Metal: Conceptual: BFA Thesis

Artist Statement: BFA Thesis

With the increased use of computers to act as the mediator between communicating individuals along with the continued research and developments of computer/human hybrids, we lose a part of our human identity. Not only is the individual diminished, but so is our sense of humanness. As a result, the individual traits that make up unique personalities are processed through computer chips. We are a nation of e-mail addresses, credit card numbers, social security numbers and statistics. Interactions with other people are more and more often virtual experiences. Floating through cyberspace, we are no longer bound by the limitations of biology. The mind engages a virtual world leaving behind a subjugated body. The body loses all autonomy and purpose. In a society of people who are becoming less connected with their bodies, where the gap between the mind and body is becoming greater, the function of the human body is not clear. The physical experience of being human has been abstracted into a virtual world .
In my work, I focus on this questionable future of the human body by creating objects attached to or relative to the body, yet infiltrated by technological aspects. I use the human body as the origin and framework for my objects. It is our “flesh and blood,” the definitive nature of our biological and physical humanity. I look to computer cards and contemporary synthetic materials for forms to be combined with the bodily derived formats. I also combine these synthetic, technologically based materials with traditional metalsmithing techniques. In the piece, Neural Network, machined and welded aluminum rods in combination with forged and enameled copper organic forms representative of nerve cells compose an interconnected neural pathway on an arm. The reason for combining such polar techniques is to parallel the evolution of the physical human body into a virtual one, with my approach to art making. The fluid organic body engages a computer and is paralyzed, held back by its own physical limitations while the mind runs free through electronic impulses and digital informational bits. The rigid aluminum brace freezes the arm and suspends the nerve cells in a conflicting state of human immobility.
The subject matter for my work arises from ways in which humans perceive and process information as compared to how computers process information. I draw connections between the modeling of the circuitry of the nervous system and the circuitry of computers. In Nerve Circuit, the form is derivative of the human central nervous system, with nerve cells and branching axons. The piece rests down the center of a back, where the spine is located. Nerves form our brains as the center for neural activity and stream throughout the body to inform the various operations and activities within the body. Computer circuitry works similarly with a central processing unit (C.P.U) working as the main center of activity, and copper wires extending out towards various chips and other units. Both systems operate with electronic impulses. In Nerve Circuit, I once again combine traditional and synthetic processes to produce a computerized hybrid nervous system composed of nerves and synapses implanted with computer chips and enameled to mimic the appearance of computer circuitry. This ironic amalgamation affords the piece with an internal tension between the organic fluidity of the nervous system with the rigidity of computer circuitry. While computer technology desires to meld the mind with its mass of digital information, its rejection of the rest of the body inhibits this act. The mind cannot be separated from the body. The brain cannot be separated from its constituent parts.
I also create objects that when worn alter the perceptive nature of that body part. Computers dematerialize reality by producing virtual images that exist only on the screen. Vision Modifier is a pair of glasses with a floppy disk part and Cd replacing the glass. When worn, the wearer can still see through them, but their vision is distorted. Through the disk part, most of the field of view is blocked out. Through the CD, only bright light can be perceived. These glasses skew visual reality, just as computers skew physical reality.
Hand imagery often appears in my work for several reasons. The hand separates humans from other animals. It is the key evolutionary feature that defines humans as producers. The hand has allowed for us to create the world we live in today. Also, as an artist, my hands allow me to create. Fingerprints identify individuals. The hand is the only body part that physically interacts with and can operate computers. Hands are the paramount means for humans engaging the world. In CPU, the hand is worn around the neck as a signifier for its consequence is defining humanity. In the palm, a computer chip has been implanted, steering its autonomy on human definition towards the new autonomy and dependence of human interactivity on computers. In Virtual Physicality, three plastic hands severed from the rest of the body, stand erect. Displayed on each hand are mechanized versions of the skin. One skin is composed of entangled steel wire, depicting the wide array of cables and wires that constitute computers. A second is a thin aluminum skin translating the subtle curvatures of the palm into a fixed state. Copper wires mimicking computer circuitry are embedded in the plastic of the third hand. The impulses that exist just below the surface of the skin of the human hand are exposed as inhuman. These three hands are ghosts of the liberty of human hands. They are slaves to computer activity, serving only to push keys and click buttons.
Computer technology has permeated the defining characteristics of ourselves as individualized communicative humans. We must be aware of the significant impact that the role of the computer has had in redefining humanity and human experience. My work addresses its impact and provides a forum for which the positive and negative outcomes of computer interactivity can be explored.

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