December 18, 2008
My semester was spent investigating different manifestations of information transfer systems, such as text, words, schematics, and sound. I paid special attention to the interaction of different man-made information transfer systems, or codes, and biological information transfer systems.
1.1. Word/image system: Etymology/Entomology
This assignment took the form of six scientific illustrations (pen and ink, on wallpaper), each of a different insect, corresponding to a different step of the scientific process (question, research, hypothesis, experiment,). In this project, I contrasted the physical forms of insects (firefly, bee, moth, ant, dragonfly, praying mantis) with the intangible words through diagramming their component parts. I also wanted to draw a connection between the visual information the illustrations provided, the process of discovering information by using the scientific process, ad the means to communicate the new information through speech/text.
1.2. Word/image system: Light-Sensitive Switch
Exploring with the same medium (pen and ink on wallpaper), I diagrammed a light-sensitive switch, as one would find in outdoor lights outside suburban homes. I used the proper modern electronic symbols, wrote out the specification in vertical script, and hung the whole image/system vertically, such as a wall scroll. It appeared very archival, very old, and very mysterious, but the symbols described a system that is very modern, and very commonplace. It is very easy to believe this is some ancient text from a far-off land, while instead it is simply a commonplace system that many are unfamiliar with.
2.1. Book alteration/augmentation: Dissection
This first attempt to solve the assignment was a method through which I made myself more comfortable with altering books for artistic gain. As an avid reader, I feel that books, as blocks of solid, physical information, are in some way sacred, as more information is always preferable to less information. However, I also felt that the books could be filled with a different sort if information if altered correctly. I illustrated this point by turning three ordinary fiction novels into light boxes, with images of different stages of frog dissection on each, lighted from within. The analogy is that just as taking a frog’s life is justified by the information it provides through investigation such as dissection, destroying one sort of information can be justified if a different sort of information is created by that act. This was how I convinced myself that I could complete the project.
2.2 Book alteration/augmentation: Ants Writing History
My second attempt at the book alteration assignment was finished without physically altering the book involved or destroying the information inside.
It consisted of a sculpture, where a line of ants, each carrying a letter like the Amazonian leaf-cutter ants, marched to and fro, from a closed book to their colony and back again. Their colony is a large monument with their image emblazoned on the side. The idea is that the ants are changing recorded information a little at a time, to match their grandiose image of themselves, despite their tiny stature to the human observer. It calls to mind revisionist tendencies shown by humans in regards to history and solid facts.
3. Folding Project: White noise Experiment.
In this assignment, I recorded six different sounds: the mutters of a student trying to simplify an algebra equation, the sound of a computer reading a CD, Morse Code, The distress call of a common carpenter ant, a wasp nest a-buzzing, and crickets singing to each other. All of these sounds are examples of information being processed and being expressed. What I attempted to do with these sounds is fold them, that is, layer them one atop each other, until a level was reached where no information could be discerned: where the sounds became white noise. As I continued to fold the sounds, I found that there was no point where the sounds lapsed into a tone or buzz that was completely monotone. At each level, it sounded like there was still some information to be found and deciphered.
4.Collage Project: How wireless really works
This project manifested itself as a sculpture of a fly; mounted on a board like a specimen, which was created entirely from electronic components, including microphones, light-sensitive switches, sound sensors, motors, a battery case, and different pieces of circuit board and wire. It speaks to the theme of information systems contrasted with insect imagery, which I have been building on throughout the semester. The idea of our “wireless” systems relying on such electro-magnetic creepy-crawlies is a comical one, but interesting in it’s execution and form, especially as far as the different textures in the creature’s body which make up the collage.
In each of these evolutions I attempted to connect dissimilar imagery by using the common thread of information transfer. Whether the system was constructed by human hands or thousands of mandibles, whether the sounds were made from chirping hindquarters or electronic circuits, and whether the information was born of human thought or the hive’s collective mind, each image, sound and action illustrated a connection of information sharing between mechanical contraptions and biological organisms.