Sunday, April 30, 2017

Closing Thoughts on Elizabeth Demaray’s Magical Purification Device

             This semester has been a taxing one, to say the least. My first foray into new media has proven to be riddled with difficulties both technical and psychological. We have been able to take the open-source design of Mrs. Demaray’s and expound upon it, proving more difficult and constraining than I would have first thought. A cruel irony has emerged: that building on top of an existing idea is actually more difficult than attempting to make a new one. This seems to be a dilemma that exists within new genre work, a pseudo-extension of the postmodern dilemma. Rather than eke out new reinventions based on those of the past, artists are now tasked with making their ideas fully accessible, able to be recreated conceptually and physically.       
                Given my studio background and small toolset in the digital realm, it’s given me a lot of time to reflect on what I’m lacking in regards to what I want out of my education and future endeavors in digital art. I also have been thrown into a maelstrom of musings on the nature and future of art itself. Referring to the aforementioned, it’s clear that some things have proven to be valuable tools for me as a visual artist. Sketchup for maquette-making and the design process. CNC milling for accurate cuts in the future, despite my propensity for the organic in my work. 3D printing seems to simply be an infuriating process through and through; and, since my focus is in sculpture, it’s hard to simply let a computer take way too long (hours, usually) to make something I myself could in just a few moments in clay or foam or wood. Granted, I am a neophyte, and it’s clear I have a long way to go, but the door of possibility has swung wider.
                Due to the entrepreneurial and nebulous nature of this work, I found it difficult to gain conceptual footing in exactly what the next course of action would be at any given moment. The question of “why” is not often one I ask in my work as an art student, but it seems to be the driving force behind this project. It’s not as if the question needed to be answered, but the difficulty existed in the multitude of feasible answers. Water production in drought-stricken areas, water purification in space, to name a couple. At its baseline, this project could simply provide a more accessible understanding of the nature of plant processes and how a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship can be formed between species. That in itself is a profound notion, which is the cornerstone of Elizabeth’s work at large.
                At first, I was resistant to notions of new media.  Coming from a computer-heavy background in my younger days, mainly for pleasure and distraction, I’ve taken a sort of intentional luddite approach to how I create my artwork.  Now, I realize, it was simply a failure to recognize contemporary tools through either laziness or stubbornness. Wires and robots and computers and complex hardware and software are the undeniable concurrent stuff of making, and it’s our job at makers and thinkers and artists to intermingle materials with technology to render new horizons. My problem is, it’s scary because there is so much uncharted territory. Now, it isn’t a matter of what type of pigment goes where with what stroke, or whether or not to add material or subtract material – rather, which dimensions to work in, what atmosphere to create, what uncharted part of academia to meld with the creative process, how to abstract in places that are seemingly un-abstractable, and so forth.

                I can find a profound solace in the notion that we are in a New Renaissance, and with that acknowledgement, perhaps we have been in a series of rebirths ever since The Renaissance.  This is the part of history that sparked my interest in the humanities and led me to art in the first place; a time when inventors were artists and scientists were writers and philosophers were tinkerers.  The scope of human endeavor has broadened wider than ever with the coming of the internet era, pluralistically deepening while simultaneously growing deafer and dumber despite a wealth of information – but damn, what a time to be a creative.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Design and Prototyping

    Following Elizabeth Demaray's prototype, our task is to create a measurable transpiration collector. The approach is straightforward - place a bag over our peace lily with a ring-like trough at the bottom, feeding into a bottle for the water to be stored.

    We took a geometric approach:

    I think there are some benefits to having a flat-plane design. Depending on our vigor with construction, we can simply replicate triangular or trapezoid shapes, shingling them together to make a circular shape. This could prove to be a difficult endeavor, but if the class collaborates, we can execute a clean design.

    Watering is an issue as well, because we have to be able to easily access our plant for watering without hitting the trough, giving skewed research data. The top housing of the plant should be the easier of the two parts, but I think for now our (or, at least my) concern is a more direct way to collect water in the "bladder."
Continuing with the geometric approach, a flat plane on the bottom would allow a more clear view of the water being yielded, taking advantage of gravity and focusing the water downward. The weight of the gasket at the bottom should make the reservoir hang in a sort of way, creating a ravine for the water to collect and feed out of the structure.

    Any frame will have to be built from rigid materials, acrylic or wood. A downward coil (a sort of gravity condenser) could provide an aesthetic and closure to the device. I included a fabrication approach at the bottom left, and have started considering a circular design.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (C.P. Snow)

    Snow begins his lecture first classifying two seemingly polar academic groups to lay the groundwork of his argument, that each of these groups follows a sort of social code, adhere to a set of rules and norms that governs their interaction with their work and each other.  If these two groups behaved similarly (which, according to Snow, they do) how is it possible they are in opposition with one another? Both sides of the academic "spectrum" of the 1960's seemed to be strikingly oblivious to the fruits of one another's endeavors.
    I've never before considered academic social circles based on specialization, but to some extent, I think it's due to their physical location. The construction of larger schools has necessitated a departmentalization. I'm sure inter-disciplinary activity is frequent, but it could simply be an example of human laziness. Why walk to the building next door to be out of your element? Isn't that what college is about, finding an element and staying there? Maybe just a flaw in design, how schools are laid out. Snow brings up a good point by noting the history of the development of these fields, and how they are systematically placed in different arenas for different reasons. His argument seems to be a response to specialization.
    Personally, I've always been varied in my skill set, naturally a sort of Renaissance man. A few years ago, I met a guy (let's call him Frank) and he was a theology major with a bang-up degree from a prestigious school, and he was at the time in his last semester of nursing school training to be a certified paramedic. I was a history major at the time, so I paid close attention to my newfound brother in the social sciences. He said, "I make enough money to survive and live comfortably. A humanities degree was nothing to subsist on. You can't be a Renaissance man and get a humanities degree anymore and just know lofty things, it doesn't fit." I felt a little crushed honestly, since I have spent most of my life in creative pursuit and the other half writing research papers and hearing lectures about Afrocentric feminist epistemology. He was right though.
    I myself don't have a whole lot of experience facing the reality of money, I joined the workforce during the worst recession in nearly a hundred years. Lately, however, there has been a sort of blanket cultural acknowledgement of being a sort of mixed bag, You don't go to work and cut the same length of pipe all day and clock out. Our generation has to be able to email, take pictures and video, type, do tasks while listening to music and watching TV and texting. Everyday life has expanded in dimensionality, shouldn't all aspects of human life? Most especially, academia?
     "It is simply that technology is rather easy. Or more exactly, technology is the only branch of human experience that people can learn with predictable results." - C.P. Snow

    Snow is a proponent of general education. A hunger for general betterment of oneself without becoming ensnared in the stagnant perfume of academic superiority. Practicality should guide intellectual endeavor and yield some sort of output, some push forward for the species as a whole.  Otherwise, what has been the point?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Transpiration Device

    Considering Elizabeth Demaray's collaborative design with Simeon Kotchoni (their project page) the DK Transpiration Collector, we are tasked with expounding upon their open-source contraption. Using the peace lily (Spathiphyllum) as a powerhouse, we are expected to first run research trials to gather information. Apparently in some cases, the rate of transpiration can be dramatic, so the stakes seem to be high for this project as something of significance to Demaray's goal of "acts of trans-species giving."   

    Water is a necessity. It's the medium of life.  There's already a bunch of science fiction regarding the idea of the dome on some distant planet or moon, housing colonies with flora and fauna much like Earth's - but could this be the way that we achieve it?  Obviously, transpiration can't occur if there isn't atmosphere, but this process could occur in an isolated environment. We can, however, greatly restrict the flow of oxygen to the plants with relatively little harm to them. Long term, if a tight enough circuit between the plant and it's water source the feasibility of having a plant that can survive a zero-oxygen environment could be possible. Space trees? Definitely a longshot, but I'm curious about the possible benefits of such an endeavor. Perhaps there aren't any. That's the art part, huh?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Transpiration and Other Neat Processes

 Expounding on the questions from our first meeting:

Can the process of transpiration be simulated completely inorganically, with built components? 

Possible aesthetic choices we could make to the design in addition to being functional?

Riding on my earlier suggestion regarding Spanish moss, it is apparently very absorbent and holds water. As an angiosperm (flowering plant), the moss gets its water from the air around it and rain while inhabiting trees.  Is it possible moss could actually be inhibiting transpiration? Perhaps we could mimic/create some sort of symbiosis between the two of them? Could the moss possibly aid in this process, rather than being an idle spectator?

Considering my ideas of fermentation, the actual chemical process doesn't seem to apply to this situation. However, the idea of a distillery might have some insights...

...perhaps these principles can be applied to aid the transpiration process in some way?

Additionally, could these designs in some way aid in our creation process?

Could this process of transpiration be applied to substances other than water, resulting in something utilitarian?

Questions from class:

What part transpires the most in a plant?
How much can you cover without killing the plant?
How do you measure transpiration?
Can it be accelerated/augmented?
What do climate conditions do to level? closed loop system? possible?
How much water to get optimal/max effect?
Why water?
Does the vapor state have to do with photosynthesis
Which plants transpire? (what's optimal)
Why collect it? what's the use?
Can we apply methods to other species?
What's the cultural meaning?