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deFACEment

March 19, 2017
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Collaborators: Carlie (Yutong) Zhang and Anastasis Genmanidis

Above:  Sketches made in Processing and later translated for OpenFrameworks.  Theses gestures were based on our original sketches that we did by hand. Currently, these sketches are being drawn at the ‘discretion’ of the computer. Above:  Anastasis controlling the X-Carve with Python commands through Terminal.

Above: (left to right) sketches with robot testing positioning, example of code from Processing, polystyrene sheeting which cracked under stress of the drawing machine (this was later replaced with vinyl which gave it a proper amount of spring).

Above: Sketches made by robot through terminal with more control.Above: (left to right) Rhino model of pen holder, fabricated pen holder with 3D printed and lasercut parts, pen holder drawing (showing spring mechanism from the side)

Left:  Facial recognition of camera running in OpenFrameworks.  Camera recognizes drawing area with the QR code in the bottom right corner of the drawing.  We used OFX_Aruco and OFX_FaceTracker to recognize face and drawing plane.Above:  Bot running smoooothly.

Programming Process

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[Final] Conversations in Punk: Art within Intellectual Climate Change

March 19, 2017
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-Abstract:  The workshop will be an open symposium on art, art movements, and cultural paradigm shifts.  We will look at art work and the context in which it was made.

Details:  The workshop will examine three pieces of art, each in someway tangentially related to one another.  Each art work will be discussed for the length of one 45 minute session.  Slides will be used to show the artwork.  Within the slides will be other ideas, artworks, and images that I have curated to frame the 3 pieces being discussed.

-Limited to 10 Participants

-Requirements:  Come with respectful openness and a willingness to engage others in conversation.  No prior expertise are necessary.

Link to SURVEY form for feedbackAbove: Slide 1 of my workshop.

Above: Sampling of images, ideas, and technologies which informed the intellectual climate in which ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergere’ was created.

Overview:  The workshop started off a bit shaky.  I had presented a series of individual slides and a final slide showing the curated images all together.  At first, it definitely felt like a lecture and not so much like a symposium.  I went through each slide and was asked by the group to explain each image.  Even by the time that I got to my last slide of the collected images, I felt like I was doing most of the discussion alone that I was hoping would be done by the group.  The ideas which I hoped would come through with the collection altogether, I realized after would have maybe been easier to grasp or form if I would have done more easily digestible pairings of ideas.  In short, I should have taken a slower walk-through the images and the ideas that they invoked. I should have started with couplings being discussed first and the group of images and it’s general idea being discussed last.

The other thing I realized is how hard it is to get a group of individuals talking openly about a foreign subject.  After about 20 mins or so, the symposium quickly diverted away from the slides and moved on to topics of personal interest and relevance.  It was then that the discussion became interesting and disagreements started to happen.  The conversation started with Art, moved on to Art versus Design (and Craft), then to Technology as a catalyst for intellectual changes in perspective, and finally to what is art and what constitutes art.  In the end we all agreed that it was intent that constituted something to be art.  The conversation became more interesting at moments of self reflection and our approach to person work, what we make, and how we define ourselves.

In truth, the images were purely there to prompt discussion.  I was more than satisfied that conversation was taking place even though we weren’t talking about the slides specifically.  Often the slides functioned as supportive images for making claims about individual ideas.  I found that to be really successful.  I also think that people really learned from each others perspectives.  I don’t think we always agreed, but we definitely expanded our approaches to ideas for future discussions.

Critique/Advice:  The exercise was hugely informative in how  hard it is to teach and how to think on your feet.  My ideas didn’t come through in discussion liked I hoped.  I should take my group through the ideas in the slides slower in the future.Above: Symposium in process…Above: Sampling of images, ideas, and technologies which informed the intellectual climate of the ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ by Marcel Duchamp.

 

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Newtown 2050

March 17, 2017
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Collaborators: Marina Zurkow, Nick Hubbard, Rebecca Lieberman

Newtown 2050 is a project originally started by Marina Zurkow, Nick Hubbard, and Rebecca Lieberman.  The project started off as a post-naturalist project examining Newtown Creek, a U.S. Super Fund site which has been heavily polluted over the last century.  The original project was a walking sound tour concentrated on the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, a park located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  The sound tour was intended to be a artistic platform to make the creek and its history more accessible and engaging.  This project and it’s potential engagement has expanded.

I was brought on to make a VR piece examining a possible future Newtown Creek in the year 2050.  We asked ourselves, what kind of bottom-up interventions could reclaim the creek from industry and what types of ad hoc participation could clean up the creek and mitigate further damage?   I will make a physical printed map that will allow us to survey with QGIS.  We will take this survey map around the creek via bike to talk to workers and locals from the area and “map” unquantifiable information and collect data from marginalized communities.  The second part of the map, is to make an interactive 3D map of the space that shares the same data from the physical survey map.  I plan on using either Tangram by Mapzen or Unity with Mapbox.

 

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Mapping

March 6, 2017
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Assignment 4: Practice with Mapbox and QGIS.  Below is a map of North Carolina, the state that I grew up.  The above maps are two screenshots of the swimming pool landscape in New York City.  The left is Greenpoint.  The right is an area in Staten Island.  I wanted to see if swimming pool data would correlate to wealthier areas in New York.  The proxy data illustrates more about cultural values than socioeconomic demographics.Assignment 3:  Moves App Data… I didn’t have an interesting enough life so I took a trip to fire island with help from geojson.io.Assignment 2:  Newtown Creek Zone marked with leafletjs functions.  Newtown Creek is a SuperFund site located very close to my home.  It is a toxic waste area which the government is working to clean up.Assignment 1: The tip of Greenpoint, coordinate points [0.7294091,-73.9530581,16z].

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[Final] Conversations in Punk: Art within Intellectual Climate Change

March 5, 2017
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Above: Possible webpage for course information on museum website

Theme:  The course is intended to examine the intellectual climate around a specific art piece.  The art piece will be examined intensively in reference to other artworks, music, literature, culture, politics, and sciences of and around the period in which it was made in order to frame the choices the artists made with the execution of their piece.  Courses will also examine the piece’s importance within the larger conversations in art.

Objective: The course is meant to be an introductory level course that will teach participants to look at art and become more visually literate for certain themes and ideas not completely transparent for all audiences.

Who: Every month the course will be taught and curated by a guest artist or art historian.  This expert will be encouraged to engage topics of interest to them and to stimulate conversation in areas of interest to the workshop participants.  Experts will be required to examine work in relation to topics of music, literature, culture, politics, and sciences; not art alone.

Duration: Each topic would last one month.  The consecutive month’s topic would be roughly based on the art, artists, or ideas presented in the previous course topic.  The courses would be tangentially related and participants would be encouraged to return for next workshop topic in the following month.  The topics would not be focused on a timeline.

Setting: The workshop would take place within a private gallery space.  The gallery would be curated and organized by the guest expert.  The expert will be allowed to select any number of pieces from the museum collection (not currently exhibit) to be viewed and discussed with the workshop participants.  The expert will also be encouraged to bring in auxiliary material which can be presented as they choose within the gallery space.  Within the gallery would be a large oval table to sit at most 15 people.  This is where the symposium style discussions would take place led by the instructor.

Feasible Alternative:  Since the above is my dream workshop, I propose an alternative to my workshop.  Instead, I propose a workshop broken into 3 sessions.   The sessions would be similar to my MoMA museum workshop I did last week.  Each session would focus on one art piece.  I would bring a series of slides with art, music, literature, culture, politics, and sciences to examine the piece being discussed.  I will chose 3 pieces of work which are tangentially related to each other in order to keep cohesion between sessions.

Below: Possible survey questions to improve workshop

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Mycelium 3D Printer

March 1, 2017
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Instructor: Stefani Bardin || Collaborators: Kadallah Burrowes

We propose to make a gantry-based additive manufacturing robot (ie. 3D printer) which extrudes fibrous nutrient material that has been inoculated with mushroom spores. We propose a digital fabrication technique that is more sustainable and environmentally responsible.  We hope to implement the mycelium 3D printer in fabricating a bee hive out of mushroom material.  The digital fabrication process will allow us to test and study the type of form and architecture which can be design to deter mite infestations in bee hives.  We are looking to the research of Paul Stamets who has been experimenting with certain types of mushrooms and their attributes to prevent mite infestations in hives.  We hope to see if architectural form and materiality can be used to in tandem to prevent mite infestation and colony collapse of bee hives.

Rough project schedule

Paul Stamets

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Gym Bunny

March 1, 2017
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Within gay culture the gym has become a sacred site.  It has become a holy ground of immense tension for men and their potential partners. The gym is the place where one goes to build themselves into a commodity to be devoured.  Men go to the gym to prepare for courtship; however, more importantly, it is also the site of many courtship rituals.  Within the intoxicating air filled with testosterone, sweat, and body odor, glances are exchanged, compliments are given, and flirtation is provoked.  It is the place of vulnerability, empowerment, potential, and release for those whom for most of their lives have been unable to explore their sexuality.  To see and to bee seen: the atmosphere of the gym is not unlike the atmosphere of a bar or club.
A dumbbell atop of a fur pedestal.  The dumbbell itself, slowly inching along the pedestal surface moving from one end to the other to complete its necessary set of reps.   It grunts and releases its moans of exhaustion with every effort.  What is the dumbbell alone?  What is the dumbbell now as it is prostrated across fur?  What type of conversation is created between these two subjects?  The dumbbell has now become a sexual object and we are the voyeur participating in its seduction.

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[Museum Exercise] Conversations in Punk: Art within Intellectual Climate Change

February 27, 2017
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Partner: Franklin Zhu

Franklin and I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) this week.  The two of us each researched pieces that would allow us to do our workshops.  His workshop on technology in art and mine on art in context.  Franklin chose to build his work shop around Teiji Furuhashi’s Lovers and I chose Dieter Roth’s KarnickelKottelKarnickel (Bunny-dropping-bunny, published in 1972).  After viewing Teiji Furuhashi’s piece, we had a conversation about the work, the technology used, and why the specific technology (rotating projectors) was appropriately used.  Franklin had a really interesting take on technology in art.  For thesis, Franklin is making a dragon with technology which speaks a lot to the idea of technology and is mysticism.  As our discussion continued, we realized that the column of rotating projectors which Furuhashi used to create his phantasms is the equivalent to Franklin’s magic dragon.  There is a magic to technology in art and that magic occurs when technology is appropriately used and consequently no longer matters.  Technology becomes magic when only the poetry of the piece is important.

Above: Photos from the Teiji Furuhashi Lovers exhibit MoMA 2017

For my workshop, I chose Dieter Roth’s KarnickelKottelKarnickel which was part of the exhibit, ‘From the Collection: 1960-1969’.  I had randomly chosen the piece that I liked from the MoMA website that was indicated as currently being exhibited.  Little did I know, ‘From the Collection: 1960-1969’ was actually doing something really similar to what I was trying to achieve with my workshop.  The exhibit had work from art, architecture, and design spanning the whole decade and a bit after into the mid-70s, all displayed within the same gallery right next to one another.  The variety of work exhibited together created conversation between pieces and seemed to allude to the zeitgeist of the period.Above: Screenshot from the MoMA website exhibition page

For my workshop I brought a series of slides on my iPhone that I felt contextualized Roth’s process and approach to the creation of KarnickelKottelKarnickel.  Within the slides I included work Roth created before and after 1972, work from paralleling art movements of the time, historical events around 1972, and art that has been created since 1972 that seems to be in conversation with Roth’s work.  My workshop contextualized in a different way than the MoMA exhibit.  The exhibit indirectly contextualized through a general sampling of works from that period, whereas my presentation tried to contextualize a singular art piece through the work, thinkers, and events of the time.

Above: Slides from my iPhone slide show

After seeing and presenting within the exhibit, I wonder what parts of my workshop and what parts of the exhibition were done well and what could have been done better.  I really like the idea of zeitgeist in relation to the “intellectual climate” that I proposed for my workshop.  To me they run parallel to each other.   I think that my workshop would have benefited by having other forms of intellectual work: music, design, architecture, poetry.  Including other areas of creativity was something that I had spoken about in my original proposal, but had left out due limited research and an inaccessibility to experts in these respective fields.

Above: Photo collage of display cabinet with art, objects, posters, and garments from the late 1960s.  Dieter Roth’s KarnickelKottelKarnickel is displayed on a white shelf with other pieces.  

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Soft Robotics Material

February 23, 2017
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MaterialConnexion had a large collection of soft conductive filament/ink which could be embedded or affixed to soft surfaces.  I am interested in how these soft circuits could be used with silicone casting methods to create silicone objects with new material properties and performance.  Embedding the conductive circuits within the silicone could create more structure and less elasticity in areas of the silicone membrane diversifying the silicone functionality.  I wonder if it is possible to also embed actuators  or other rigid components to build in mechanisms otherwise usually adhered to the exterior surfaces.  I’m not sure if I will will use these materials for my future projects.

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Bees as Superorganisms

February 15, 2017
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The recent conversation of microbes and our symbiotic relationship with bacteria has sparked a new ideas for my interest with bees.

For some beekeepers, a bee colony is not to be seen as a collection of individual organisms but as one single organism.  Within a bee colony each bee has an individual tasks that lends to the health and success of the hive.  With in a bee colony there are bees to breed, nurse, build, guard, and forage.  Each bee with it’s specific task can be compared to an individual cell within an organism.  The set of collective bees given a specific task can be compared to an organ within an organism. Given this analogy, honey harvesting is a destructive practice, which requires beekeepers to break into the collective organism, disrupting internal functions, weakening organs, and threatening the survival of the hive.  After harvesting honey, beekeepers must wait weeks before they can harvest honey in order to allow the colony to reach a state of healthy equilibrium. Very clearly, the relationship bees have with other bees in their hive is is very different than the relationship we have with the microbes in our bodies.  If we were to make any comparison between the two systems, I would say that our bodies function more similarly to a hive not a bee (at this scale).   

Bees are dying all around the world from bacterial disease, viruses, and parasite attacks.  Parasitic mites contribute greatly to the spread of bacterial and viral diseases within and between hives.  Maintaining and keeping hives clean of mites is the only current way to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and keep bee hives healthy.  

I would like to investigate the architectural form and materiality of the hive.  Is it possible to treat the hive as a living organism?  Could the walls and structure host the necessary microbes to stabilize or augment the affects of the disease causing bacteria or prevent parasite from inhabiting the colony?  Can a mycelium material host these types of microbes necessary for a healthy bee colony?  

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Conversations in Punk: Art within Intellectual Climate Change

February 13, 2017
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I went to the Whitney this week, but I wasn’t able to attend the offered courses.  instead, I went to their online archive to look through the types of courses they are and have offered in the past.  The Whitney currently offers 3 courses, Decade in Focus: Painting in the 1980s, How to Look, and Crash Courses.  I really liked the Whitney’s approach to their offered curriculums.  It seemed to me that the Whitney Museum was focused on the idea of contextualizing art and artists within art movements throughout history.  

The idea to (re)frame artists within certain movements and ideas of the climate of the artist’s time really resonated with me.  It brought up this idea of conversation as a way for learning that I had discussed in my previous assignments.  Contextualization functions within this idea of conversation.  Conversation is not just the physical act of holding conversation.  Conversation is also the exchange of ideas between thinkers and umbrella-ing concepts that influenced them within the political, social, and scientific climates of their period.  

Above: A screenshot of the courses provided at the Whitney Museum currently.

 In my second assignment, I imagined my ideal curriculum for high school would have been a course load which was shared and exchanged with classmates through non-competitive labs and symposiums.  For that assignment, I believed that a holistic understand of learned material was necessary for exploration and the development of new ideas.  Science is not without Art and Art is not without Science.  Many of the greatest scientists were poets and vice versa.  For me, I think that is also true for understanding art.  So much art is pluralistic and references a multitude of ideas in a single instance.  All to often, we hear art discredited by those who claim to be capable of the replicating the same technique, but rarely do people understand the novelty behind the idea embedded within the work.  

Above: A rough sketch diagram of a potential course on Keith Haring and his Orbits of Influence.

My course would be structured around artist retrospectives or art movements.  It would not only teach students how to look at art visually by understanding visual language that the artist uses, but it would also examine the artist or art movement in reference to other ideas of the time.  For artists we would examine orbits of influence: mentors, inspirations, those they influenced, poets, musicians, science, politics, as well as the type of canonized art forms that were accepted at the time.  For art movements, we would examine paradigm shifts within canonized ideas, how certain artists functioned as catalysts for those paradigm shifts, and how those ideas influenced other areas of political, social, and intellectual thought.  

Courses would be a series of ongoing weekly tours focusing on a different artist or movements.  Tour guides/ instructors with visit current art on display or current exhibits happening at the Whitney.  The tour guides would bring a catalog of work reference with them as research material for the students.  The catalog could be physical documents, other artwork, biographies, or a slide show with relevant content.  

Above: Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1865.  The stoic, matter-of-fact gaze into the onlooking viewers eyes caused outrage within the art community of the time.  It was a pivotal moment in subject matter within art history.  Who influenced Manet?  What conversations did he engage?

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Leaving a Mark: I Was Here

February 13, 2017
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in XYZ
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Above: Hand Paintings found in Cueva de las Manos is Santa Cruz, Argentina, 10,000-38,000 BCE.

Leaving one’s mark in a place and time has been an intrinsically human act dating back for millennia.  As civilization developed, the act of leaving one’s mark became a form of defacement as other forms of creating were quickly canonized within society for their inherent utility (i.e. architecture, crafts, poetry, etc.).  Graffiti street art and tagging became a tool for leaving one’s mark and claiming territory within public space, but operated outside society’s laws of property ownership.  Graffiti, the modern form of leaving one’s mark, became a destructive taboo within inner cities.  

Above: Keith Haring, Untitled,  1986.

Many artists have looked to graffiti, street art, and materials often used to deface public space as constructive tools for reclaiming space, creating a public message, and/or questioning society’s values.  Our group wanted to explore this idea of leaving one’s mark, not as a destructive force, but as a constructive act.  How does the process of leaving one’s mark invoke new ideas or add to previous content?  What does it mean to give a robot the ability to leave its’ mark and create or deface when most robots are designed to assist or streamline human performance and ingenuity.  We hope to give a robot character and a sense of humanity through the act of leaving one’s mark.

Above:  Selection of work by Dan Colen. Untitled, Chewing Gum, 2008.  No Sex No War No Me, Spray Paint Installation, 2006. Untitled (Vete al Diablo), 2006.

Using computer vision, our group will make a ‘draw-bot’ that examines and then augments portraits by drawing/collaging with other materials directly on top of the images.  We chose drawing on portraits because we see it as the ultimate act of defacement and the area for a robot to exhibit the most human character as it sketches in response to our physical features.  Does the robot now have an opinion?  Do the resultant drawings provoke the idea of preference or disgust?

Above: A selection of drawings made as a quick group exercise exploring the idea of defacement as an additive process.

 

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Bat

February 8, 2017
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Collaborators: Chester Dols, Jordan Frand, and Ariana Vassilopoulou

Violence can be both oppressive and liberating.  Violence is often viewed as a oppressive action that is a primitive response to dissatisfaction; where conversation and negotiation are the desired first steps for civilized response.  However, with marginalized groups, conversation is a privilege that they do not have.  Sometimes violence is the only way to start conversation and spark change.

This piece comes form a personal place of being victimized as a gay male.  I wanted to examine my experiences but also open the conversation to solidarity.  From what I have seen, it is rare for marginalized groups to stand together and for each other for basic civil rights.  Often, the lack of identity between certain group is exclusionary and leads people to believe that their cause is not the same cause as other minorities.  

Through the object of a bat, we pose a number of questions.  What is the significance of the bat?  What are the affects of inaction? Passive action?  Who holds the bat? and when the bat is held, what is it’s function?

Left: Arduino code for our initial swing tests with accelerometer sensor.

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Vertical Gardens

February 8, 2017
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Above: Vertical garden architecture and axonometric section of Kowloon City.

The Farmbot sparked a few interesting questions for me.  Upon first seeing it in XYZ (Ben Light’s class) and now in Biodesigning the Future of Food, I see so much potential in the the farming process not only along the X-axis and the Y-axis, but also the Z-axis.  The concept of vertical farming has been a fascinating speculative subject for architects and urban designers.  Without the available square footage in urban areas, the only way to farm is to move vertically with layers of compact crop fields.  I always imagined these vertical gardens through the lens of Kowloon City.  How could we co-exist within  intersecting green spaces with a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals?  Can a hybrid urban environment develop and be sustained?  Can we provide an infrastructure that a lots for more ecological niches?

I found some discussions on the idea for vertical farming.  Within the sea of vast support for vertical gardens which seem to function more for spectacle than for speculation, I found Anderson Ruben, a sustainability consultant from Canada.  Ruben asks “But at what cost?” to the idea of vertical gardens.  He argues that all methods of vertical gardening and many “sustainable” systems required the use of non-renewable resources to be realized.  He proposes the idea of extraction when we consume and make.    When things are extracted from a system, they are removed, unable to be returned which is unsustainable.  Non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels, are inherently extracted resources, but what happens when the system that is supposed to be sustainable requires more energy to make and sustain than it is capable of pushing out? 

Anderson Ruben’s Website

Below: Vertical garden warehouse and an aquaponic garden diagram which gets plants nutrients and energy from other organisms.  These organisms then receive their nutrients from the plants in one ‘closed’ system.

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Fairy Character Development

February 6, 2017
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The character below was one of three characters I developed in Fuse.  I played with the mesh geometry in Maya to give the characters special attributes, mainly horns an other aesthetic adjustments.  After working with the characters and re-exporting as a fbx, I imported the characters into Unity to troubleshoot the translation between the programs.  The imported mesh textures got a bit confused.  The characters I made are clothed, but I am unsure if I want clothing.  If I do not use clothing, I will need to figure out the texture mapping in Maya to complete the skin areas which Fuse censors.

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Curriculum

February 5, 2017
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I had this amazing teacher in high school, Mr. Beuschlein.  He was my “teacher” for physics and calculus, but was much more of a mentor than a teacher.  In class we never really seemed to have a syllabus.  We would maybe do 20 minutes of work on the ‘subject of that day’ and then quickly move to tangential subjects and labs for the rest of the time.  We always learned what we “needed” to learn for the class, but more importantly, we saw how everything fit together.  We would talk politics, art, science, literature etc; you name it we discussed it.  I was really quiet back then. I would sit and listen to the others in my class, often in admiration of their passions and the eagerness of my teacher to encourage them with conversation.  Everything seemed interconnected.  We might be talking about electromagnetism at the beginning of class, but by the end, we were looking into similar forces in biology or chemistry, deriving relevant formulas, and if we had time, quickly researching relevant applications of the subject before class ended.  I don’t know if our class structure was intentional or if Mr. Beuschlein was easily distracted; regardless, the structure of his class is one that I wish was applied to all my classes during high school.

In retrospect, high school was the time for exploration and discovery in ourselves.  We didn’t know what we wanted to do before high school, and few of us knew what we wanted to do when we graduated.  Mr. Beuschlein’s class facilitated this necessity of self exploration.  

Extending the practice of how I learn (from the previous assignment), I would like to create a curriculum that is based on the idea of conversation/communication as a necessary practice to obtain knowledge. Critical conversation and critical listening between students, instructors, and subjects will be encouraged to promote exploration into hybrid fields of interdisciplinary practice as they move into their junior and senior year and (hopefully) college. In theory, the program will provide the language, tools, and applications necessary for conversation, collaboration, and sustained engagement.

The course structure will be based on a 10 class periods, centered around daily symposiums with practical labs. Symposium and lab will count as 2 courses leaving students with 8 classes chosen based on individual capacity and curiosity. Out of these 8 courses, students will be required to take 4 humanities courses and 4 math/science courses for balance. In these symposiums and labs would be cross disciplinary discussion and research. It is not necessary for instructors to have knowledge in all areas of study. Instructors will stand in as catalysts for conversation and curiosity. Symposiums and practical labs will take place between 10 students with similar and dissimilar classes. Their will be no hierarchy between participants. Students will explore tangential subjects through conversation and be encouraged to ask all questions they see relevant.

Prerequisites will be based on a course to course basis. For example, students interested in taking courses in calculus ii, must have previously completed calculus and before that, pre-calculus. Students interested in taking higher level courses in any respective subject must take the necessary foundation courses for that subject or show a capacity of competent knowledge.  (Physical wellness will be explored through after school extracurriculars.)

The main objective is to prepare students to approach the world with a cross disciplinary, collaborative practice, and to encourage lateral thinking between subjects in order to inform independent, unique ideas. Students will learn together and though each others’ interests, not limited to the scope or constraints of what offered courses can provide.

Above: David Altmedj, ‘Wave’, 2011, Plaster. I like David Altmedj’s approach to making. His work always seems to question process. His pluralistic approach to making creates opportunity for new forms and ideas. Is this a painting or a sculpture?

Above: Inspired by the idea of a semi-lattice, symposiums and labs would provide a more holistic way of learning and a pluralistic approach to problem solving. What one student can’t learn alone, they can learn through conversation with the group.  Diagram should be read bottom-up.

Full Disclaimer, this is not a fully developed idea.  It is a proposal on how we could restructure education and our approach to knowledge.  The courses offered are not fully developed nor is the scope to how this would be accomplished.  

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The body and mind are inseparable….

January 31, 2017
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In  Proust was a Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer explain’s that science and art are not independent of each other.  Lehrer says that for Walt Whitman, the “body and mind are inseparable….  This is Whitman’s central poetic idea.  We do not have a body, we are a body. Although our feelings feel immaterial, they actually begin in the flesh.”

Extending this idea of Whitman,  I reimagined the relationship of the mind to the body at the scale of a larger ecosystem.  I placed this claim, that the mind and body are one, against the field of synthetic biology as it was presented in the New Yorker article, A Life of its Own, by Michael Specter.  Synthetic Biology, is not a new field, but with the advancements in genetic research the field is breathing new life.  The infinite possibilities of augmented DNA sequencing for many scientists and corporations promises possible solutions to many of the world’s problems, ranging from a cure for hunger to cures for disease.   Many of these solutions address the immediate future, but few lack the vision to project how their work will affect the world for generations to come.  The seduction of this technology worries me.   In the article, it seems that Specter hints to the notion that we should be skeptical of the promises this technology makes.  Genetically modifying crops to produce more artemisinin, a reliable natural ingredient for fighting malaria, seems to have great promise, but it does not come free of any consequences.  Doing this would make the medicine much cheaper and more readily available for those in need around the world, but this new genetically modified plant would not longer be grown in areas where it was naturally found and consequently would no longer be the source of income for people in those areas.  It would be primarily grown in labs of major pharmaceutical corporations in developed countries.  Do we sacrifice the lives of one group for another?  In this case, the consequences are not as extreme.  One could always suggest that those robbed of the crop that they once grew could find another crop to grow for their new source of income, but what about other areas where genetic modification has been suggested as a solution.   

The article proposes that Darwinian evolution is over, that humanity has become god and with our new power of synthetic biology, we will be able to design a world without disease or discomfort.  But the world is not full of unlimited resources and humanity is not free of fault.  These genetic modification comes with a price I’m sure.  In what state will we find our ecosystem in the distant future?  For every solution there is another problem.  If we cure the diseases of the world we will need to cure the problem of world hunger because there will be more mouths to feed.  In which hands do we give the science.   Some nations may keep it for themselves, coveting and exploiting a resource that others do not have access to.  It is a theme that has played out with oil, water, land, and every other resources.  Even more worry some is this technologies use in biological warfare.  This technology could be used for mass genocide by targeting a specific genome that only a certain population may have.

Genetic modification comes with a huge ethical problem that I’m not sure if we can answer.   Do we neglect to help those today for the sake of generations to come.  That is why I liked the relationship proposed by Walt Whitman. The physical “body” of the world is not free of the world’s “mind”.  If the all the physical parts of an ecosystem (us included) make up the body, then culture and human relations make up the mind.  One is not independent of the other.  If we interfere with an organism or an entire ecosystem we should consider what kinds of scars we are leaving on the world’s body and the type of scars it will leave on the world’s mind.  What types of cultural paradigms will shift?  Will values change?  Will the worth of a human life stay the same?

In short, the psychology of the world should not be neglected for the health of a few organisms.  We must consider the consequences for our actions; we are not the only species in this system.

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