Archive for April, 2010

Here are the three stories for the creativity project.  The first story is with the teachers, the second story is with eighth grade students, and the final story involves two of my artistic friends.  I hope you enjoy them.

Group One Story: Teachers

Somewhere in the distance, Cecilia heard a faint laugh.  She so often heard the laughter in her mind. The laughter of her alter ego, Shelly, taunting, urging, and wanting her to lose it as she gave her valedictorian speech to the Manger High School class of 2010. As she read, she thought to herself, “Only if they knew what I was really capable of.” Cecilia was a bright girl. She made all A’s, was captain of both the basketball team and cheerleading squad, but there was something inside her longing to get out.

Her eyes stared down at the words before her.  These were her words, right?  She did write this speech.  Late at night, she would revise her speech, question her ideas, and rehearse her delivery.  She felt great importance in this speech, and she felt the many cameras from her family pointed toward the stage.  Looking down at the speech, she detested the clichés riddled throughout the paper.  In her mind, she heard Shelly mocking the phrase “a long road ahead.”  Shelly tells Cecilia that she does not deserve this moment if she is going to be so unremarkable about it.  “Why do what’s expected?” she hears Shelly ask.  Now, looking down at those words, she does not see the sentences she created, but rather a mass confusion of letters that hold no significance to her anymore.  She glances at the sea of gowns and caps, hiding everyone’s individuality.  As a collective mass of boredom, the Manger High student body waits for Cecilia to go ahead and get through her speech.  She abandons that paper before and decides simply to talk.

Cecilia’s voice, soft at first, began to speak into the microphone, “I had prepared a traditional speech to give today.” She heard some groans from her classmates. “But I’ve decided to forget that and tell you what’s really on my mind.” She saw surprise and curiosity on many of their faces. “Alllll-right!” She heard Shelly cheering her on. “Most of you know that I’m adopted,” she continued, more determined now, “but what you don’t know is that I was a crack baby. My mother was a drug addict. The authorities took me away from her right after I was born.” Now she heard murmurs of surprise and sympathy from the audience. With increasing confidence, she continued her story. Was it her talking now or Shelly? “My adoptive parents have been wonderful, and I love them very much.” She saw smiles now. “For some reason, though, I always felt that…no, I was sure that I was different somehow. Remarkable in some way.” Here it came, her moment of glory. In her excitement, she began to rise up and down on her tip toes.

The crowd was hushed. They stared expectantly at Cecilia. What in the world? “Strange things have been happening to me lately. At first, I thought I was just imagining things, but now… oh, it’s too unbelievable to explain. I’ll just have to show you.”  As,the audience watched in awe, Cecilia/Shelly ripped off her long black graduation gown and threw off her cap with its tassel trailing behind. She was now standing proudly on the stage in what appeared to be a hot pink full-body leotard, her hair done up in a poof.  On the front of the leotard in sparking silver sequins were the words, “Super Shelly.”  There was complete-shocked silence in the auditorium. Then the giggles started. “What’s wrong?” she wondered. “Why were they laughing? Was is possible they didn’t believe her? Couldn’t they see the truth?” “SHOW THEM,” Shelly roared inside her head. “SHOW THE UNBELIEVERS.”  “Yes, Yes, that’s it. I’ll have to demonstrate my powers before they will believe me.”

Celicia sat back to watch Shelly perform her routine.  After years of maintaining this perfect image and dedicating her life to school, Celicia allowed Shelly to enjoy the spotlight on this occasion.  No one would remember the timid Celicia who only did what everyone expected.  Shelly, the rebel, the performer, the outgoing one was going to shatter that image.  Shelly kneeled into position, and only in her head could she hear the music, the rhythm guiding her.

Then, just as quickly as the melodies started, they stopped.  Cecilia got back up, went behind the podium, and said, “Gotcha!  I bet y’all thought I was going to do something wild and crazy, but that’s not me.  I’m just a plain, simple girl.  However, as you walk out these doors and enter into the unknown, this journey we call ‘Life,’ you can’t be afraid to try new things from time to time, to dare to be great, and then pointing to herself, ‘different!’  In closing, I just want y’all to know that no matter what your past was like or how uncertain your future is, be super… like Shelly!”

As the audience went wild with applause, she turned her back, took a deep breath, picked her cap and gown up off the floor, and proudly strutted to her seat with her head held high.  Round 1: Cecilia 1/ Shelly 0.  While she sat during the rest of the ceremony, she heard Shelly mocking Cecilia.  “You had your chance,” Shelly said.  “You had the moment.  Everyone was watching, and once again you take the safe way out.”  Cecilia ignored Shelly’s taunting and paid attention to the roll call of graduates’ names.  As the principal stumbled through and butchered names the students took the stage for their brief moment of victory.  They shook hands with administrators.  Some even hogged the spotlight for just a bit longer.  For just a short time that afternoon every graduate got to standout before they went back into the sea of black robes.  Cecilia couldn’t help but wonder what else other graduates hid underneath those robes.

Group Two Story: Students

Somewhere in the distance, Paco heard a faint laugh. He was alone in a city at night with no one to make sure he was safe. At first, he feared the worst, but as the laugh got closer, he realized it was just his best friend, Fred. Fred and Paco had always gotten along, even with their differences, but this time Fred was very angry. Paco relaxed until he saw the look of sheer anger on Fred’s face. Paco then realized he had to run for his life. The two reasons he ran were because Fred was an astonishing six feet tall and Paco was less than five feet tall, and Fred had a gang of men with him. Now the chase was on.

Paco ran towards the nearest alley, just to see if he could lose them, but he was surprised when they all just left. He went back out on the street, but suddenly he was knocked out by a dark figure. The figure dragged Paco.  When Paco awoke, he was surprised to see himself in an empty room with no windows and a locked door. There was a video camera in the corner though, so he knew someone was watching.

Then suddenly the door slammed open and in came Fred. An unknown person threw in Fred, who had his hands bounded together. The mystery man had dark brown hair, but blue eyes as clear as the ocean. He was very muscular, but most of all he did not look happy. He sat down on the floor and asked, “Where’s the apple?” Paco honestly had no idea what he was talking about until Fred said, “Jerry has it and you’re not getting your hands on it.”  As soon as he said that, the man stormed out of the room and slammed the door shut.

Paco asked Fred, “Who was that man?” He answered, “That’s Bruno, and all he cares about is getting the apple.” Paco was confused about all this, so he just decided to sleep and not ask any more questions. But that same night, he had a very strange dream. It was about the apple.

In the bizarre dream, Paco found himself in an open field.  The tall, green grass swayed in a slight breeze, and he dragged his hands across the blades of grass as he headed towards the one tree in the field.  The branches on the ancient oak tree did not flinch from the wind’s push.  The thick boughs resisted the air’s power.  They had grown, through time, too strong to be destroyed.  The branches, however, lacked foliage. No leaves grew on any of the long the stems.  On one branch, Paco spotted the apple.  Able to reach it with his arm, Paco grabbed for the apple.  Expecting to feel the moist layer of the apple’s skin, he was shocked when his hands met the glass surface of the apple.  Obviously, this was no ordinary apple on this tree.

When Paco woke up from the cryptic dream, he still remembered the touch of that apple.  He can hear the pinging of the apple’s glass when his fingernails tapped the surface.   With the memory of that sensation, Paco knew the meaning of the apple.  Fred had stolen a rare piece of art from the city’s museum, the priceless apple that now everyone in town wanted.  Paco wanted nothing of it, and he only wanted to see this night end.  In order for him to see the end, he needed to find this apple and end the chase.

A day had passed and Paco was beginning to think that his chances of ever leaving the room were slim. The day before, Fred had attempted a very risky escape which only ended up with the loss of part of his finger, and a very brutal beating from Bruno and his crew.  After asking Fred what was going on, Paco found out that his suspicions of Fred were true, and that at one point Fred was part of the horrible gang. It turns out that stealing the apple wasn’t part of the gangs’ plan, but Fred, and the so called Jerry, couldn’t help themselves when they decided to rob the art museum. When Bruno found out about the surprisingly successful heist, he wanted the apple no matter what, and when Jerry ran off with the apple, Fred was the only one that could help the gang find it. Bruno needed someone who could crack security codes, get on locked computers, and find people in a government file. That’s where Paco came in handy. He was an expert at computers and would probably be able to do all the things that Bruno needed, so Fred, trying to save his life, spilled about Paco and his talents.

“This is the worst thing you have ever done in your life,” said Paco in a low voice.

“I’m sorry, but I was trying to save my life,” replied Fred, “when we find the apple I’m sure they will let you go as long as you make sure to follow everything they say.”

“I hope you’re right Fred.” Those were the last words Paco said to Fred. Later that night one of Bruno’s cronies came into the room and took Fred away to who knows where, and Fred never returned to the room. That same night, Paco got his first assignment from Bruno, which was to gain access to the government files to find out everything they could about Jerry. This was a mission Paco was sure he could do, but what worried him was the risk and the fact that if he did one thing wrong, they could kill him or one of his family members. There was no room for errors.

The day of the assignment arrived. Bruno threw Paco into a van and headed to the town hall. The mission went smoothly, and luckily, no one was killed. It turns out that Jerry went to Georgia to see if he could stay hidden from the gang. “We leave tomorrow at dawn,” announced Bruno in his rough low voice.

That night, Paco could not sleep for multiple reasons.  First, he feared having another bizarre dream with him in an open field.  Second, he pawned over the idea of searching for Jerry in Georgia with men Paco does not trust.  Furthermore, being surrounded by men he does not trust, forces Paco to stay awake because he never knows what Bruno and his men have planned.  For all Paco knew, he could end up like Fred, whatever that may be.  As all of these thoughts circled his mind, Paco laid in his room, waiting for the morning.  After endless time worrying, he heard the sound of the door opening and without turning around heard Bruno say, “Wake up.  Time to go.”

Paco shoved himself up to his feet out of utter fear and ran to the open door, where the dreaded Bruno stood. Bruno growled, “You sure you can do this? If not, you’ll be sleeping with the fishes.” In that moment, Paco had an epiphany. With his mighty kung-fu powers and his nine-and-a-half years with the CIA, he could take down any man who stood in his way. Then, he had another epiphany. Paco stood at four feet ten inches, while Bruno was easily seven feet tall. Discouraged and hungry, Paco replied with a solemn “I’m quite sure.” He stepped out into the empty road and silently walked over to the ominous-looking van where that waited for him. The surprisingly short and stout gang members gestured for Paco to get in the van.

Bruno got in on the driver’s side while Paco hopped into the back. He realized that there were only five people in the car, including himself. Hoping that Bruno could not hear over the roar of the engine, he cracked a joke to the disgusted-looking man. “Really, you guys? A black van? There’s not even that many of you. It’s kind of pointless don’t you think?” He was taken aback when the man turned toward him and threw his fist in Paco’s face. He became drowsy and then fell unconscious.

Paco was awakened by the sound of the van screeching to a halt. A member of the gang carefully set a laptop computer in Paco’s lap. Bruno turned his head back to face them and said “I’m going to go get something from Burger Boy. If I come back and this wimp isn’t done with his assignment, throw him in the lake.” Paco set his back erect and circled his shoulders. As soon as Bruno stepped out of the car, Paco had a marvelous idea. He only pondered over it for a second before he put his plan in action. Paco used his mighty kung-fu powers to obliterate the cronies and then out the side door, he went. He sped past Bruno, who was just walking into Burger Boy. The second part of Paco’s plan was simple: since his half-sister worked there, he always kept an extra jet pack in the back of the restaurant. He raced to the back of the store where they stored the meat, the ketchup packets, and his jet pack. Paco grabbed his flying contraption and threw it over his pudgy shoulders. The ceiling crumbled behind Paco as he flew to his safety.

As he flew away from the chaos of the past few days, Paco wondered what would happen with Jerry and the apple.  He wondered if he would ever see Fred again.  He wondered if Bruno would chase after him, or would Bruno just cut his losses?  He also wondered if his sister will be upset over the condition he left her restaurant.  All those concerns could wait, Paco thought.  He just wanted to get back home and get some sleep.  Hopefully, his dreams won’t cause him any problems.

Group Three Story: Friends

Somewhere in the distance, she heard a faint laugh. Slowly her eyes opened to reveal the canopy of the forest swaying against the dawn. Above, where the light of the coming day fell between the leaves and onto her face, slowly lifting the fog of sleep like the picture of an old television coming to life, the laugh called again. The weary wanderer, surely at rest at the foot of her favorite tree as the result of yet another somnambulant night, stretched her arms and legs forming a giant “X”. She sat up aware of her surroundings and familiar with the smells and sounds of dawn in the wilderness. This warmed her. Though the morning was not unseasonably cool, there was a chill in the wind coursing through the giant arms waving in the breeze. A shower would come in the late morning but there was no concern of being caught in the rain. She knew her house was only a mile or so from where she sat, and, even at the slowest pace, she would still reach her door by the first clap of thunder. She was in no hurry.

More laughter. With her eyes creased, she searched the limbs above for the comedian. At first the sight eluded her, but the quick flapping of wings brought her attention to a crooked branch where atop a mockingbird clenched the limb in his grotesque and gnarled claws. Although in her former life she was considered to be pleasant company, she never had much humor about herself. Taking a small pebble in her hand she hurled it towards the bird. Way off. Not even close. A chuckle leapt from her broken smile startling her.

Other birds began to sing and the comedian quickly adapted, abandoning the laughter for a more pleasant song. That is one thing she now began to notice: the laughter was certainly not pleasant. In fact, it was maniacal, evil, mean. It sounded forced but not against will. Its cadence brought to mind a taunt not unlike a bully reveling in craven victory but more akin to demonic irony; the comedy of the truly wicked unfurling as the result of heroic misfortune. The laugh belonged to her.

She heard her laughter, the laughter she once directed at the people who surrounded her at the time.  They would express their concern, and she would reply with her laugh.  Her laugh did not behave as most laughs.  Most laughs came in succession, stuttering out of one’s mouth.  Hers, was one sharp pang that mocked the sincerity of her company.  As she walked through the woods and listened to the sound of twigs breaking beneath her steps, she tried to recreate that laugh.  But she had no one to direct the laugh towards, except herself.  The labor of heading back home made her fully aware of the headache digging into her.  In the moments of waking up, discovering where she was, and assessing her situation she did not pay attention to her condition.  Now, she felt the pain against her temples.  The pain waded in her mind, not moving only lingering there making sure she acknowledged its presence.

As she continued to walk, she could not help but massage her head.  Before long ,she reached the cabin with their Jeep still parked outside.  She expected to smell some breakfast cooking as she neared the door.  It was his turn to cook, she thought.  Surely, she made their meals yesterday. Her days have become scrambled.  Given the fact that the sun was barely out, she figured he was still asleep.  Her headache indicated to her that he might be in a similar condition.  Considering the possible the scenarios from the previous night, she opened up their front door.  Once she entered, she realized her speculation was far from precise because she saw him lying on the floor, outlined by the stain of his own blood.

Rushing over to him, she saw what she was hoping wouldn’t really be happening.  Even as she rolled him over, the cold touch of his skin told her everything she feared. In those few steps towards him, she still thought there was a chance he would be ok: a chance that she was there to wake him up in time.  A faint breath escaped her as she accepted the obvious conclusion but was suddenly stopped with a gasp as a bubbled gurgle of blood exited his lips as she rolled him completely onto his back.

Frantically checking for a pulse, she kept telling herself that he’s going to be ok. If only to give herself a last glimmer of hope, if only to keep her sanity from leaving her alone in this room. She checked as well as she knew how, but she found nothing. He was gone, and it had been some time since it had happened. Panic over came her, and she realized that the only reason she escaped the same fate was due to chance. He always told her they couldn‘t run forever.

Run. Survive. Escape. Grab what you can and figure this out if you live past today.

No one could have found them, no one could have known. They had been completely safe. They never spent a lot of time in public and when they did, they never told any of the locals their real names.  It doesn’t matter. Run. Ignore the headache. No time to think.

She tried not to look at him while she looked for the keys and ….the gun! He didn’t have the gun. He had always kept it with him in his jacket pocket, hidden out in the open, but it wasn’t there and it wasn’t in his hand. As much as she would have felt safer with it, she decided to get out before she was caught there by the killer, by authorities or by anyone.

He said they couldn’t run forever. She didn’t need to run forever; just long enough to live.  When she headed to the car, she noticed the front flat tires on the Jeep.  She had missed that crucial detail when she returned from the woods and entered the cabin.  The addition of the flat tire intensified her headache.  She abandoned the Jeep and began walking back into the woods.  Without a clear destination, she followed the same path she just took when she exited the woods.  The haze of the previous night occupied her thoughts.  Still unclear on how, or why, she awoke in the woods, she decided to return to her spot.   She found the pile of leaves where her body had an indention upon the foliage.  Bending down to rifle through the leaves, she felt a sharp prick against her finger.  Blood dripped from the tip of her right index.  While sucking on the blood, with her other free hand, she carefully pulled a kitchen knife from the leaves.  Strange, she thought, I don’t remember bringing this with me.  I must’ve been hiding from the killer.  Do I know who this killer is?

She tried reconstruct the night before.  She tried to manifest an image of the killer.  With little success, she stood back up.  Unsure of what to do, she decided to head in another direction in the woods.  Maybe she would find campers, a police officer, or any other of civilization.  She only took a few steps when she felt her foot kick something.  Her feet brushed away the leaves to reveal a handgun, his handgun.  She picked up the gun and opened the chamber.  Three bullets were gone, three bullets that rested in the body that laid on the cabin floor.

Her knees surrendered to the reality of the situation.  Falling upon the leaves, she laid back down on the ground and once again listened to the laughter of the birds.  They had every right to laugh at her, to laugh at her situation.  How could she not remember?  Why did she do it?  The haze of her mind only increased, and her headache assaulted her brain.  There was no possibility of forming a lucid thought.  With the fired gun, and the knife she used to slash her own tires, she curled up into the leaves.

A drizzle began to fall from the sky.  The staccato rhythm of the rain aggravated her more, with droplets of water thumping her nose.  There was no rush for any action.  Isolated in the woods, away from the laws and eyes of others, she could take her time.  She closed her eyes as the rain began falling in a more consistent flow.  Her hair became wet from the storm, and it pressed against her cheek.  She smelled the rain in her hair, and for a moment she felt calm.  She focused on the calm.  Slowly, she went into a slumber, a deep sleep.  A hibernation sounded ideal to her.  As she allowed the sleep to overtake her, she felt comforted by the fact that she could solve her problem later when she awoke.  Best of all, the rain chased away the laughter of all the birds.


Read Full Post »

In “On Whitehead’s Ontological Principle,” Robert Hanna states Whitehead’s notion of “passing on” or “the activity” does not imply “mere flux;” instead, “it is to be taken as the reference to that which involves production or genius.” For Hanna, the “productivity-in-activity” is Whitehead’s underlying notion behind creativity. He refers to Whitehead’s Process and Reality: “It is the abstract language here adopted for metaphysical statement, “passing on” becomes “creativity” in the dictionary sense of the verb create, to “bring forth, beget, produce.” (PR, 213) This idea is nothing new for the artist, or for that matter, any other creative individual. Work comes from work. In order to produce a great work of art, whether it is an abstract painting, a romantic poem, a punk-rock song, or a delicious meal, one must attempt the act of creation, but what is interesting about Whitehead is the point of departure he takes from other thinkers.

Hanna states that Whitehead differs by disagreeing with those thinkers who believe there is an “external creation or genius;” instead, Whitehead believes that creativity “expresses the notion that each . . . being is a process issuing into novelty.” From this, Hanna concludes that Whitehead’s idea of creativity “refers to an internalized production of genesis of beings.” Therefore, for Hanna, “the beings are not wholly produced by another; in some sense they produce themselves.” (112)

When Hanna refers to beings, is he referring to works of art? This is a difficult notion, as Hanna states, for “creativity is not an actual entity” (114).

But what is interesting about Whitehead, as one reads on, is that he manages to incorporate the cosmos into creativity, and in doing so, he destroys the notion of an Absolute, breaking down the Platonic notion of ideal form. Here, he makes way for all people to participate in the creative act.

Read Full Post »

  I really enjoyed Dr. D’Andrea’s lecture.  He didn’t specifically focus on his process of creation, but at the lecture he highlighted the creative projects with which he has been involved. The main thing that I took away from his lecture was that, for him, creativity is a collaborative process. Experts in many fields combine their knowledge, operating within a set of requirements and goals, to create something new, and often useful. While it seemed that his most enjoyable projects, or at least the most notable, were projects with more of an aesthetic value than a practical one, he did stress that the table and chair were learning tools and thus useful exercises.

D’Andrea, like Crewdson, relies on the talents of his peers to fully develop his creativity. That connection got me to thinking about my creative writing, an interest that I normally consider to be a lonely pursuit. Then I realized that I am in a workshopping group. I think the workshop functions in a similarly collaborative role. While they don’t do the actual work of creating a story or developing characters or plotlines for me, they do provide valuable feedback.  They see things that are contradictory, missing, or things that could be flushed out for a richer story. 

Creativity is a work in development, and I’m not sure that it is ever absolutely perfect. I’m sure that if Crewdson had the time and capability to have his crew and set waiting for the best possible moment for a week or longer, he’d take that time to get the best composition. I think collaboration gives you that ability to perfect your work close to what you envisioned, but it also allows you to let go at some point and accept that it is finished.

Read Full Post »


Read Full Post »

Raffaello D’Andrea’s approach to the creative act may seem different from most engineers because he believes that one should design, or create, for the mere sake of creativity. He had stated that the engineer does not need to address a certain problem, for with innovation, the application can come later. But does the engineer create without a problem to solve? For instance, D’Andrea offers the examples of the chair, the balancing object, and the flying objects, and for each of them, there is a problem that needs to be solved: the chair needs to reassemble, the objects needs to balance, or the objects need to fly. Perhaps, it is that there is no reason, either monetary or practical, for the innovation. But this approach to technological innovation is nothing new. Tesla had the same approach over a hundred years ago. For example, during the 1893 world exposition in Chicago, he displayed the “Egg of Columbus,” which is an egg that will stand up from spinning. With the Egg, Tesla used a spinning magnetic field to prove that he could make an egg spin.

Check it out on You Tube:

Innovation is important and necessary, but there is a cost. When asked about the ethics of robotics replacing jobs, D’Andrea responded that technological innovation is a must, and he used the tractor as an example since it has made farming easier and less tiresome. But I am not sure that this is a valid excuse. When one considers the food industry today, she must be reminded of all the small farmers across the world that were forced out of work because of technology. Industrial farming has forced many small American farms to close because they could not keep up with the production of the larger, industrial farms that had the money for technology and thus, the capability to charge lower prices; moreover, small farmers in third world countries struggle even more to compete with technology. Many of them were still using older methods like the plow, and since they did not have the money for a tractor, they went under.

There is a fine line when it comes to the ethics of technology. Jobs are at stake, and not only that, but our health too. Again, when one looks at the food industry and its reliance on technology for production, she must ask herself who the technology is good for.

Read Full Post »

Sternberg’s view of creativity as a choice, and not a genetic trait is one that gives hope to those who think inside the box. His radio interview on KERA, in which he admits that he was a poor student, who did not show signs of “genius” when tested, shows us our desire to understand creativity, and intelligence should not lead us to label others as having less potential than we sometimes do. Sternberg’s views on creativity and intelligence is one that is apparently  colored by his religious beliefs. His Triarchic system is definitely adapted from the Christian trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In place of these three, Sternberg defines intelligence as practical, analytical, and Creative. Creativity as choice is also a parallel of the doctrine of Free Will. One is left to make their own determination of what they are, to define oneself by an active choice, and avoid the labels that are given to them by others. I am not a religious person, but I certainly recognize the Christian trinity as a model for Sternberg’s “Triarchy”.

While I am unsure that creativity can be taught, Sternberg does not share my cynicism. He relays the story of his fourth grade teacher, who believed in his ability to overcome learning obstacles, and eventually led him to overcoming his perceived (through testing) learning disabilities. In a conversation outside of class, I have discussed the possibilities of games (which would in ways be represented by Sternberg as creativity, or play) as an educational tool. My take on it is to have these educational games replace recess in public schools. In this way, the lessons from class discussions, and work in class and at home could be augmented and reinforced by the “play” period, in which the students are fooled into thinking they have a break from their school work. This would satisfy the need for our minds to have recreation, and reinforce the lessons taught in the classroom. The students would be allowed to play, be given positive reinforcement from the teachers (at least hopefully), and the whole experience could be assimilated into the brain during sleep. This would encompass all of Sternberg’s Triarchic intelligence requirements:  analytical, practical, and creative (through self discovery during “play”).

Read Full Post »

Dr. Raffaello D’Andrea’s collaboration with the artist, Max Dean on the piece titled, Robot Chair is intriguing, as it seems to offer hope for artificial intelligence. However, D’Andrea does not make this assertion. He instead discounts such claims. When asked if robotics, and artificial intelligence were on the cusp of some breakthrough, if the field was in fact on the verge of mastering the complex motions necessary to mimic human movement,  D’Andrea dismisses the assertions of many of his colleagues in the field. He also refuses to predict where robotics will be in the unforeseeable future. D’Andrea seems to be most proud of the chair as a nonfunctional  object. One cannot sit in the chair.  It is simply designed to fall apart, and pull itself together. But it is not designed to support the weight of a person.  Perhaps serving a nonfunctional purpose is D’Andrea’s contribution to robotics. His other collaboration with Dean, titled, The Table, 2001, was featured in the Venice Biennale The Table is perhaps even more interesting than Robot Chair, due to the interaction of the Table with the viewers.  Whenever a visitor to the exhibition comes into contact with the table, it reacts by moving away from the viewer, and seems to refuse to cooperate, and serve its utilitarian purpose. By a certain definition, it is the nonfunctional aspect of his collaborations with Dean that qualifies these works as art, and not utilitarian objects. It is also telling of our love/hate relationship with technology.  We are sometimes frustrated with things when they do not function as we want them to function. Our preconceptions, and our tendency to view objects(especially functional objects, such as cars), and in this case, even furniture as anthropomorphic tends to make us distrust of technology, and even see it as a bad thing. When this is played with, as D’Andrea and Dean do in their collaborations, it is fun, and perhaps even instructive. From these nonfunctional/functional objects, we can learn a whole lot about our own attitudes towards technology, and how misguided they can be.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »