Saturday, 14 January 2017

Review of "When Species Meet" (2008) by Donna Haraway (Part 1 - Introduction)

Having started to read some of the ideas of Donna Haraway in her book "When Species Meet" (2008) University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, I was immediately taken by the idea that the majority of cells in the human body is made up of about 10% genomes and the remaining 90% of cells, consists of various other materials including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and other organisms!

Our bodies, ours as far as one could understand them belonging to us, therefore, are shared with all these other organisms. Our journey through life has become a vessel for those other bioforms. What an interesting notion this might be, especially if we consider Donna Haraway's anti-anthropocentric meditation.

Some of the reading was difficult to become immersed in, because of what I consider to be a rather typical Californian style. Her language is at times staccato, and yet at other times overly academic. The message, therefore, is occasionally blurred, but maybe this is a device that Haraway uses in an attempt to remain obscure?
She seems to have a habit of using a string of similar words separated by commas, each of which ostensibly means the same thing. Once you get used to this style, and what appears to be an incessant form of wordplay (which is something that I'm not always averse to, as I do enjoy a sense of humour at times)! Putting Haraway's writing style aside; however, the content of her works is useful. 

The simple idea that we share the world with a myriad of other creatures, and therefore need to take account and be responsible neighbours, makes good reading.

There is plenty to read in her book "When Species Meet" and my conclusion here is that my study of it, together with the study of another book recently published will serve me well for this term. This new paper, which Haraway co-wrote with one of her students (Thom Van Dooren), is in a book entitled "Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction", (2016). I already have a copy, - hot off the press!

I intend to continue to provide regular updates of my thoughts about both these books, so watch this space!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Research on the visual perception(s) of hawks

In the article entitled "The Deep Fovea, Sideways Vision and Spiral Flight Packs in Raptors", Vance A.Tucker of the Department of biology, Duke University, North Carolina, published in November 2000, he talks about Falcons Eagles and Hawks, collectively known as raptors, as having two areas of the focal point of the retina (the fovea), that he calls the shallow fovea and the deep fovea. Through his work and through the work of other biologists it has been found that the deep fovea has a much higher acuity of sight, compared to the shallow fovea.

Birds in general tend to spend much of their time looking sideways at an object depending on the proximity of it. When an object is further away, between approximately 8 m and 21 m, they adopt an observational style which is more readily identifiable to us humans, as that kind of inquisitive head tilted, sideways look. Indeed as objects move further away again, approximately 80% of their gaze is through these angled positions.

When considering that birds of prey swooped down on to their victims from significant heights, air to ground speed increases, and therefore any changes in drag coefficients and aerodynamics through altering their wings, or indeed their head position would slow the descent and give prey animals more time to react. It seems therefore that raptors have modified their behaviour in such swoops and dives, so as to make an approach in what appears to be spiral pattern. What this means is that the raptor can continue at the fastest velocity, yet at the same time through sideways focus through their leading eye, they are able to take advantage of almost straight line speed without losing their abilities of extreme accuracy in vision.


Further research into the acuity of raptors vision and in particular, the Peregrine falcon would be worthwhile, as I am particularly interested in the anatomy of the eye, and its similarities to the ideas of the traditional camera chamber, and later technological advancements in digital photoreceptors such as charge-coupled devices (CCD's).

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Reflections on the recent work of Helen Marten and other Contemporary Artists, Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

I was delighted to hear that the recent winner of the first Hepworth Prize for Contemporary Art, went to a local lady (born in Macclesfield, Helen Marten, in November 2016.  Ms Marten went on then to win the even more prestigious Turner Prize in London, a couple of weeks later.

This all seems very appropriate and fitting too, with the project and theories that I am pursuing too.  Notably, the contemporary importance of Speculative Realism in art, and the new manifestations of Art objects that Helen Marten and her contemporaries, such as Phyllida Barlow, Steven Claydon and David Medalla (all runners-up in both competitions) are currently creating.

I had the opportunity to visit the Hepworth Gallery and examine the works by Marten and the other shortlisted artists.

Helen Marten"Guild of Pharmacists", 2014.  Mixed media,
found objects. Hepworth Gallery, West Yorkshire.

I was very impressed with Marten's work as it has come from someone at quite a young age.  Marten has already exhibited in New York, Italy and other European cities, with an accomplished oeuvre at only 30 years of age.
Helen Marten, "Part Offering (brother cappuccino), 2014.
Helen Marten, "Part Offering ( doubtless other creatures would have come and gone of course), 2014.

"Part Offering (new and amazingly sexual daughters)," 2014

 The materials used also have synergy to what I also use, which are a mixture of text, painted / screen printed and drawn work, often supported with or juxtaposed with mixed digital media including videos, text and finally found objects.  Together they form new and very different artefacts that explore how we as viewers, may encounter, see, feel and touch things that are both familiar, (i.e. every-day) and at the same time unfamiliar.

 Other exhibitors at the Hepworth who were shortlisted were Phyllida Barlow and her huge installation "Scree", originally installed at Des Moines Art centre, Des Moines, Iowa, USA in 2013, and a new installation is now placed within one room at the Hepworth;

Also of consideration is the work by Steven Claydon, with work that has some similarities to that of Marten, but seems to manifest itself in a more masculine way, as can be seen in his works below;

The importance of their work in connection with my studies of quotidian subjects, comes from the ideas of re-use; Anamnesis.  This is the title of a series of books by Open-Court publishing and includes Graham Harman's works on Hiedegger and others entitled "The Speculative Turn; Continental Materialism and Realism", and also includes work by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek.

(** NOTE ** ALL IMAGES on this page are for personal use only as Research material.
 ** Copyright of all artwork objects acknowledged in attribution to the original artists **).