Art  &  Discourse
Evacuation Plan

Quake, Tsunami / Quake, Tsunami / Slams, Sweeps, Devastates
Inkjet print, 36 X 60 inches, 2011

Scores Dead and Hundreds Feared Missing, Aug. 10, 2009
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2009-10

Icelandic Volcanic Ash Creates Air-Travel Chaos, Apr. 15, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

Avalanches kill 64 and injures dozens near Salang tunnel, Feb. 10, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

Haiti Lies in Ruins; Grim Search for the Untold Dead, Jan. 14, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

Tornado / Tornado / Deadly, Shocking, Horrifying
Inkjet print, 36 x 60 inches, 2011

Severe flooding in Pakistan, Aug. 6, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

Haiti devastated by massive earthquake, Jan. 13, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2009-10

Afghanistan avalanches kill at least 165 in Salang Pass, Feb. 10, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

'2.5m people affected' by Pakistan floods officials say, Aug. 2, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

Developments in Volcanic Ash Affecting Air Travel, Apr. 17, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010

A Helping Hand for Haiti, Jan. 17, 2010
Inkjet print, 36 x 36 inches, 2010
September 2012

Society of Literature, Science and Arts Conference
Milwaukee, WI

Excerpt from lecture:

"As an artist, my concerns around objectivity stem from a greater interest in how we regard others--others being human and non-human, living and non-living. Objectivity is just one aspect of how we come to understand another.

Allan Megill presents four senses of objectivity:
1) the absolute sense, which refers to an undistorted knowledge that "represents things as they really are"
2) the disciplinary sense, which involves a "consensus among members of particular research communities"
3) the dialectical sense, which acknowledges that objects exist in relation to a subject
4) and finally the procedural sense, which refers to "the practice of an impersonal method of investigation" (1994).

My primary focus [for this lecture] is around this last sense of objectivity--the procedural sense, which is the deliberate and considered removal of the self within one's investigation of another. And it's important to note that this form of objectivity is in fact an action. It is performed in the attempt perhaps to achieve the absolute sense of "knowledge without distortion."

Lorraine Daston & Peter Galison trace this "procedural sense" which they term "mechanical objectivity" to emerge in the mid-19th Century. And since then, this form of objectivity has been upheld not only within the natural and physical sciences, but has also shaped practices within social sciences and even journalism, photography, and many other fields.

Over the years, there have definitely been those who have questioned objectivity. Susan Sontag, in questioning the photographer's position of power; Renato Rosaldo, in considering the way anthropologists conduct ethnographies; and of course, Donna Haraway, in her proposal for a science that locates and reveals one's position. These are just to name a few.

I'll begin by showing the Evacuation Plan series, which is primarily concerned with objectivity as it's manifested through photography, and in particular: photojournalism. I started this series in 2009, during which I had spent two months in Taiwan, staying with friends and family. As soon as I got back, there was a typhoon that had hit, Typhoon Morakot, which forced many to abandon their homes. And since I was here and not there, I was only able to experience the aftermath through whatever images were provided by the media.

These images contained a distance. In being photographed, the event had gone through a transformation, one that was removed from the self. Any connection existing between the photographer and the photographed was not at all revealed. This distance prevented me from understanding who these people really were and what they were truly going through. I was left with a stifled pain and a desire to be physically there, just so I could begin to understand and begin to empathize.

In examining objectivity's role in Photography, Susan Sontag suggests that photographs are "both an objective record and personal testimony, both a faithful copy or transcription of an actual moment of reality and an interpretation of that reality." Photography has the ability to capture reality as it is, but always filtered through a lens and the individual behind the lens. She goes on to say, "For the photography of atrocity, people want the weight of witnessing without the taint of artistry, which is equated with insincerity or mere contrivance. Pictures of hellish events seem more authentic when they don't have the look that comes from being 'properly' lighted and composed. By flying low, artistically speaking, such pictures are thought to be less manipulative and less likely to arouse facile compassion or identification." (Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others - p. 26-27) Here, we see that the sort of impersonal methodology that is upheld within scientific research also carries through and affects the way we see the world on daily basis, through photographs.

To demonstrate the distance that I felt within these images, I culled documentary photographs from the disaster and transformed them into mock safety evacuation cards, creating an additional barrier from the event itself. Through the process of digital illustration, all fear, anxiety, and chaos was replaced by a calm, collected, and rather absurd instruction. I repeated this process as more natural disasters continued to occur throughout the world. [...]"