Like life : data, process, change 1967-1976
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This dissertation examines the work of artists Vija Celmins, Beryl Korot, and Lee Lozano. I illustrate how these underrepresented artists, working from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, used new technologies to develop the relationships between media and what I call the ordinary--elements of daily experience that form more of a chronicle than a narrative. In an effort to move away from the emotionalism of abstract expressionism and the rigidity of formalist painting, these artists experimented with photography, drawing, performance, and video art. New approaches to various media allowed artists to use facts, evidence, and data as an artistic refiguration of the experience of life. In Chapter 1, I study the early work of Vija Celmins to argue that her paintings and drawings engage data, a type of information that is verifiable and understandable in and of itself. Celmins depicts images through a translation of media, from the photograph to the carefully mapped out graphite drawing. Instead of producing meaning through narrative, Celmins engages the facts of our ordinary world by provoking the act of looking. In Chapter 2, I discuss the video installation Dachau 1974 by Beryl Korot. This multichannel video presents a concentration camp as an everyday tourist site, devoid of emotion. By reading Dachau 1974 alongside cybernetic theories by writers such as Norbert Weiner and Marshall McLuhan and by discussing the media of video at its earliest incarnation, I contend that this work approaches information directly as process. It is in the accumulation of imagery through the twenty-two minutes of the video that the viewer is able to discern the structure of the work and experience history in time. In Chapter 3, I examine the journals and art-life pieces of Lee Lozano. I argue that once data (Celmins) and processing (Korot) occur in information systems, so too does change. Lozano harnesses change in the embodiment of her life as work and in the creation of her constantly shifting identity as an artist. In my conclusion, I contend that while information may work within the realm of the everyday, ordinary life, its very existence allows for illumination. That is, the facts of the world rendered through information processing can be another artistic experience.