Automaton Idea (basix)

This is a quick crap sketch of an idea for a potential ‘made piece’ – but until I know a little more about building automata, I’m a little stumped with it.

Automaton Idea

This documentary from the BBC was wonderful at scaring me into the realisation that they are not a thing to be taken too lightly, however.  But, my god, John Joseph Merlin‘s a dreamboat if I ever knew one.  Just look at his swan, JUST LOOK AT IT!

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Chen Man exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

‘Young Pioneer and CCTV’ 2009

Chen Man, described in her Twitter bio as a ‘representative of modern Chinese visual artists’, is a photographer working in Beijing.  Though her work is most associated with the commercial fashion industry, it was the playfully hyper-futuristic aesthetic of her personal projects which attracted my attention most.  In particular, her Pioneer series exemplifies her wish to combine the two concepts of beauty which can often seem utterly disparate (by the consensual understanding of ‘nature’).  She discusses this in what her interviewer describes as ‘a lazy Beijing burr’ in this article from Time Out Shanghai:

‘There are two kinds of beauty: natural, real things – flowers, children, the sky – and artificial, manmade things, things derived from human wisdom like iPads, cars, design. Now I’m trying to combine those two kinds of beauty.’

A fairly simplifying approach to take to the subject, but one that produces images which are almost startlingly contemporary in their dedication to the surface, to the aesthetic value.  The skin-tight plastic of the Pioneer’s dress; her lean, straight frame; the uninterrupted smoothness of her skin and hair – all combine to give the impression of a commercial product.  The fetishisation of plastic, of sleek functionality, is projected onto this model, and one can’t help but note that when identifying the ‘beautiful’ in this image, we tend to find ourselves admiring more the ‘artificial, manmade’ category of Man’s description.

This is by no means a new phenomenon, and I do wonder at the perseverance of the appeal of beautiful lady-machines.  In particular, the potentially more modern occurrence of female artists (particularly in the pop culture spectrum) appropriating these ideas of the indisputably female cyborg and applying this to themselves, or their subject (I can’t help but think of Janelle Monáe… and not just because I’m listening to her Electric Lady album as I type).  The objectification of the female form has been long-practiced in art, this is an inescapable historical fact, but is the sentiment so changed when a female artist is doing the objectifying?  The image of a technologically-empowered female figure has been noted by many to serve as an illustration of the ‘Monster’ of modern times (Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a well-known, early example of this), and is very much present this photograph from Man’s Pioneer series (I can’t find the name for this anywhere – should’ve taken better notes in the S&A Gallery):

The model here has produced a satellite from under her skirt.  Her face belies sexual arousal, with no hint of shyness in the direct eye contact with the camera.  The troubling infantile costume is my only (yet overriding) issue with the series.  As an extreme vision of the strictures put in place by the mass media of our patriarchal society, and at the same time playing right into the overt sexualisation of prepubescent girls, the costumes in this series are a worrying indication of an all-too-common theme (particularly in science fiction) of the female giving up her womanhood, for an immortal life steeped in reticence.

Presentation, presented in silence.

Here is the fairly shambolic attempt at the COP presentation, another to add to the pile I haven’t delivered to the class after relapses in the ol’ anxiety issues.

Presentation1

Some of the slides need expanding on, yes.  So let’s:

  1. This is me trying to create a flowchart of a kind, organising the bits of disparate thought.  Read away,
  2. This is introducing some of the topics from the flowchart – in another dimension I’d have talked them out a little in the presentation.
  3. Here, I was beginning to figure out where I wanted to drop my thinkin’ pins.
  4. This is a sentence, I’m sure of it.  I wanted to say something more about recovering from the trauma of abandonment issues after leaving the womb, and Freudian jazz like that.
  5. NGE – this, I was just going to try my best to explain coherently.  I wasn’t feeling too confident about that idea, but I had hoped the whole hype around having giant robots and mounds of archaic religious references would be enough to dazzle my audience, and that would be enough.
  6. Then this slide, which I would skillfully lead onto:
  7. Japan’s integration with technology, and more recent falling population, along with the idea that Anno’s anime comes from a subconscious connection with the zeitgeist of the time
  8. Look to my post on Masaaki Yuasa (I was winging this too).
  9. More winging – this sequence in Jan Svankmajer’s Faustus – just some reanimation fright through the medium of animation.
  10. Dancing Diana, from Conrad Shawcross – bringing robots into our arts scene, further infiltrating into extra aspects of our lives – marks the beginning of my research into robotics as a launchpad into automata.
  11. Just drawing – enjoying shapes.
  12. More drawing – having problems.
  13. Idea of future baby environment – thinking on replacing traditional mother figure with technology in very literal sense.
  14. Automaton idea.

Cutie Automata

These wind-ups from Japanese designer duo Maywa Denki are extraordinarily cute, and may prove to be a worthwhile inspiration point for creating something lovable rather than harrowing.  I haven’t yet decided whether I’d like my creative response to be outright horror, yet I think Masaaki Yuasa’s Happy Machine short exemplifies the fact that the two (cute and terrifying) can go hand-in-hand quite effectively.