08 October 2010

encoded

Lori Hepner is the visiting artist this week in the Freshman Foundation class at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University. I went to her talk and interview on Wednesday morning. After a childhood of drawing, she started college as an Egyptology major but soon shifted to photography. It was the hieroglyphics that inspired her and encoding has become fundamental to her work. One of her early works ("Binary nature" pictured above, photo courtesy of the artist) combines glass shards as zeroes and bits of plant material as ones. She spoke of enjoying the natural and the product made from natural ingredients. I like the mix too.

One of her more recent projects -- "Code words" -- is taking pictures of silk ribbons breaking apart in little dishes of bleach. The ribbons were inscribed with a word in binary code. Her titles are wonderful too: using a colon between the words, suggesting a possible relationship, e.g., aplomb:cessation; itinerant:abeyance. While this seems rather mathematical, the results are totally aesthetic. You can see more of the recent work on her website at lorihepner.com.

It did get more technical the next day at the Bergren Forum when Scott Moerschbacher talked about "QCD and the strong interaction." What?!? You don't know what QCD is? It's quantum chromodynamics. While I have no pretense of understanding particle physics, it does have to do with fundamental stuff. The words were beautiful as they passed over us: asymptotic freedom; hadron polarizability; quarks are called up, down, charm, strange, top, bottom. But my favorite discovery was Lattice QCD, the model of QCD which allows the computer to deal with the mush of subatomic particles and turns it into, for our visual delight, a Tinkertoy construction. Maybe you had to be there. I could imagine the talk being redone as a dadaist performance piece but when I mentioned that to Elizabeth Gulacsy after Moerschbacher was done, she thought I was a bit touched in the head. He said he was going to post the presentation but I don't see it yet. I also couldn't help but turn "QCD" into "queer compulsive disorder."

No comments: