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Writings on Art


The Emergence of the MediaSapien, May, 2008

Burning Man, December 2005

Isolation in the Age of Machine Art, Artweek, June 1997


"Rubin, in some way that no one quite understands, is a master, a teacher, what the Japanese call a sensei. What he's the master of, really, is garbage, kipple, refuse, the sea of cast-off goods our century floats on. Gomi no sensei. Master of junk."

from The Winter Market © 1986 William Gibson

This quote, from the Cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, describes an artist living in a possible near future. One not very difficult to imagine. It is a world in which the monumental amounts of trash overtake the landscape to become the soil upon which humans build our lives. Where does the gomi stop and the world begin, he asks.

Gibson describes the artist Rubin as working with these discarded things without acknowledging them as his defined palate of materials. He doesn't refer to them as junk, or found objects. They are simply his medium, the air he breathes, the tides in which he's always swum. The materials are the common, the base, the unimportant. They were once raw materials, turned useful as technology, discarded as trash, to be rediscovered by the eye of the artist, this time as the building blocks for works of art. In this truly inspired way, the medium is indeed the message.


"Do not boast about the tempo of technology. The final, essential questions are not altered by technology. They remain. Even in the most modern airplane you travel forever with yourself-your mood, your misery, your world-weariness. You may be able to measure your blood-pressure more accurately than Albert Magnus did. In photographs, you may depict landscapes more precisely than Aristotle could. The ultimate questions still stand before your soul today, as they always have. Take heed that your flight does not carry you beyond that which is essential, but closer to it."

-Carl Sonnenschein

For centuries the use of tools by humans has been used as a marker - one of several gauges of that particular quality that define humans as unique and self-aware beings. Over the millennia, the development and use of certain tools has effected the quality of life so profoundly, that one can scarcely imagine life without their use. Language, social structures, medicine, electricity, mass communication.

There exists in our culture the promise of technological solutions to every need, problem and issue associated with the human condition, from the basic needs of food and shelter, to more sophisticated requirements of the human animal - fast food, financial credit, internet dating, artificial hearts, and MTV. Attempts to meet these needs with technology comes in a variety of forms - from AT & T providing lengthy and complex exchanges of information without the customer ever speaking with a live operator, to computer controlled medical implants monitoring and performing an increasing number of metabolic and physiological functions in the human body.

The conceptual cornerstones of "that which makes humans unique" continue to be challenged and defeated. Internally, in the case of medical advancements, and externally - as demonstrated by the increasing number of "human" interactions which no longer have two humans participating. Identity and self-awareness are no longer the exclusive terrain of human beings. We live in the age of the "transhuman" being.

© 1987 - 2006 Marque Cornblatt