Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cute/Monstrous: an exploration into the Fly

I have chosen the fly as my animal to research and create works with for the rest of the semester in Animals, People, and those in between. Each student is required to select an animal from Reaktion's animal series. The books offer a unique look into the lives of familiar, albeit misunderstood, animals. It was a hard choice between crocodiles, which feature prominently in my anxiety dreams, and flies, which I think are very beautiful when seen up close. I chose the fly because, well, they are such close partners to humans yet we rarely think of them as pets except for maybe Pigpen in "Peanuts" or that crazy character from "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" who had flies on strings as companions. We consider them to be harbingers of disease, but really they are just moving our own germs between us. Long story short, I found them fascinating and close to home.

For our first assignment we had to portray our animal in two contrasting ways: monstrous and cute. For cute I used the principles of anthropomorphication to liken a fly to a child. I increased the size of the head, gave it humanesque hands with thumbs and a baseball cap and boots. A button nose, small smile, big eyes and a coy wave topped it off.

For the monstrous image I played more with the horror of a human body being decomposed by flies. When I was a child I found my neighbors dead cat in the woods behind my house. For a moment I believed the creature was still alive because the chest cavity was still in motion. That was when I noticed that the belly had burst open and maggots were roiling inside causing the carcass to undulate rhythmically. I immediately grasped my chest throat with the tips of my fingers pressing deep and hard into my skin, so as to cause pain and make me realize I was alive. But I couldn't help feel like I would eventually end up like that, one day I would be as that cat. The drawing I created focussed on overly defined form as a way to introduce darkness into the piece and also detail, thus keeping the viewers eyes moving. The human form has been warped and skewed to suggest internal changes due to internal decomposition. A hole has been placed in the chest from which flies are being born, quiet similar to our own birth except, flies seem to be born from death and decay which has likely added to there stigma. I even added the beginning of fly wings where the human arm should be to illustrate the change in domain and repurposing of the flesh.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Conductive Liquid

Elie Zananiri and I decided to make a fluid that would allow us to create liquid circuits. We tried many different combinations of the materials: water, oil, salt, powder graphite, and glue. The best combination was water, salt, and graphite, which resulted in a mixture that gave a steady reading of about 100 ohms. We used the liquid to create both a drawn circuit and an irrigation circuit.

Conductive Fluid Drawing from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

Conductive fluid irrigation LED circuit from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A concern of mine for the developing world is how to deliver teaching materials. I had an idea for t-shirts that have information printed on them in a way that makes it viewable while being worn. This way the person could study randomly through out the day. The shirts could have printing on all 4 sides: front, back, inside front, inside back. Each side would have a different subject matter, perhaps mathematics, science, history, and art. The teachings would be designed for each specific area to which they were distributed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The faces of pigs in human representation

"...to Freyr he gave the boar, saying that it could run through air and water better than any horse, and it could never become so dark with night or gloom of the Murky Regions that there should not be sufficient light where he went, such was the glow from its mane and bristles..."

In Norse mythology the boar Gullinbursti, is a magical creature created in a blacksmiths furnace as a bet that it could not be done. He is a symbol of strength, intelligence, and courage. He is shown in the illustration behind his owner Freyr, god of farming, peace, and sexual pleasure.

Here is a Belgian children's cartoon depicting a pig as a gross and funny farting pig. The pig is full of life, full of humor, and seems to be a help, but ends up just causing a mess. This is the typical western depiction of a pig, not very bright and full of smelly farts. This depiction is most likely a result of the way pigs are raised/farmed in our culture. Many pigs are kept in small areas, resulting in huge amounts of animal waste and a putrid smell to boot. They are often portrayed rolling in there own waste or mud which only adds to our image of them as a dirty and stupid animal.

pig is depicted as a monster that needed to be cruelly shot down by an 11 year old boy. The alleged giant was from the the back woods of South Georgia, and was shot 8 times with a 50-caliber hand gun!

Gullinbursti is a depiction of a pig that is very different from how I was raised to think of a pig, so much so that I find the illustration rather bizarre. The idea of a sacred powerful pig defies the idea of a dirty, smelly pig that I was raised to have as an idea. The last depiction of the monster pig is just sad to me. To me this is an honorable champion of the woods, most likely a stray pig that survived very well, and a giant of the world. I guess the part that truly saddens me is that people feel proud to destroy the giants of the world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My animal self portrait

For my first assignment in Animals, People and those in between I was instructed to create a portrait of my animal self, or spirit animal. By this I mean, an animal to which I feel a certain kinship or that we share similar traits in both habit, habitat, and personality. I happen to have always loved animals, and have a large knowledge of many species both foreign and domestic, so this was a bit of a daunting task, or so I thought. Frankly, the American Beaver (Castor canadensis) came to me rather quickly and while I would like to think we do not share a lot of physical characteristics, I do think we are quite similar in many ways.

Well for starters I feel that I am a builder at heart and at practice and the beaver is undeniably a prolific builder. The beaver also has a larger than body personality, which is reflected in the effects his/her building has on the world around it. I would like to think that my creations influence those around me in mostly positive ways, similar to the way the beaver can create new bodies of water for new life to grow( a little sappy ). I have always felt at home in the water in a way that makes me dream in swimming, and I love splashing. I also associate myself with the fact the beaver can be prey. What I mean by this is that the beaver is a very alert individual and I have always been alert of my surroundings, relying more on my awareness than on my strength.

I chose to place the beaver in the environment of the Strip Mall construction site by the road for a lot of reasons that relate to how I feel and how I relate to my past. No matter how hard I try, I still feel like I am a transient New Yorker and that my true home is Northern Virginia. Recently I have come to the opinion that "NoVa would be a great place, if you would just get rid of the people", but that is not entirely true. I grew up with constant construction and remodeling in NoVa, whether it was roads or shopping malls, it was always changing, and so I felt it was appropriate to include some sort of construction in a self portrait. But everyone knows that a construction site is not the ideal place for a beaver, and this relates to how I feel about the lack of nature I experience in New York. Yet, I can't help but feel a similarity between the beaver and its damn and the construction site and its shopping mall. Both are considered pests and blights on the landscape but they do a lot to bring life to an area.