[-empyre-] [–empyre–] Refiguring the Future, Week 3: Hackability of the body

Lee Blalock leeblalock03 at gmail.com
Fri Mar 22 00:39:26 AEDT 2019

Hello everyone,

Forgive me for my mid-week delay in responding. My own body decided to be
ill on Monday. I'm heavily dosed with DayQuil. I'm Lee, the author of the
modified buddha piece in the Refiguring the Future exhibition. My practice
deals with alternative ways of describing the body using technology driven
media, primarily of the creative code and electronic variety. I'm
responding to the question of whether alternative conceptions of science
can be expanded to offer different ways of living in relation to both human
and non-human entities. I should also mention that I am also an educator
since a lot of my experience talking about this particular topic is
centered around discussions with students. The class that I teach on
Wednesdays is called Brave N3w Bod1es: Posthuman Practices, and one of the
topics that generates the most conversation has to do with cognition. My
classes are often studio based classes, and when discussing proposals for
systems designed to augment the physical body, students often aim to make
those systems intelligent. This leads to follow questions that define
intelligence such as "which intelligence?" and this opens a doorway through
which we can discuss ideas around cognition. In the very least, we can look
at nonhuman models of intelligence after which systems can be modeled.

The broader conversation inevitably leads to the position of the human in
the world and tends to nudge that position away from the center. At the
local level, studying artificial intelligence convinces me that cognition
is distributed throughout the body - as a network, yes  - but this also
allows me to imagine the body to be a modular system. Going even further,
artistic license leads me to remove parts from that network completely in
an effort to inhabit spaces piece by piece. I compare it the very real way
I employ code-switching as I walk between neighborhoods or specific spaces.
In my practice, removing my breath from my body and distributing it among
54 miniature statues allows me to be present, yet in some control of how
labels can undermine the way I move through the world. (As I write this, I
realize that "hacking" seems to take on a very visceral meaning for me
while I make my work!) At the level which leaves the self behind, my
interests remind me daily of the autonomy of the non-human, specifically
the way uninhabitable spaces demand our respect. It sounds so cliche to say
that my attention to technology has brought me so much closer to nature,
but I understand why some early adopters of its philosophy were hippies.

Again, apologies for such a late reply. I'm looking forward to the rest of
the week.

Lee Blalock, humanplus

On Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 9:29 AM Lola Martinez <lola.martinez at eyebeam.org>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Last week’s reflections on accessibility offered insights from
> creative utilizations of digital platforms to perspectives on
> world-building. Following these insights, we continue onto week 3 with
> conversation on Refiguring the Future’s exploration of the bodies
> entanglements with technology.
> Technoscientific biases categorize individuals according to markers
> such as race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship, and in turn
> undermine how we live and navigate our present and future worlds.
> These discourses attempt to remove agency from the body—either
> accidentally, as an insignificant detail, or intentionally, as a shell
> to be surpassed. Yet how can we lay claim to the position of a
> diversity of bodies as indispensable? Can alternative conceptions of
> science, from biology to ecology, be expanded to offer ways in living
> differently in relation to land, self, and other? Would these
> alternative systems or methodologies challenge the structural
> injustices embedded in technology? Ultimately, we aim to host
> dialogues that engage with the messiness and hackability of the body
> as an essential substrate of culture.
> I’m honored to be joined by Lee Blalock, whose work is on view as part
> of the exhibition at 205 Hudson Gallery, Kathy High and Camilla Mørk
> Røstvik, both who are a part of the REFRESH collective.
> Lee Blalock is a Chicago-based artist and educator who presents
> alternative and hyphenated states of being through technology-mediated
> processes. Inspired by science fiction, futurism, and technology, her
> work is an exercise in body modification by way of amplified behavior
> or "change-of-state." Blalock also works under the moniker L[3]^2,
> whose most recent live work embraces noise and fissure as a natural
> state of being for bodies living in the information age. Superimposing
> custom module-based "Instr/augment" systems (what the artist calls
> “sy5z3ns”) onto performers, L[3]^2 creates conditions for meditation
> through generative and repetitive behavior. Blalock is an Assistant
> Professor in the Art and Technology Studies Department at the School
> of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds an MFA from the School of
> the Art Institute of Chicago and a BS from Spelman College, Atlanta.
> Kathy High is an interdisciplinary artist working in the areas of
> technology, science, speculative fiction and art. She produces videos
> and installations posing queer and feminist inquiries into areas of
> medicine/bio-science, and animal/interspecies collaborations. She
> hosts bio/ecology+art workshops and is creating an urban nature center
> in North Troy (NATURE Lab) with media organization The Sanctuary for
> Independent Media. High is Professor of Video and New Media in the
> Department of Arts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. She
> teaches documentary and experimental digital video production, history
> and theory, as well as biological arts.
> Dr. Camilla Mørk Røstvik is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the
> School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. She works on
> the visual culture and institutional power structures of menstruation
> from 1970s to the present day.
> --
> Lola Martinez | they/them
> Eyebeam/REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow
> Visit Refiguring the Future: Exhibition Feb 8 - Mar 31
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

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