Technology is a wide ranged, and multifaceted concept to be writing about. In short, technology is defined as the application of scientific knowledge, but in my opinion, even the most benign entity can fit into the milieu of technology. In the beginning of the 1968 Stanley Kubrick masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey,” prehistoric apes huddle in caves, have a loud but not harmful confrontation at a watering hole with another tribe of apes, and then wake up to the enigmatic monolith that appears overnight while they are sleeping. The apes scream in fear but eventually gather around to cautiously touch its surface. Kubrick then cuts to an ape crouched over the sun-bleached skeleton of an animal on the ground. His head moves back and forth pondering what’s before him. As Richard Strauss’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” begins to play, the prehistoric ape then grabs a leg bone from the stripped carcass and at first he timidly begins hitting the skeleton, then a bit harder, then it turns into a fevered pitch with ribs, bones and skull breaking under the weight of the crushing blows. Images of living prey being felled are cut in and out the scene. The ape then stands up triumphantly, and swings the tool over his head and throws it into the sky, where it morphs into a space station whose occupants are headed for the moon. It is truly the dawn of man, and the dawn of technology.
The point in recapping a scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey” is that even the lowest tech of my work is still shaped in part by technology. The ape finds his tool in the form of a leg bone, where I will use a factory sharpened X-Acto knife to cut finely shaped wood that been processed at a mill. My cutout letters and very precise elements, are burned into the wood with a laser cutter that is located in Nevada where is cut and then sent back to me. Although most of the time on that body of work was spent toiling by hand in the studio, all of it arrived to me on the backbone of technology.
Other works of mine fall squarely into what we might consider technology-based artwork. In the year 2000, I began experimenting outside my then sculptural installations and started to include video into the work. My first video piece was a work entitled “Body Language.” In it, I took two of my poems and wrote them on the bodies of a naked woman and man. The models rotate, and the camera follows the bodies from head to foot to reveal the poems. The videos were then run through several software plug-ins to flatten, posterize and make the images very high key. It’s a dual channel video, presented side by side with two monitors and synchronized to begin and end at the same time.
The first large-scale technology based installation that I did was a multimedia piece presented at the Kemi Art Museum in Kemi, Finland. Entitled “Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops” I captured four famous song performances from the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” and ran them through several video processors. The altered and twisting, colorful images in the videos were projected onto large screens in the museum, and the end effect was that of turning the iconic movie to resemble the aurora borealis that is so prevalent in that part of the world.
The same year I did a solo exhibition at the gallery that represented me in New York City. For the piece “The Reversal of Time” I housed six clocks in a clear vitrine. Also included in the vitrine was a very sensitive microphone and radio transmitter. The microphone picked up the sounds of the minute hands moving on the six clocks and transmitted the sound to a receiver. Connected to the receiver was a processor that took the captured sound of the moving hands of the clocks and reversed it and sent it through an amplifier to a series of speakers mounted in the room. The sound coming out of the speakers was the live sound of time seemingly running backwards.
There have been other works of mine that have employed the use of cutting edge technology, particularly my collaboration with the noted architect Gregg Lynn on our proposed “Ice Scraper” project that used a computer to calculate complex algorithms to predict the formation of the structure. But technology does not shape my work nor consciously drive it; rather I use technology as a means to express the concept-driven theme and idea of the work. I do this much like the way I use my iPhone—which arguably is at the vanguard of technology—from anywhere in the world to get information or to express my ideas through phone calls, texts and emails. I do not take a technological idea and decide how to make a piece from it; instead I have an idea and try to apply the best technological solution for it. Be it low-tech, high-tech, super-high-tech or even no-tech. It is a tool, or a multi-tool to allow me to convey and express the concept and manifest it to physical form.
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- The Leg Bone’s Connected to the iPhone by Richard Humann - December 23, 2012