Leonardo Abstracts Service (LABS): Top-Rated LABS Abstracts 2014

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The Leonardo Abstracts Service (LABS) is an evolving, comprehensive database of thesis abstracts (Ph.D., Masters and MFA) on topics at the intersections between art, science and technology. This English-language database is hosted by Pomona College (Claremont, CA), under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Sheila Pinkel.

Each year, in addition to being published in the database, a selection of abstracts chosen by a peer review panel for their special relevance are published annually in Leonardo and on the Leonardo On-Line website. We are pleased to present below the top-ranked thesis abstracts of 2014, and we congratulate the authors of the theses.

Sheila Pinkel: spinkel4@gmail.com

The Aesthetics of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
Setting MRI in Motion from the Scientific Laboratory to an Art Exhibition

Silvia Casini

In this research project I examine the aesthetics of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a technique that generates images of the body/brain for scientific/medical purposes. By using a variety of approaches (philosophy, visual studies, curatorial practice) and materials (artworks, lab experiments) I develop new methods and contexts relevant to the processes by which MRI is resituated in gallery spaces and cinematic environments. Part I, Histories, places MRI within the historical and philosophical background formed by earlier image-generating techniques. Part II, Convergences/Divergences, focuses on concepts such as mirror, scan and grid, all present in the MRI process. This section reassesses notions of identity and portraiture by juxtaposing MRI to MRI-based artworks and, beyond that, to portraiture in moving-image works. Part III, Passages, explores the concepts mentioned above by anchoring them to laboratory fieldwork and to the curating of an exhibition on Marc Didou. In its engagement with a wide range of critical debates and creative practices, this thesis intervenes in the art-science debate by creating a challenging encounter between scientific and artistic practices outside artist-scientist collaboration. In it I envisage a future for film studies that can be more receptive to a wider array of visual and plastic art forms.
Silvia Casini: <silvia.casini@unive.it>. Ph.D. diss., Queen’s University, Belfast, U.K., 2008.

Marc Didou, Skull II (detail), bronze, wood pedestal and bronze anamorphic mirror, 2007. (© Marc Didou. Photo: Alain Le Nouail.)

Three-Dimensional Poetic Natures

Jayne Fenton-Keane
In this thesis I explore poetry as a multi-dimensional, intrinsically interdisciplinary craft. Poetry written for and practiced in media other than the page is surprisingly under-investigated and has had difficulty establishing “legitimacy.” I adopt the term “Three-Dimensional Poetic Natures” to explore poetry beyond the page, particularly in relation to performance and digital poetry and the creative and discursive exchanges taking place there. I use the word “ecological” throughout the thesis to represent poetry as profoundly interconnected with culture, language, people and the environment. Poetry is discussed as a living organism in exchange with the world. A poetics emerging from ecological thinking considers ideas, spatiality, acoustics, environments, subjectivities and texts as elements of a poem that are expressed uniquely in poetry beyond the page. H2O, Liquid Stanzas and Dive, the three poetry collections I wrote and produced as part of the research process, are technologically enabled and represent ecological poetry connected with the marine environment. I concentrate investigations through the lens of water as it dominates the blood, breath and tissue of life and the act of writing and speaking.
Jayne Fenton-Keane: <jfk@poetinresidence.com>. Ph.D. thesis, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, 2008.

Jayne Fenton Keane performing “Organelle Machine,” Brisbane Writers Festival, 2002. (© Jayne Fenton Keane)

Mediating Poles: Media Art and Critical Experiments of the Polish Site, 2004--2009

Aleksandra Kaminska
In Mediating Poles I map out the role of art and artists following Poland’s integration into the European Union in 2004 as representative of the tensions between global cosmopolitanism and national self-enfranchisement. This work is a reflection on a key moment in Europe’s political and cultural history, bringing together media studies, art history and criticism, political theory and cultural studies to consider how the epistemological and phenomenological shifts that are concomitant with an ephemeral materiality help us imagine new or alternate political realities. Situated within global developments of the field of media art, Mediating Poles is anchored in a Polish archaeology going back to the 1920s. This expansion of the history of media art to include Eastern European heritage articulates a site-specific context to what is often considered to be an art practice that is unrooted, placeless, virtual and groundless. Supported by close readings of specific works by artists emerging and established, I argue that media art provides a unique opportunity for creating radical articulations for community and site, while still claiming a space in a global or transnational imaginary.
Aleksandra Kaminska: <aleks.kaminska@gmail.com>; Web: <www.aleksandrakaminska.com>. Ph.D. diss., York University, Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Aleksandra Polisiewicz, from the cycle Wartopia 1. Berlin 518, Moskwa: 1122, 1 m x 1 m, 2006. (Courtesy of Le Guern Gallery and the artist.)

Noisy Fields: Interference and Equivocality in the Sonic Legacies of Information Theory

Nicholas A. Knouf
In Noisy Fields: Interference and Equivocality in the Sonic Legacies of Information Theory I discuss how noise causes interferences within disciplinary fields. I understand noise to be more than positive revolutionary potential or negative disruption; instead, noise functions equivocally, possessing aspects of each pole in varying degrees. Considering noise as a material-discursive phenomenon, I trace its intersections with sonic practices and information theory. Noise was key to early debates surrounding information theory, and I examine some situations that provide alternative formulations. I then trace the interrelationships between information theory, noise and early electronic music in the 1950s, outlining how artistic experiences necessitated new information theories. Considering the confluence of sound and information in finance, I show how noise is on one hand understood as a potential monetary source while ultimately confounding attempts at capture. I turn to the nexus of speech, the voice and noise to consider situations of parrhesia via noisy interferences within social systems through the activity of robotic performing objects. Finally, I listened to the electronic vocal manipulations of Maja Ratkje and Holly Herndon to consider a micropolitics of the noisy voice. In sum, I show how analyzing noise requires a transdisciplinary approach that traces the complicated dynamics of its interferences.
Nicholas A. Knouf
Nicholas A. Knouf: <nak44@cornell.edu>. Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A., 2013.


Nicholas Knouf, Noisy Fields, screenshot, 2012. (© Nicholas Knouf)

Languages of Russian and Chinese Narrative Video Art

Victoria Marchenkova
Narrative in video art is defined by synchronous art movements and structures of modern and postmodern literature. Video as medium is influenced by existing narrative structures. A researcher should synthesize strategies of contemporary art interpretation and film semiotics to analyze narrative video art pieces.
Moscow Conceptualism and Neoacademism influenced Russian narrative video art (Boris Yukhananov, Kirill Preobrazhenskiy, Yuriy Leiderman, Chto Delat, AES+F, etc.). Chinese narrative video art (Wu Wenguang, Wang Jianwei, Yang Fudong, Cao Fei, etc.) is connected with the iconography of Socialist realism, mass and traditional cultures. It is conceptually accessible to the masses. The image of a new subject has appeared inside this movement. This subject was formed by political and socio-cultural changes of the end of the 1980s.
I single out two formal strategies in Russian video art. The first is connected with the process of dissolving inside of a social context. Subjects of this type of video express themselves in aesthetic choices. The second is based on inclusive strategy, “fluxes” and aesthetic mixing. The main strategy of Chinese artists is representation of contradictions between individual wishes and a social system.
Victoria Marchenkova: <noskivgoroshek@gmail.com>. Ph.D. diss., Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia, 2013.


AES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Eugeniy Svyatskiy, Vladimir Fridkes), Allegoria Sacra, video still image, 2011--2012.(© AES+F, Triumph Gallery)

From Networked Art to Programmed Drifts: “Art as Experience” Today

Karen O’Rourke
In this habilitation thesis I report on over 30 years of creative research in the visual arts. I conducted and analyzed three selected experiments to cast light on the artistic process. In a body of work entitled Paris Réseau/Network I explored the possibilities of networked art using protocols and instructions. I developed this in several stages. Originally designed as a performance, it quickly developed beyond the real-time experience to take charge of its own archives. The second chapter describes the making of Partially Buried University, an interactive 3D environment, and reflects on my implication in a collective research project involving artists, scientists and industrialists. In the third experiment, the goal was to test protocols developed by other artists. As a pedestrian, I followed the paths traced by these artists, and as cartographer I represented and situated these experiences. Finally, with a view to interpreting the “field data,” in the last chapter I outline the problems that underlie all these practices. Can we take advantage of the instability of digital media to design a “robust” art that is not limited by a single presentation device? What is the role of the onlooker in the resulting artistic experience?
Karen O’Rourke: <mapper@wanadoo.fr>. Ph.D. diss., Université Paris 1, Paris, France, 2011.


Karen O’Rourke, Paris Réseau/Network, 2011. (© Karen O’Rourke. Based on City System © Lee Walton. Photo: Karen O’Rourke.) This work explores the possibilities of networked art using protocols and instructions.

Sonified Freaks and Sounding Prostheses: Sonic Representation of Bodies in Performance Art

Daniël Ploeger
This study is concerned with the role of sound in the presentation and representation of bodies in performance art that incorporates digital technologies. It consists of a written thesis accompanied by original artwork.
Since the 1960s, performance artists have explored the use of body sensor technologies to synthesize and control sound. However, little attention has been paid to the generated sound and the interaction between body and equipment from a cultural critical perspective.
The present study responds to this observation in two ways: Firstly, the written part examines existing biosignal performance practices. It seeks to demonstrate that artists’ design of sensor technology and sonification methods is often complicit in the representation of normative body types and behavior. Conceptualizing the sonified body as a transgressive or “freak” body, I propose three critical perspectives on biosignal sonification: a gender-critical reading of body sonification methods, an inquiry in the context of Bakhtin’s concept of the grotesque body and a conceptualization of the sonified body as a posthuman prosthetisized body.
This forms the framework for the study’s second objective: the development of practical performance strategies to engage body politics. This part of the study includes three performance works: ELECTRODE (2011), Feedback (2010) and SUIT (2009--2010).
Daniël Ploeger: <daniel.ploeger@cssd.ac.uk>. Ph.D. thesis, University of Sussex, U.K., 2013.


Daniël Ploeger, ELECTRODE, 2011. (© Daniël Ploeger. Photo © OCNM Archive / Martin Popelár.)

The Optics of Anatomy and Light: A Studio-based Investigation of the Construction of Anatomical Images

Nina Sellars
As anatomical images of the human body increasingly circulate in the current visual and media culture, they not only belong within the domain of scientific enquiry but also exist in a creative field that helps to further define our human identity. The context for my research is provided by a contemporary investment in what we may term “the anatomical gaze”; one that reaches beyond the strictly defined discipline of anatomy. However, in this research I consider anatomical images at their inception to explore the role light plays in defining the anatomical gaze. The magnification of sight and intensification of light enabled by various technological advancements have allowed us to see what previously remained invisible in the anatomical body. But, more importantly, these technical developments have also provided us with new ways of conceptualizing these recently discovered bodily structures and their representations. For this reason in this research I position anatomy as a topic that should not be, and in reality cannot be, insulated from cultural concerns. My studio-based research is comprised of a series of art installations that hybridize old and new optical technologies in ways that expose slippages and meeting points between different ways of visualizing anatomy.
Nina Sellars: <nsellars@iinet.net.au>. Ph.D. thesis, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 2012.


Nina Sellars, Lucida (installation detail), glass, aluminium, stepper motors, optic fibres, plasma arc light, dimensions variable, 2012. (© Nina Sellars).

Axial; A Sound Art Work of an Oceanographic Expedition

Hugo Solis
Axial is a sound installation in which a cargo container is employed as a resonant object: resonant in its acoustic sense because the container is used as sound generator, but also resonant in its metaphorical connotation because the container and the generated sounds translate and represent the geological properties of Axial, an active submarine volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge located about 250 miles off the coast of Oregon (U.S.A.). The container is also the space-instrument for interpreting the scientific data obtained during the oceanographic expedition Enlighten10, organized by the Ocean Observatory Initiative. During this expedition I recorded the sounds of the hydrothermal vents located in the area at depths of over 4,500 feet.
This Ph.D. thesis describes in detail the entire compositional process as well as the concepts, procedures and context of the artwork. It also describes the concept of digital plurifocality and presents the properties of the Plurifocal Events Controller, a technological infrastructure for creating spatially distributed sound works. The thesis also describes Juum, a piece of software that helps to organize and create digital artworks using an extended timeline logic employing scripting programming.
Hugo Solis: <hugosg@uw.edu>. Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, Seattle, WA, U.S.A., 2014.


Hugo Solis, internal view of Axial, sound installation, cargo container, sound, electronics, 2011. (© Hugo Solis)

Find out more about Leonardo Abstracts Service (LABS): http://leonardo.info/isast/LABS.html

Updated 6 July 2015