Contemporary Art

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    "The Thick Black Line: Image and Objectivity in Roman Ondak's 'Measuring the Universe'" by Catherine Falls

    “The Thick Black Line: Image and Objectivity in Roman Ondák's Measuring the Universe

    Catherine MacArthur Falls

    As discussed by historians of science Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, visual representations—including, for example, anatomical and botanical illustrations—have for centuries been integral to the production of scientific knowledge. Believed since the nineteenth century to be a more direct and 'objective' way to represent scientific phenomena than the potentially flawed realm of language, such visualizations, they suggest, have historically helped construct generalized 'objective truths' about the complex individual subjects they represent.1 In his 2007 participatory installation work, Measuring the Universe, Slovakian artist Roman Ondák critically and playfully engages with this longstanding relationship between art, statistical or scientific visualization, and human subjectivity. In a gesture mimicking both biological data collection and the quaint measurement of a child in the home, Ondák traced the heights of all exhibition visitors on the walls of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, repeating this action until a unified visualization—a thick black line at the average height of all visitors— emerged from the accumulated measurements. This 20-minute talk will explore how this and other similar contemporary works foreground or interrogate the often-obscured process by which idiosyncratic and infinitely complex subjectivities, and their intermediary data, are converted into clean, finalized visual representations of objective, authoritative scientific knowledge. It aims to demonstrate how, in a subversion of the historical relationship that artists have had to scientific knowledge production, such works reveal the process by which statistical and scientific visualizations construct not only truths about human subjects, but also human subjects themselves. It will argue that the exposure of this process and its role in subjectivity construction are increasingly necessary at a time characterized by a proliferation of infographics and other forms of often unquestioned data visualization.

     

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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    "The Representation of Intersex Bodies in Klonaris/Thomadaki's Multimedia Practice" by Laura Giudici

    “The representation of intersex bodies in Klonaris/Thomadaki’s multimedia practice”
    Laura Giudici

    The core of my research is centered on the body, identity and visual representations of intersexuality. Where medicine and art meet, this topic is inevitably involved in delicate philosophical, social and cultural issues. These images are challenging to the art historian, opening a wide spectrum of methodological questions. From which perspective should these pictures be analyzed? How is it possible to develop a suitable interdisciplinary approach?

    The multimedia practice of the duo artists Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki is a very good example of how these issues can be integrated. Two series of works – Cycle des Hermaphrodites (1982‐1990) and Cycle de l’Ange (1985‐2003) –, are focused on intersexuality, both of which question in different ways the problem of the migration of images and ideas. The starting point for the first series was the famous sculpture of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite and, for the second, an anonymous medical photograph of an intersex person. Using different media approaches, the artists metamorphosed these pictures in many ways, combining them with other elements to create immersive visual and sound environments, thereby evoking links between the past and the present, as well as imagination and reality. The result is a work which not only addresses concerns of gender and (post‐)identity, but also technological, intermedia and interdisciplinary issues related to artistic practices. Another interesting aspect of Klonaris/Thomadaki’s projects is their reflection on an alternative understanding of performance and perception.

    The concept of “Nachleben” as investigated by Aby Warburg and the anthropological approach theorized by Hans Belting seem to offer efficient instruments for analyzing these two series of works. It is nevertheless necessary to combine them with other methodological points of view and the theoretical assertions made by the artists themselves to arrive at a thorough comprehension of their visual world.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge