Thursday, March 12, 2009

the big gallery week

the show is installed at SJSU and i have added to my former comments in statement below. i was replacing the statement printout when i found this on the outside of my gallery.

planar array antennae paintings
thomas asmuth March 2009

This project is an exploration of non-optimal aesthetic design theory as proposed by Anthony Dunne1. I have used a fractal/self-similar formula known as the 'dragon curve' to draw the formal linear element and a planar antennae. These elements are packaged in the form of a painting, a merged idea of aesthetic and communicative value. The linear element in each painting utilizes gold leaf for it's symbolic and conductive properties. The length of each segment is 'tuned' to a quarter wavelength of a particular channel of the 802.11 standard and allows the work to merge with the local network and become part of the delivery of the network.

There are multiple points of view to situate this project into a historiography of art practice. First, through the implicit connection between circuit design and drawing, we can develop a rubric for formal analysis of the object. Drawing and the linear form is integral in this work and in any circuit trace. The process for making a Printed Circuit Board(PCB) traditionally utilizes the method of etching; indistinguishable from the techniques used to make a printmaking plate. Etching is also reductive process of removing material to reveal something else largely akin to carving as a sculptural process. The technique in these pieces is a direct (additive method) application of the conductive material to establish the mark or drawing.

Antennas are transducers; that is, a class of

"...devices by which variations in one physical quantity (e.g. pressure, brightness) are quantitatively converted into variations in another."2

The term coined in the 1920's by the telecommunication industry is derived from Latin for 'to lead across, transfer’. The connections to art are multitudinous but, I have drawn parallels between antennae and liturgical or icon painting for their ability to facilitate lines of communication. in icon painting gold leaf is prized for its ability to shine as if it is lit from within as a demonstration of the light of God. Today along with the exceptional spectral reflectance in wavelengths above one micrometer, gold is also particularly important as an excellent conductor and thus gold is a very effective media to build a transducer. Thus by use of the gold leaf for these works I am paying homage to historic and exploring contemporary methods of communication.

The theme of communication ties this work to Conceptual Art. Multiple layers of systems are embodied in the work. The linear element in each is the result of a rule set which calls for a mark of one length followed by another mark of one length made perpendicular to the first. The final complexity of the form is dependent on the number of iterations in which this rule set is executed. Each object is symbol and agent in establishing a site for communication analogous to Beuys' Rose für direkte Demokratie (Rose for Direct Democracy). In the 'Organization for Direct Democracy through Peoples Referendum', 1972 Beuys used the rose in a graduated cylinder to consecrate sites of discursive contact and as an institutional critique of the gallery/museum complex. Symbolically these paintings stand as objet d'art or sites for aesthetic or scopophilic discourse and gateways to the discourse of the network. This conflation is a purposeful attempt to make these two aspects converse echoing the spirit of Bauhaus or Droog design.

The multiple references and aspects of this project create a complexity that needs to be reconciled. It is a sort of transgenic genealogy that comes with penalties producing morphologically challenged entities. The visual structure yields nothing immediately identifiable as icon painting nor engineering design project. This is not a hybrid; the notion of hibridity suggests a confluence of form that is somehow compatible.

These objects reflect the ‘monstrous’ ritually assembled from widely variant materials such as industrial paint products, electron microscopy supplies, Medieval painting technique, late 20th century romanticism, and the piety of gilding as a symbol and messenger of light. Like a discussion between the three heads of the Chimera of
Arezzo,3 these forms are the assemblage of products, techniques, and which can be seen as a reflection of desire to facilitate a multilateral discourse.

The efficiency of the product in engineering value is murky as well. These objects give over to “How design can improve the quality of our everyday lives by engaging the invisible electromagnetic environment in which we live.”4 Circuit design and engineering are fields concerned with formally optimized spatial and electrical relationships. The pictorial space of these planar antennae are less concerned with optimization of the engineered space than the aesthetic experience through image plane, self similarity algorithms and in the transmission of the network. Certainly, there are specifications that are peculiar to the design which must be maintained in order to serve some functionality (such as the segment length/channel ratio) but, this design is decidedly non-engineered as to the optimal utility of the spectrum. These device-object-tool-fetishes seek an optimization of aesthetics while maintaining reasonable functionality in engineering.

1. Dunne, Anthony. "The Electronic as Post-Optimal Object." Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design. Cambridge: MIT, 2007. 1-20.

2. "Transducer." Oxford English Dictionary. 16 Mar. 2009 .

3. "Chimera of Arezzo." Scholars Resource. .

4. Dunne, Anthony. "The Electronic as Post-Optimal Object." Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design. Cambridge: MIT, 2007. 1-20.

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