Crossing Borders: Diffusion

Another class I am taking is called "Crossing Borders."  It's more of a culture appreciation class and is one of my required general studies class.  For the first half of the class, we have been talking about many topics and I was required to produce an original artwork of my own to tie into one of the topics.  For my work, I decided to create a digital sculpture in ZBrush, which I call Diffusion.  In addition, I was required to write an essay on how my particular work relates to the topic I chose ("The Merging of High and Low Culture.")

Here are renderings of the sculpture followed by the essay.  Enjoy!

Brad Reynolds
Mid-Term Project
Crossing Borders: GS 606 - OL11


With the advent of the digital age, the potential exposure of an art piece is greater than it has ever been before.  Anyone with the proper knowledge has the potential to create art and distribute it to an almost infinite audience because of the channels that are available today.  Social diffusion, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the spread of cultural elements from one area or group of people to others by contact (Diffusion, Merriam-Webster.com).  The digital sculpture Diffusion seeks to form a literal image of this definition in context of the merger of high and low cultures.  It also conceptually explores the high potential of viewership or commodification made possible by the technological achievements available today.

The sculpture consists of two major elements tied together by a nondescript base.  Two disembodied hands extend toward each other making contact at the tip of the index finger.  Where the two fingers meet, both surfaces become fluid and begin to blend into each other.  Both of the hands are visually distinct from one another with various evident characteristics, each personifying the concept of high and low culture.

One hand is slender and well-manicured, suggesting an existence free of manual labor.  A ring adorns the third finger, a symbol of status and wealth that is displayed for the world to see.  The shirt and jacket sleeves are of high quality, another indication of social status and wealth.  Contrastingly, the opposite hand is gruff and weathered from a life of impoverished living.  Warts and scars are scattered at random across the skin while most of the palm and fingers are covered by a knit glove, tattered and worn out from years of use.  The fingers of the hand are meaty and tough with one of the fingertips bandaged up from a prior injury.  The clothing that covers the arm is of a destitute quality and condition, with the jacket showing significant signs of wear.  Although this is not a direct reflection on the art and taste of the two separate cultures, it is symbolic of the division of class that existed in society prior to the introduction of affordably produced goods.

The gesture of each hand is also worth noting.  There are a number of interpretations that can be found with the gestures, however it is left to the viewer to decide the meaning for themselves.  The wealthy hand is posed in a manner that suggests a beckoning motion to the poor hand.  In contrast, the poor hand has a sense of weakness to its pose, as if it is in its final thrust before drowning.  However, its pose could also be interpreted as a gradual increase in strength or awakening.  The relaxed manner in which its index finger is extended suggests that the contact with the other hand is purely coincidental.  At the point of contact, the hands appear to be melting into each other, although it is not clear which direction the flow is occurring.  Or, perhaps, is it occurring in both directions?  No singular event can be determined as the defining point where consumerism began to be commonplace in the world.  It is evident that goods of mass consumption have become more affordable to all peoples as time has progressed.  Andy Warhol once stated that “What's great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking” (Andy Warhol Quotes, goodreads.com).  However, did this trend begin with the upper class reaching out in a gesture of good will to make their products available to the masses?  Or was the rise of a middle class from the lower echelons of society the cause? Alternatively, perhaps was it a mutually generated result of society as a whole growing closer together financially?

An additional point to illuminate is the potential results of offering this particular piece in a digital format.  The sculpture, in reality, does not exist as our mind perceives it.  It is a series of data nodes– electronic signals that are interpreted by the computer to give the appearance of reality.  It is questionable that it is a unique piece of art, partially because the ability to duplicate and alter it is almost effortless.  Because it is a visual representation of an electronic signal, does it qualify as art in the traditional sense?  In just a few clicks of the mouse, the form can be significantly altered.  In a few seconds, the perceived material could be changed from bronze to marble, from marble to glass, from glass to clay, and from clay back to bronze.  In traditional sculpture, there would only be one true original piece, even though copies of it could be produced through creating a mold.  With the marvels of modern technology, if one so desired, the data that comprises the digital sculpture could be sent to a rapid prototyping company to produce a close to accurate physical reproduction of what the screen represents.  Alternatively, the data could be used by a computer-aided manufacturing program to produce a mold for mass production in whatever material was desired.  Looking at the work as purely a 2D representation of a sculptural concept, internet technology would allow for potentially millions of viewers to experience this piece.  The potential diffusion of this “artwork” is significantly amplified due to the avenues of modern technology.  Being a part of a high or low culture no longer is a prerequisite for viewing it if the artist deems it necessary.

With the advancements offered to the world today, the potential audience for an artist is staggering.  Emerging mediums and distribution channels allow the chance for peoples of all backgrounds and financial situations to experience the message that an artist chooses to deliver.  This places a huge amount of responsibility upon the artist to convey their message in a way that the world will be able to properly interpret.  The mediums available today truly have the power to shape the direction of tomorrow.

Works Cited

“Andy Warhol quotes.” Good Reads. Goodreads.com, n.p, n.d. http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1203.Andy_Warhol.

“Diffusion.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.  Merriam-Webster, n.p.  2011. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diffusion. 

1 comment:

Elder Max and Sister Pat said...

I like it and I liked it even more after I read your essay! I'd like one in bronze.