Month: October 2016

Scientific Art or Artsy Science

Jimmy Fike’s botanical photography is a harmonious fusion of science and art that promotes aesthetic modes of utilitarianism. Phew! Mouthful. Now let’s break down my pretentiously worded, esoteric thesis.

Artist Jimmy Fike takes pictures of plants that are both useful and pretty, and it’s awesome.

A brief LA Times article covers the gist of Fike’s work: Fike scavenges in nooks and crannies, ditches and alleys in search of plant specimens which he can photograph. Like any photographer, he carefully positions his models to emphasize desired traits- in this case it could be a leaf of interesting root. In the following months, he digitally illustrates the images to render edible plant parts in color.

Over the years Fike has complied an inclusive catalog of hundreds of photographs and plants and has exhibited some of his work under the title “J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of California.”

Think about how multidisciplinary this work is. Biology, photography, media, ecology, and technology all compressed into a single image. An image that can seem as simple and

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California Poppy

innocent as that of the California Poppy. What is most interesting is the uncertainty I encounter in how to address this work- is it research work, scientific work, or art work? Or, gasp, all three!? One many wonder whether Fike’s photographs belong in a science text book or an art gallery.

It is precisely this fluid exchange between fields that should be welcomed into the contemporary artistic sphere. These photographs, which are neither entirely aesthetic nor purely scientific, possess the power to reach a wider audience.

Images like these can possibly attract artists and scientists, women and men, children and adults alike. In light of the highly concerning juxtaposition between American politics and the rising threat of climate change, work like Fike’s should be encouraged, circulated, and gaining increasing relevance.

Bringing education and awareness of nature by means of art is genius, if you ask me.

Olafur Eliasson accomplished exactly this in his work Your waste of time. The piece features massive chunks of ice collected from broken fragments of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The 800-year-old ice blocks are exhibited in a refrigerated space and behave as sculptures; visitors may walk around them and contemplate their age, their size. 

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But it is possible to stretch our frame of reference. When we touch these blocks of ice with our hands, we are not just struck by the chill; we are struck by the world itself. We take time from the glacier by touching it. In a sense, Your waste of time is a ‘waste of time’ because I shipped the ice across the world for it to be on view for a short period of time, after which it melts away – a nanosecond in the life of the glacier. Then there’s another way in which time is wasted: we take away time from the glacier by touching it. Suddenly I make the glacier understood to me, its temporality. It is linked to the time the water took to become ice, a glacier. By touching it, I embody my knowledge by establishing physical contact. And suddenly we understand that we do actually have the capacity to understand the abstract with our senses. Touching time is touching abstraction.” ~ Olafur Eliasson

img_mda111139_1600pxIn few other contexts would the general public in Berlin or New York be able to experience the ancient Icelandic glacier. Again, Eliasson’s installation is not purely art, nor is it purely scientific. A mysterious factor beyond either field- the same one present in Fike’s photographs- lends the piece a surrealistic feel. This factor instills a mix of wonder, awe, oneness with nature. These feelings are crucial to contemporary issues about the rapidly changing earth. Humans must acknowledged this issue, must care enough about this issue to take action.

Works by Fike and Eliasson address the very foundation of concerns like climate change- tackle the roots, if you will. It begins with educating humans, reinstalling a connection to nature, and fostering that bond to blossom into meaningful action. 

Header Image: Western Gooseberry 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Back Baby, I’m Back!

Two hundred and twenty-one episodes. Watching that entire show back-to-back took 4 complete days, 3 hours, and 30 minutes. And suddenly- poof! Gone.

No more staplers in Jell-O, cringe-worthy Christmas parties, endearing love affairs, tragically hilarious office meetings, beats, bears, or Battlestar Galactica.

Boy, Michael Scott sure kept it real.

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A few weeks ago I had to bid a painful farewell to the first TV show I ever loved and committed to watching in its entirety: The Office (U.S. version). Don’t get me wrong, Parks and Recreation is amazing and I enjoyed my healthy dose of Ron Swanson’s cynicism, but Leslie Knope bored me with her predictability. New Girl’s romantic suspense still was not enough to fuel me through a disorganized Season 3. I almost finished Portlandia, but it was not meant to be. Heck, I even tried to push through a few episodes of the U.K. version of The Office. In desperation, I watched 3 episodes of the series about Celia Cruz (Queen of Salsa) before I got tired to reading subtitles. Yes, yes. I know I’m picky. But what can I say? I am, after all, a young lady of high standards.

Pretty soon I got discouraged. I will never find another show with a perfect mélange of exchange between amusement, love interest, awkwardness and sentimentality among highly multidimensional characters. And I mean come on, who was going to top Creed?

Then it dawned on me. I ought to give Seinfeld a whirl!

seduction

This was the one. My college classmates kept referencing the show and my dad had been cracking signature dad-jokes from the series. Plus, I kept encountering a half-naked stubby bald man sprawled out on a couch looking rather smug. Danielle told me it was “the timeless art of seduction.” I nodded, but I didn’t get it until now.

I am definitively late on this trend, so I will spare you a lengthy summary of the show. Seinfeld is a 90s sitcom about comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his friends: George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer. Many like to say it is “a show about nothing,” but it is really more of a show about everything. The show features their complicated love lives, work place mishaps, and amusing adventures in New York.

f9b22cd0de2a8fbf5e85e5ce9521bdfaKramer, Jerry’s “hipster doofus” neighbor (and arguably friend), is my favorite character on the show. A few descriptors: lanky, clumsy, brutally honest, questionable fashion sense, lady killer, wild hair, spastic mannerisms, grandiose entrances. Somehow all of these assets meld together to lend him a certain charm- kavorka (Season 5, Episode 11). When the Seinfeld squad is altogether, it is usually Kramer who is at the core of a problematic scene.

“Park in the handicap space!” he said. “No one ever uses it!” he said (Season 4, Ep. 22).

Throughout the show, a cigar obsessed Kramer burns down George’s girlfriend’s cabin, vomits on multiple women, indirectly causes a murder, brings a Latvian Orthodox nun to the verge of conversion, and ruptures multiple of his friends’ relationships (not to mention that it some cases he proceeds to date their exes himself).

Elaine Benes is also a intricately constructed character. Whereas Kramer serves almost solely for comic relief, Elaine’s personality ranges from lighthearted to serious and intellectual. I was surprised to find such a meaningful female role in a show 8196a3e8a0c2e1589d5e25f685e22a68that aired over a decade ago. She can laugh at herself, make goofy faces and funny noises, knock over beverages, laugh uncontrollably, compete in “the contest” (Season 4, Episode 11), burst out in rage, chew with her mouth open, use vulgar language, reject creepy men, work a cool job, be financially independent.

In other words, she is a badass.

She is not restricted to behaving in the poised, graceful manner that is so often featured on television series even today. She is not somebody’s wife or sister. She is Elaine Benes and she will fight for her chocolate babka (Season 5, Episode 13)! Elaine’s character is refreshing and inspirational: I really look up to her. I have yet to find a female role in a television series that chalks up to hers.

By the way, I love Morty. I can’t explain why. I just love Morty.

But alas, all good things come to an end, and I have reached Season 6. It pains me to admit that this means I am closer to the end of the show than the beginning. Thus, I must begin to prepare for what I can delve into next. After some research I would like to try watching Curb your Enthusiasm, which shares a creator, Larry David, with Seinfeld.

I would love to hear what your favorite shows are, who your favorite characters on Seinfeld are, which is your favorite episode, any cool fun facts or recommendations! Please comment below!