Eminent art historian Leo Steinberg, in an essay written in 1986, asks whether art and science necessarily need to be yoked.1 He spotlights the gifts of DaVinci’s cultural offerings as a case in point. For Steinberg, “unlike his surpassed scientific work, Leonardo’s artistic creation is unrepeatable, like the life of the man.” For Steinberg, the yoking of art and science remains a skeptical pairing. However, in an age of accelerating pixels and bits and bytes, images are both computational output and aesthetic barometers. This combination of laboratory life and imagery allows the visual artist to forge ahead into the conceptual intersections of liminality, ambiguity, and new representational spaces, which in turn form the epistemological underpinnings of the new hybrid “poly-disciplines” combining visual culture and the bio-sciences. Innovative, if not radical, perspectives become available.2
As an example, my sculptural series Remote Sensing refers to new digital technologies that can picture places that are either too toxic or inaccessible to visit. Using state-of-the-art satellite data, remote sensing apparatuses are employed to computationally create images of such spaces. As an extension of digital photography, these images garner information electronically in order to bypass onsite investigations. The fabrication of my Remote Sensing (2015-2017) series begins with two-dimensional digital photographs, which are converted into three-dimensional virtual models using a technique called displacement mapping. The resulting files are employed to fabricate physical objects using a 3-D printer. The software program determines the deposition of variegated color applied to the structure as it is being printed, one layer at a time. Dark areas are extruded less than bright colors, keeping in tune with the ways in which pictorial spaces are perceived.
These micro-landscapes offer the viewer a top-down topographic experience assembled by zeros and ones. In these rapid prototyped sculptures, forms become numbers, and numbers become form. Such computational methods of image-making are not merely technical exercises. They forge alternative ways in which opticality can be expanded. The software program is an alternative eye. Akin to early forays into the instrumentalized techniques of the microscope, 3-D scanning devices register topography. In my work, I transfer such a technique to object-making. The data generated in these objects come from still life sources that I set up in my studio. The components range from flowers to vegetables to geological specimens, creating a mix and match between organic and inorganic aspects of the world around us in its variegated hues and unique natural formations. Each configuration of these works takes the geometry of a circle, inspired by Jules Petri’s glassware dish, and crosses the divide between the disciplines of art and science.
- Leo Steinberg, “Art and Science: Do They Need to be Yoked?” Daedalus: Proceeding of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 115, no.5 (Summer, 1986): 1-16.
- Suzanne Anker, “Biofictions and Biofacts: Staking a Claim in the Biocultural Bank” in Anker and Talasek, eds. Visual Culture and Bioscience, Issues in Cultural Theory 12, 2008
Suzanne Anker is a visual artist and theorist working in New York City.
Beyond the Janus-Faced Typologies of Art and TechnologyBy Charlotte Kent
JUL-AUG 2022 | Art and Technology
This column aims to focus on art that engages technology as a medium or a topic. We live in a digital culture and I have found that I better understand the technologies I use, as well as what to reject, in no small part through the thoughtful efforts of artists. Ive grasped the subtleties of coding and computational design by hearing about how artists struggle with it. Ive reconsidered the history of art because it suddenly seems so strange that the last five hundred years of creative practice could be presented as if these artists were not responding to, discussing, and adopting technologies ranging from perspective, gross anatomy, printing, navigational charts, biological categories, camera obscuras, trains, electrification, photography, moving image, and here we start to get into the more recent technologies that are so easily disdained: television, computers, the internet, social media
A Word or Two on Art and TechnologyBy Charlotte Kent
MAY 2023 | Editor's Message
The words we bring to art intend, at best, to translate the perceptual realm into the linguistic, anchoring sensation through definition. But, as we all know, that often doesnt occur. The well known essay, International Art English by Alix Rule and David Levine skewers that premise, as does Tom Wolfes The Painted Word (1975) nearly forty years earlier, and a decade before that Susan Sontags Against Interpretation resisted languages simulacrum of art. So on, down the line. And yet, words also serve to support, promote, highlight, associate, and adore the art they describe.
Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary ArtBy Charlotte Kent
DEC 21-JAN 22 | ArtSeen
The curators, Tina Rivers Ryan and Paul Vanouse, focus their broad agenda through four themes: the use of digital technologies for passive (but not always effective) surveillance, how identities are shaped by technology, the erasure of marginalized communities, and the active reassertion of control.
fiveBy Álvaro de Campos/Fernando Pessoa, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Patricio Ferrari
JUNE 2023 | Poetry
Álvaro de Campos is a heteronym created by Portugals greatest modernist writer Fernando Pessoa. According to Pessoa, Campos was born in Tavira (Algarve) in 1890 and studied mechanical engineering in Glasgow (Scotland) though never managed to complete his degree. Orphaned at an early age, he embarked to the East in his early 20s where he became an opium addict, much like the Portuguese symbolist poet Camilo Pessanha (1867-1926). Back in Portugal, on a visit in the Ribatejo province, Campos met Alberto Caeirothe literary master of Pessoas fictitious coterie. A dandy and flaneur, Álvaro de Campos read Blake, Whitman, and Nietzsche, among others. In his own day he was celebrated and slandered for his vociferous poetry imbued with Whitmanian free verse rhythms, his praise of the rise of technology and polemical views on the industrial civilizationalso attested in manifestos, interviews and essays. Some of his most notable works such as the Ode Marítima [Maritime Ode], Ultimatum, and Tabacaria [Tobacconists Shop] were published during Pessoas lifetime. Fernando Pessoa didnt end Camposs life, so that this heteronym would survive his author who died in 1935.