Sunday, April 24, 2016

Week 4: Medicine, Technology, and Art

The purpose of medical technologies usually brings to mind advancements in healthcare facilities aimed solely at treating and alleviating human illnesses. Through this week's lecture, we saw the synergy between medical technologies and art, as well as how the former can be incorporated into art itself.

Visual depictions serve as an invaluable tool to learning in general. Our understanding of the human anatomy may be quite advanced, but we do not have many visual understanding of the underlying mechanisms of body process that happens everyday. Perhaps the most well-known contributor to the field of biomedical animation is Drew Berry, whose visualizations of cellular and molecular processes possess both the scientific accuracy and aesthetic appeal, and garnered him international recognition such as the Emmy Award. In the article "Where Cinema and Biology Meet", the author Erik Olsen likened Berry to Steven Spielberg of molecular animation, asserting that Berry's work is "revered for artistry and accuracy within the small community of molecular animators, and has also been shown in museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris." 

Another artist that stood out from this week's lecture is Orlan, a French artist, who first used cosmetic surgery as an artist medium, with the goal of achieving the ideal of beauty as depicted by male artists. By the end of the surgeries, she would have "the chin of Botticelli’s Venus, the nose of Jean-Léon Gérôme's Psyche, the lips of François Boucher's Europa, the eyes of Diana (as depicted in a 16-th century French School of Fountaineblue painting), and the forehead of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa." This, in fact, was the ultimate goal of her project "The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan", which was exclusively featured in the documentary Carnal Art
Orlan: Before and After
Though many commentators views Orlan's artistic endeavors to be a form of self-destruction, Orlan maintains that her goal was to "sculpt my own body to reinvent the self" to create "a clash with society because of that". Evidently, her artistic pursuits served as a testament of her self-expression. 

The aforementioned examples are but a few of the many ways in which medical technologies and art go hand in hand. Be it a method of self-expression, or as a visualization that appeals to both scientific and artistic audiences, the merits of the synergy between the two should nevertheless be marveled at. 


1. Vesna, Victoria. “Medicine Parts 1-3.” Lecture. Web. 24. April. 2016.

2. Erik Olsen. "Where Cinema and Biology Meet". The New York Times. 15 Nov. 2010. Web. 24 April 2016.


3. Orlan – Carnal Art (2001) Documentary. Dir. Stéphan Oriach. Perf. Orlan. N.d. Film. YouTube. Web. 24 April. 2012. 

4. Jeffries, Stuart. "Orlan's Art of Sex and Surgery." The Guardian. 1 July 2009. Web. 24 April 2016. <>.

5. Orlan. Pinterest. N.d. Web. 24 April 2016.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Week 3: Robotics and Art

The synergy between arts, literature, and technology has historic roots tracing back to the ancient times. In Benjamin Walter's essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, for example, it was mentioned that the invention of lithography led to drastic increases in the reproduction and dissemination of literature and graphic art forms. It should also be mentioned that it was through such mass production of books, made possible by the invention of lithography, that knowledge became easily accessible, hence it comes with no surprise that lithographic techniques played a pivotal role in shaping the world as it is.
Ancient Lithography
Robots depicted in Capek's film
The Iron Man

Aside from lithographic techniques, advances in science and technology have also seen rapid developments in areas of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) such as robotics. First introduced in Karel Capek's film Rossum's Universal Robot, the terms "robots" and "cyborgs" have since found various expression in arts and media.

A prime example of "robots" in media would be the Iron Man franchise owned by Marvel Studios. This series revolves around the life of a genius billionaire named Tony Stark, who developed an extremely sophisticated A.I. system J.A.R.V.I.S. that is able to respond to his needs, such as taking care of daily chores and maintaining the condition within his corporation Stark Industries, which is mainly involved in developing advanced weapons and defense technologies; the most prominent being the robotic battle suit he developed to fight against invaders from all over the Marvel Universe. It is needless to say that this movie series is well received by people of all ages, with the third installment Iron Man 3 making into the top 20 highest-grossing films of all times. In addition to the Iron Man franchise, robots have also appeared in other popular anime series such as Evangelion and Gundam, further attesting to the artistic expression of technology. 

The recent victory of Google's AlphaGo against South Korean Go grandmaster Lee Sedol has led to further popularization of A.I. such that even the layman would wonder if one day robots would eventually supersede humans.  While we are yet able to draw a definitive conclusion, we must nevertheless concede on the point that the speed of the development of A.I.s is indeed astounding.


1. Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Marxists. N.p. 18 Oct 2012. Web. 17 April 2016. <>.

2. Vesna,Victoria. “Lectures Part 2.” Robotics + Art. 17 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

3. Jacobs, Matthew. "'Iron Man 3' Box Office: Superhero Threequel Passes $1 Billion Mark." The Huffington Post., 17 May 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <>.

4. Andre Beguin. "Lithography". Printmaking Dictionary. N.p. N.d. Web. 17 April 2016.

5. "Mark 43" Iron Man Wikia. N.p. N.d. Web. 17 April 2016.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Week 2: Mathematics and Art

As a Mathematics major, I have long come to appreciate its beauty for its myriad of applications to sciences and engineering, as well as in its own right. Perhaps not as art in the literal sense, but I cannot recall a moment where I haven't regarded Mathematics as a form of "art". If one were familiar with field theory, the recognition of complex numbers as the field extension of the reals, and the reals being the field extension of the rationals wasn't as trivial as it seemed. After all, what are "i"s,"e"s,and "pi"s? However, Leonhard Euler found a simple, elegant formula that collectively summarizes these three monstrosities.
Euler's Identity
Sample computer code
Gateway Arch, St Louis

As a testament to its ubiquity, Mathematics is used almost everywhere, whether consciously or subconsciously, as Prof Vesna aptly captured in her statement "when we use computers we are using math". Even simple events such are mouse-clicks are explicitly programmed using algorithms which are inherently of mathematical nature. 
The development of Mathematics also had a profound impact in the history of arts. With progress in the former, realism in art work has been enhanced. It was mentioned in Prof Vesna's lecture video that the discovery of mathematical principles behind the concept of "perspectives" led to a more scientific methodology behind perspective drawings. For example, the square tiles on the floor in a famous painting by Leon Battista Alberti led to a single vanishing point at the center of the art piece. 

Another fantastic demonstration of the amalgamation of Mathematics and Art is in the construction in the Gateway Arch in St Louis, which is inspired by the shape of a parabola. Led by the dynamics between Mathematics and Arts, the projection of a parabolic curve on paper to that of a real-life artifact such as the Gateway Arch is indeed something to marvel at. 
Mathematics is definitely a prime example of a bridge between the two cultures mentioned in Week 1. In this course, I hope to further explore the dynamics between arts and technology, and well as the amalgamation of the two. 

1. Vesna, Victoria. “”Youtube, 9 April 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <> 

2. "Euler's Identity: The most beautiful equation". LiveScience, 30 June 2015. Web. 10 April 2016. <>

3. "Sample computer code" N.d. Web 10 April 2016.<>

4. "Perspective drawing". Once upon an Art Room. 14 March 2012. Web. 10 April 2016. <>

5. "12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St. Louis". Planetware. N.d. Web. 10 April 2016. <>

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Week 1: Two Cultures

In his 1959 lecture "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution", CP Snow addresses the concept of the polarization of the two cultures, namely that of natural sciences and literary intellectuals. Though subtly and sometimes inadvertently, the impact brought by the polarization of these two cultures clearly affects everyone's life in one way or another. A simple observation at the social and behavioral aspects of the students and their ambience at UCLA North and South campus would easily serve as a testament to Snow's statement: "the feelings of one pole become the anti-feelings of the other". Perhaps "anti-feelings" would be too strong of a word, but there are definitive characteristics that identify the different group of people around these two campuses.As a Mathematics major, I belong to the South campus, which houses the all Sciences and Engineering departments at UCLA. There, the science buildings evoke a sense of academic solemnity, and engineering buildings tend to have a more modern and technological outlook.
South Campus: interior walkways in California NanoSystems Institute
South Campus: Department of Mathematics
The North campus, on the other hand, is the home for liberal arts majors. As one travels from the South to North campus, an immediate change in ambience is evident. Unlike the South campus, North campus houses a disparate collection of sculptures in the Murphy Sculpture Garden outside UCLA's Broad Art Center.
North Campus: Murphy Sculpture Garden
In addition to the ambience, one could easily pick out the difference in dress code, or "fashion style" in some sense, of the two different student bodies: South campus majors tend to be more casual, to the point of wearing shorts and flip-flops, while North campus majors tend to be more trendy. However, the two cultures in the context of the present society is definitely not as polarized as Snow described. With rapid advancements in technology, computers are now indispensable in our everyday lives: with the internet, we have access to the huge database of resources of the World Wide Web. These advances have also given rise to the amalgamation of arts and technology, leading to the concept of the "Third Culture" mentioned by Prof. Vesna in "Toward a Third Culture: Being in between". This "Third Culture" is aptly captured in the photo below, where students in the Design Media Arts class at UCLA are using modern softwares to aid their designs. 
Design Media Arts students using technology
Mathematics, in some sense, is representative of the "Third Culture" defined by the amalgamation of arts and technology. On one hand, it is a fundamental building block of all science, since it can be used to establish a subject on a rigorous theoretical basis. On the other hand, the beauty of Mathematics itself is something that even laymen marvel at, making it a remarkable piece of artwork in some sense. As a Mathematics major, I hope to further explore the synergistic qualities of both cultures and hope to develop a deeper understanding of them this quarter. 

1. Snow, C. P. “Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” Reading. 1959. New York: Cambridge UP, 1961. Print.
2. Vesna, Victoria. "Toward a Third Culture: Being in Between." Leonardo. 34 (2001): 121-125. Print. 
3. "California NanoSystems Institute". Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 April 2016.
4. "UCLA's North V. South Campus". Odyssey. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web 2 April 2016.<>
5. UCLA Design Media Arts, Summer Class. Digital image. Web. 2 April 2016.<>