The focused light is projected onto its flat, smooth surface. However, unlike a movie screen, the retina has many working parts:

  • Blood vessels. Blood vessels within the retina bring nutrients to the retina’s nerve cells.
  • The macula. This is the bull’s-eye at the center of the retina. The dead center of this bull’s eye is called the fovea. Because it’s at the focal point of the eye, it has more specialized, light sensitive nerve endings, called photoreceptors, than any other part of the retina.
  • Photoreceptors. There are two kinds of photoreceptors: rods and cones. These specialized nerve endings convert the light into electro-chemical signals.
  • Retinal pigment epithelium. Beneath the photoreceptors is a layer of dark tissue known as the retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE. These important cells absorb excess light so that the photoreceptors can give a clearer signal. They also move nutrients to (and waste from) the photoreceptors to the choroid. Bruch’s membrane separates the choroid from the RPE.
  • The choroid. This layer lies behind the retina and is made up of many fine blood vessels that supply nutrition to the retina and the retinal pigment epithelium.
  • Sclera. Normally light does not get as far as this layer. It is the tough, fibrous, white outside wall of the eye connected to the clear cornea in front. It protects the delicate structures inside the eye.

Signals sent from the photoreceptors travel along nerve fibers to a nerve bundle which exits the back of the eye, called the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends the visual signals to the visual center in the back of the brain where the experience of vision occurs.

Now light, reflected from an object, has entered the eye, been focused, converted into electro-chemical signals, delivered to the brain and interpreted or “seen” as an image.

"To develop its Neurocapital applications, Acclair implements a fundamental architecture that includes (a) a wearable sensor (consumer brain-computer-interface) communicating with a (b) smartphone (personal application) that send information to a (c) “Data cloud” server (“meaning production” system), which provides the arguments for a (d) progressive reward mechanism used by both individual and institutional entities". ~Photo and text from the Acclair Neurocapital Services Site

As much as I would like to view art as an escape, it’s not. I use my brain (a lot) when I’m looking at art (all types). Of course, I enjoy art yet I’d like to think I glean as much as I can philosophically, psychologically, as well as artistically when attending an opening or a much-anticipated exhibition because it is my hope that a deeper meaning and connection are forged that correlate to my passions. Yet, I’ve wondered, what if my musings and perceptions were to take on some form of currency, would I be hard pressed to return to my day job? Seriously though, even with such a simple act as looking, what if there was some reward? An incentive for looking?

Contemporaneously, art is rather demanding, isn’t it? Even with paintings, drawings, and photographs, there is a higher level of skepticism, processing, and perception that adds to the already multi-layered experience of viewing art. With many genres, cultures, and sub-cultures capturing a myriad of ideas in various forms that already add to our growing lists and categories of things in the world, what if there was a way to evaluate art per the user’s experience? What if there was a way to measure and quantify cognitive processing? What if your brain activity served as an exchange for something you wanted, maybe needed?

With your neural network engaged synapse after synapse regardless of you enjoying or vehemently disliking a work of art, the Acclair Neurocapital Services uses technology to create brain scans of your art experience. Imagine a scientific method that would allow you to see how you process artwork! In turn, helping refine your tastes, allowing you the ability to experience art in a way that is truly interactive, and witnessing the parts of your brain most activated by particular works.

Artist, Luther Thie, partnered with Cognitive Researcher, Eyal Fried, and created the Accalair Neurocapital Services, which involves brain scanning and looks at neurological processes to somehow transform what we see into “biometric currency”. I have yet to put on the brain scanning device but I’m awfully intrigued to see what my scans would say about me, my preferences, or what emotions are triggered. As innovative as the project is, it steps far into the realm of science where beauty and genius become demystified by our collective experiences (i.e., data collection and metrics) and presents a new way of governing ourselves. Yes, I used the word governing because even tastes and preferences can be controlled (Maybe not in the Western world but I’m also thinking historically. Art has been used to govern and/or teach people ideology. I also realize this is a whole other issue so I’ll try to stick to the topic at hand). Imagine if this device were used by people who wanted to see a sampling of individuals intellectual and emotional reactions to some sort of propaganda? I know, crazy thought but just throwing it out there. As much as I admire and see the value in the neurocapital services project, there is a part of me that feels discomfort in seeing my profound love or dislike (for something I may or may not be able to even explain) as a cluster of data. I would, however, love to see the brain scans morphed into a project later on down the line but I’m sure there are other important aspects of the project that have yet to be fleshed out.

Either way, the Acclair project has certainly caught my attention and here’s hoping I get a chance to physically see arts effects on me in the near future.

With the artist’s reception in a large Budget rental truck, accompanied by a performance piece involving libations and black lights, “Proliferations Part 2” was both provocative and engaging. Viewing the show itself meant being escorted by minivan through a security gate to a roll-up-door storage unit, which was brought down once participants had entered. Viewing works in close proximity not only invoked a strong sense of anticipation, but a participatory aspect to the actual exhibition. “Proliferations Part 2” comes from the curatorial collective OFF Space, which is composed of artist-curators Kathrine Worel, Elyse Hochstadt, and Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. The exhibition included works by Alexis Arnold, Alicia Escott, Michael J. Ryan, and Erica Gagsei. The pieces exhibited were constructed from man-made objects, transformed into organic shapes and forms that were then deliberately set against a wooden backdrop.

With their technologically based pieces, artists David Stein and Peter Foucault utilized this confined location to illustrate the dichotomous nature of excess and lack within a space. Michael Kerbow’s Meat Map simulated a pull-down wall map, thus creating a simulacra of memory based on grammar school geography classes.

In comparison, a viewing of “Proliferations Part 1” at Rhodes & Fletcher Wealth Management offices congruently emphasized the various ways in which environment plays a role in our perception and reading of art. Although no special code was needed, “Part 1” required permission in the form of an appointment to view the works. In “Part 1,” there was a clear distinction between art and venue, whereas “Part 2” drew heavily from the environment to provide the viewer context. Artists from “Part 2” palpably incorporated the environment to have each piece function and become experiential. Although extremely different settings, both sites obligated the viewer to engage in a process of perception and valuation. This engaging was as much a part of the exhibition as the work itself, though that might not have been the original intention. Overall, it would be difficult for a viewer to ignore the environment in these exhibitions, as they are so different from the typical gallery setting we have become so accustomed to.

Originally published to Art Practical for Shotgun Reviews March 2010

Photos from Proliferations-Part 2

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