"Distinguishable from Magic," SciArt Center's art show on exhibit at Collar Works gallery in Troy, NY, explores the relationship between humanity and technology through the work of 11 artists. The show's curator, Marnie Benney, dug into the thought process behind the work of Jared Vaughan Davis:
Marnie Benney: How do you define technology?
Jared Vaughan Davis: Because we’re the children of a technoconsumerist age, many of us today tend to soley think of ‘technology’ as the screens and machines that have become such an inseparable (and at times inescapable) part of our 21st-century lives. But beyond the material, technology can be thought of more generally as the ‘reasoned application of knowledge’, and therefore holds a great significance for human beings since, so far as we know, we’re the only things in the universe capable of creating it. In this sense, I equate technology with human ingenuity, and suppose that both its dangers and its potentials will always be intricately linked with the fate of our species.
MB: How do you think technology has affected humanity, or human interaction?
JVD: Despite the squawking of the postmodernists, fundamentalists, and doomsayers, no rational person would argue that modern technology has not contributed to dramatic progress in the dominant areas that improve the lives of individuals and societies – life expectancy, literacy, equality, and so on. Nonetheless, the oppressive forces of greed, racism, homophobia, sexism, and religious fanaticism remain prevalent among us, and it seems, as Einstein lamented, that the exponential progress of our technological innovation continues to far outpace our ethics and morality. I think many of us are starting to sense this with the explosive growth of humanity’s new omnipresent digital brain – social media. At first blush, the ease with which we’re now able to instantaneously communicate with others around the world would seem to do much to shelter us from loneliness and promote meaningful human connection – and at times it certainly does – but it’s also a means for transmitting rage, fear, and ignorance at a disturbingly alarming rate. I think a paradoxical sense of hope and tragedy seems to underlie the Information Revolution, and this leaves me constantly swinging between the two poles of technological optimism and nihilism.
"...I’m convinced that humanity, as it always has, stands at a crossroads, and how we resolve the present’s rising tensions between the arts and sciences will play a determining role in whether we’re able to cope, both biologically and existentially, with the rapid changes brought on by our advancing technologies."
MB: How does your work address the relationship between humans and technology?
JVD: My work is all about a commitment to (and an expression of) the ‘Neither/Nor’ – a state of oscillation between dualisms, one being the technological optimism and nihilism that I mentioned above. Not only are the motifs of my work almost exclusively related to opposing philosophical poles (e.g. Determinism vs. Free Will, Realism vs. Anti-Realism, Reductionism vs. Anti-Reductionism, et al.), I also seesaw between the use of traditional and digital mediums. Just as technology has allowed modern humans to increasingly transcend our biology, so it has allowed contemporary artists to increasingly transcend the bounds of traditional mediums and methodologies. Accordingly, while I wholly embrace the creative use of technologies like the Internet, Photoshop, etc., I also attempt to be unfettered by technology’s limitations and functionalities. I hope that the outcome is an intentionally eclectic body of work that aims to address some of the pressing philosophical and artistic tensions of our time.
MB: Why does science and art, and their juxtaposition, appeal to you?
JVD: I’m innately drawn to Big Questions. ‘Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going, and how do we get there?’ For my part, I turn to the trinity of Art, Philosophy, and Science to seek the answers. In crude terms, for me, art and philosophy provide life’s curiosity and consolation, and science supplies its explanation. I’ve called it “romantic naturalism,” cosmologist Sean Carroll calls it “poetic naturalism,” and it’s the simple idea that the natural world, as described by science, is all there is, and that it provides all of the mindless, meaningless materials of life, yet, it is up to us, with all our human creativity, freedom, and knowledge, to explore, understand, and accept them as they are. Admitting of this worldview, I’m convinced that humanity, as it always has, stands at a crossroads, and how we resolve the present’s rising tensions between the arts and sciences will play a determining role in whether we’re able to cope, both biologically and existentially, with the rapid changes brought on by our advancing technologies. My practice and research are a meager attempt to both creatively and rationally interrogate and contribute to the discourses that I find to be not only the most interesting, but the most crucial to humanity’s continued progress.
All images courtesy of the artist.