Sunday, June 5, 2016

Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East LACMA

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Islamic Art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This exhibition features approximately 31 works by artists from Iran, the Arab world, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Northwest Africa.

The first installation that caught my eyes was The Water. Created by Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr in 2002, "Individuality is recast by time as the faces of Egyptian men, women, and children are briefly reflected in a puddle before a boot relentlessly stomps into the water, distorting, fragmenting, and transforming the images." The duration of the video is 5 minutes, it caught my eye as soon as I walked in. The erasure of ones image by such a violent force, the use of such a calming medium such as water, really creates an essence for the viewer. 

Another installation that caught my eye was Fallen Angeles, created by Iranian artist Hojat Amani in 2012. "This tragic angel, dressed in the guise of a modern young Iranian woman, appears to have literately shattered in her fall to earth; the other remaining sign of her former status- her wings, here formed of golden leaves- will soon blow away or merge with other fallen leaves." According to traditional Iranian Muslim belief, angels are with you from birth to death. After one recites their prayers, they must face toward both left and right to acknowledge the angels recording your deeds both good and bad. It caught my eye as well because the implication of an angel falling from grace, means one is not in God's good graces anymore.

Fallen angels, from the series Angels in Paradise

The last of the many pieces that caught my eyes was Untitled, from the series Listen by artist Newsha Tavakollan. The series is conceived by the artist as a series of imaginary CD covers for fantasy albums by woman singers. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have not been allowed to perform in public in Iran. The red boxing gloves, and the black hijab, while staring down at the camera on an empty street really catch the feeling of what the artist is trying to convey. This woman is a fighter, ready to change the system, yet also following the guidelines that are still the system.
Image: Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled, from the series Listen, 2011, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

I had the most amazing day at the Los Angeles County museum of art, without a doubt a day to remember.
Selfie with Deena
 "Fallen Angels, from the Series Angels in Paradise." LACMA Collections. Web. 05 June 2016.
"Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East." Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Web. 05 June 2016.
"Speechless." LACMA Collections. Web. 05 June 2016.
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"Entering the Public: Representations of Women in the Work of Newsha Tavakolian | Unframed." Entering the Public: Representations of Women in the Work of Newsha Tavakolian | Unframed. Web. 05 June 2016.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


From the beginning of time we have been fascinated by the sky, stars, and planets.


Science flourished during the European Renaissance. Copernicus was an astronomer and mathematician. As a student, he studied the law of mathematics and medicine, then became interested in astronomy. He published an early description of a heliocentric model of the universe, where the sun was in the middle of our solar system. By postulating only the rotation of earth's revolution around the sun and the tilt of earths rotational axis, Copernicus could explain the observed motion of the heavens.

Copernicus model

Science fiction is essential to our creation. Arthur C. Clarke's 1976 novel, The Fountains of Paradise. This novel was set in the 22nd century, it describes the construction of a space elevator. An orbital tower, giant structure rising from ground and linking with a satellite station in a geo stationary orbit. Such a structure would be used to raise payloads to orbit without using rockets, making it much more cost effective. David Smitherman of NASA has compiled plans for such an elevator. The idea of ribbon made of carbon nano tube stretching from earth into space hauling cargo and passengers into space orbit.

Space Elevator

Contemporary space age developments started after WW2. In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched first satellite named Sputnik. Sputnik was no larger than a beach ball and sent meaningless signals back to earth. Russian engineers wanted to make sure people could see and hear it. It was polished so people could see it with the naked eye, and it broadcast “beep beep” pattern that could be picked up by amateur radio operators around the world.


Russians were the first to have a dog test what it's like to have a living being in space. Laika, a 3 year old stray mut was selected. She was covered in alcohol solution painted with iodine and several spots so sensors could be placed on her, to monitor her heart beat, blood pressure and other bodily functions to better understand any changes in space. She did not live beyond 6 days.


From 2003 to present, we are seeing huge changes from public to private exploration into space. May 1996 X prize, $10 million prize for first non governmental organization to launch a re-usable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Prize was won on October 4th, 2004, by Tier 1 project financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

X Prize


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Whimmydiddles, Whirligigs, and Capital Punishment – A History of Toys and Games with Tyler Calkin (Machine Project Event)

I had the pleasure of attending "Whimmydiddle, Whirligigs, and Capital Punishment - A History of Toys and Games with Tyler Calkin. I came out of the talk with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the way games and play have come about in history to present.

Tyler mentioned at the beginning of his talk that most of his research was western oriented. His research is mainly on the shift from communal experiences to solitary eduction in America and Europe, examining the cultural forces, family dynamics, new technologies, and the persistent role of ideology in crafting the games we play.


Starting in the 17th century with industrialization, play was seen as useless. Idleness was a negative, playing outside was a negative. Toy blocks from 1600s were mainly used by wealthy families who wanted to segregate their children from the "vulgar masses". Private tutors used alphabet blocks, it was an individual private game prescribed by educators.

Toy Blocks

The founder of kindergartens Friedrich Froebel used toys in a spiritual sense. He used toys to represent the hierarchy of the universe, he developed a system with a series of gifts. Each gift was a different spiritual understanding of the world. There was this idea of learning about nature and the world by staying inside.

Froebel Gift

Capital Punishment board game. The purpose of this game was to convict "criminals" and sentence them severely as quickly as possible. This one stuck with me because of the current state of our criminal justice here in the states, the game is our reality.

Capital Punishment

The toy stove was and became an element of capital and commerce, while also being an instructional object. Toy stoves were originally used as a tiny model salesmen could bring around to show potential clients what they were buying. It ended up being used as a toy as well.

Toy Stove

16th century dollhouses were used by wealthy dutch women. These women would have their belongings miniaturized to show off their wealth. It was a toy for adults by adults. We have here signifiers of wealth becoming cheaper and cheaper. By the late 19th century this became a middle class children object of play.

1600 Doll House

This intersection of art and technology really tied in magnificently with what we have been learning during the quarter. It was great to really dive into something I didn't think much about, something that had a major impact on all our developments during childhood.


"Brief History of the Kindergarten." History of the Froebel Kindergarten. Web. 23 May 2016.
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Nanotechnology is an area that really shifts the paradigm and pushes us over the edge into the 21st century.
Nano Technology

Conceptual origins of nanotechnology are attributed to Richard Feynman. In a 1959 talk at Caltech, "theres plenty of room at the bottom" he suggested that on atomic scale we have so much room to make tiny things that this could revolutionize the world.

Richard Feynman

When dealing with molecules, when we look at a picture we are not really looking at how they really look. The molecule is invisible, it is more a cloud of electrons and possibilities, at least until the early 80s. The Scanning tunneling microscope was invented by Gerd Binning and Heinrich, at IBM.This microscope allow us to view atomic resolution images of surfaces.

Gerd Binning and Heinrich

Scanning tunneling microscope feels the invisible. On the microscope we have the finger, a fine needle terminated by a single atom. Using the finger we use STM rastering to form an image of silicon atoms on a surface. The rastering is then converted into an image in grayscale. The grayscale picture can be interpreted as a contour map which can then be averaged out to make smooth and finally colored.

Scanning Tunneling Microscope

We can change properties on the nano scale, such as the lotus leaf effect. The effect of hydrophobicity due to structure on nanoscale of lotus leaf. This changes wetting of water on surface, becomes non wetting since particles are spherical. The water runs off leaf, left uncontaminated. This has inspired many companies to create self cleaning fabrics. For example self cleaning glass.

Lotus Leaf Effect

Nano particles can be used in many different applications and technologies. The most exciting for improving human life is nano medicine. Pharmaceuticals use of nano technology to target specific tumors offers great benefits for people in the future. Person with cancer under going chemo therapy has the possibility of reducing toxicity. For example in Abraxane, particles are nanoscale and coated with albumin, this allows the toxicity to be much lower and soluble.


Quantum dots or nanoparticles, if you make them nanoscale you can tune the color by the size of the particle. If they are nontoxic they can be excellent replacement for cosmetic products, as well as be used to tag particular types of disease. Different colors represent different parts of the cells targeted and if below about 4 nm they can pass blood brain barrier and enter the cells.

Quantum Dots

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Sunday, May 15, 2016


The brain has only been studied for about a century. For thousands of years those who attempted to study it eventually gave up.

Ramon y Cajal is the founder of neuroanatomy and left us with an invaluable understanding of microscopic nature of nervous system. His contributions include neuron theory, investigation of transmission of nervous signals, neuronal degeneration and regeneration. But his biggest discovery was that you can read out connection patterns between neurons by just looking at their shape. He compared himself to an entomologist, described permidal cells as the butterflies of the soul. He is one of the greatest examples of artist and scientist coming together, left brain, right brain. He contributed hugely to our idea of consciousness and neuroscience.

Sigmund Freud and cocaine addiction. In the 1880s pharmaceutical companies promoted it as the cure to everything. It was widely available as tonic, powders, and even wines. The mass availability made a large segment of the population addicts. Freud's most haunting encounter occurred in 1885, when he and a colleague almost killed a patient with a botched operation and too much cocaine. “Erma” the pseudonym of this patient is in his book the interpretation of dreams. Freud glossed over his obvious malpractice, instead he explained his dream meant he was a caring doctor who was overly protective of his patient Erma.

LSD was first synthesized by swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938, although hallucinogenic effects were unknown for the next 5 years. While re-synthesizing the compound for further study he became dizzy and couldn't continue his work. On April 19, 1943, Hoffman ingested 250 micrograms, an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose. The events of the first LSD trip after the bicycle ride home, proved to Hofmann that he indeed made a significant discovery. While on LSD he believed, his next door neighbor was a witch, convinced he was possessed by a demon, and he was convinced he had gone insane. Not soon after it began to be marketed as a cure for everything.

LSD was part of CIA experiments, the top secret MKULTRA project, for mind control. 100’s of participants including government employees, CIA agents, prostitutes, etc. many without their knowledge or consent. Procedures included severe psychological torture, which led many to kill themselves or go insane. Decades would pass before the U.S admitted project and apologized for the deaths of those who died for their experimentation.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bio Tech + Art

Bio Tech and Art is one of the most controversial areas of study. It is the GMOS in our food, experimentation with animals, creating hybrids within species among other things. There is an ongoing debate on how one would define bio art. Some want a more direct experience, for it to be justified to be called bio art, while others feel that collaboration itself is enough to be called Bio Art.

Bio Tech

Joe Davis is considered the pioneer of Bio Art. He believed that genes and genomes could be a new palette for artists. He came up with ideas that scientists considered dangerous and crazy. Davis set out to create an info-gene, his idea was to send a message in a bottle to extraterrestrials. His bottle was made of Ecoli, because it could survive deep space.The microvenus was the message, it is a simple symbol resembling the letter Y. The microvenus represents life and external female genetalia. The female genetilia was his response to all male phalic symbols being thrown into space, woman are the creators and he felt the need to balance this gender inequality. Artists like Joe Davis are posing important and critical questions to what is life and what it means to manipulate life.


Eduardo Kac and the fluorescent bunny Alba. Alba was created by french scientists using a process called zygote micro injection. Scientists plucked a florescent protein GFP from a species of fluorescent jellyfish called Aquara victoria, then modified the gene to make the glowing properties more powerful. The gene was then inserted into a fertilized rabbit egg cell that eventually grew into Alba. This protein GFP has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread. Eduardo Kac created a debate on life and art, and the ethical implications of the work he did.

GFP Bunny

Orlan continues to shock with her latest piece with symbiotica, "Harlequin coat". The Harlequin Coat is a composite organic coat, made with an assemblage of skin pieces from different colors made via in vitro in petri dishes in a lab. This biotechnological coat, symbolizes cultural cross breeding, it is an investigation into hybridization. It shows different cultural ideas of beauty in different mediums.


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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957

I had the pleasure of watching an in-gallery performance by dancers from the L.A Dance Project. The dancers from the L.A. Dance Project performed excerpts from Springweather and People (1955), Suite for Five (1956), Changeling (1957), and other early work by Merce Cunningham. Music by Christian Wolff and John Cage in the foreground was performed by pianist Aron Kallay.  Of course while watching this, I did not know much about what was going on, except what I could hear and see. I saw leaping, dramatization, expression change,  a story was unfolding before my eyes that I did not know much about.

It was only once I looked into Black Mountain College that I came to appreciate what this performance meant. Starting in the 1930s Black Mountain college was a seminal meeting place for many of the artists, musicians, poets, and thinkers who would become the principal practitioners of the postwar period. This renowned experimental college placed the arts at the center in an effort to better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society. It was profoundly interdisciplinary with an emphasis on inquiry, discussion, and experimentation, it gave equal attention to the visual arts and applied arts or crafts like weaving, pottery, and jewelry-making, as well as architecture, poetry, music, and dance.

The exhibition itself contained a varied mixture of materials in the areas of painting, sculpture, weaving, and pottery. There are also documentary photographs and other archival ephemera placed throughout the room. All this material emphasized bridging the gap between art and life, and the creation of a counter-culture that was existent in the 1960's. With its Post-War Origins it is apparent to notice throughout the exhibition the dialogue that is occurring between Democracy, Globalism, and Art. How one could create and emerge from destruction in a world that had not created in so long. The overlap, the interaction of art with culture, the interaction of art and post war society, that ability to create and express what needed to be let out, is what makes this exhibition all the more amazing.