MFA Thesis: of Nature | of Knowledge

of Nature | of Knowledge

Lithography, digital inkjet printing, cut paper, felted wool, copper speaker wire, handmade books, wood, sound | dimensions variable | 2014

MFA Thesis Statement

We humans create systems to contain and structure our knowledge, to chart and categorize. Our systems help us learn and understand, flexibly expanding those systems. Even so, we become contained within the realities we have constructed based upon our systems. We may think interlaced, sprawling, rhizomatic root structures of trees, and we may think linear, hierarchical structures familiar to us from the diagrammed family tree.

This installation specifically reflects my interest in early modern natural philosophy (Europe, circa 1450 – 1700 CE) and how this complex historical knowledge system underpins our Western worldviews today. Operating through and within the created reality of this installation, I reflect on the veracity of our knowledge systems and our larger constructed realities.

Combining lithography, cut paper, felted wool, digital sound, and handmade books, this work utilizes an array of technologies spanning millennia, across which our knowledge systems shift, migrate, and—sometimes—cling to their roots.

About

Within this installation, you will hear several voices reading texts selected from an array of historical and modern sources. These texts emerge from studies in science, natural philosophy, and metaphysics, or reference particular knowledge systems. They span a period of (mostly) Western thought beginning with Aristotle and continuing into the present.

The exact citations for each text are provided below. Some texts are translations or modernizations, while others are read in the languages in which they were originally written. The digitally printed and handwritten text seen in the installation is excerpted from the texts cited below. The binary code is a translation of excerpts from these same texts.

Many thanks are due to my amazing team of friends, readers, and studio assistants.  These tireless individuals have cut yards of paper, measured miles of yarn, recorded hours of audio, stained wood, climbed ladders, been stabbed with pins, and provided much-needed support.

Faculty Committee: Professors d’Ann de Simone, Jim Fagan, Blake Williams, and Laura Cloud

Studio Assistance, Installation Crew, and Support Team:

Rachel Chrisolene Allen (World’s Best Studiomate), Mike Bebee, Sam Bennett (thanks Sam!), Lauren Brallier, Alexandra Bredael, Evan “Awesome” Christopherson, Professor d’Ann de Simone, Tegan Jetton, Sarah Odens, Sydney Steinhaus, Donna Sutherland, Professor Blake Williams, and Michelle “All-Star” Word.  Many thanks to Brian McLean and the Broad Art Museum preparator team for their patience and expertise.

Studio Assistant and Installation Crew Director: Lauren Brallier

Readers:

  • Christopher Jeffries: Latin and English
  • Ingo M. Schäfer: German and English
  • David Sebastian: English
  • Lena B. Ellis-Boatman: English, Latin, and Italian

The Texts

English
  • Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Trans. James Freake. Ed. Donald Tyson. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1998. 690.
  • Anonymous. “The Emerald Tablet.” Alchemy. Brian Cotnoir. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2006. 57.
  • Anonymous. “The Poem of the Philosopher Theophrastos Upon the Sacred Art.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Aristotle. “Meteorology.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Avicenna. “De Congelatione et Conglutinatione Lapidum.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Da Vinci, Leonardo. The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Ed. Irma A Richter. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. 45. [Cited in Ottinger.]
  • Da Vinci, Leonardo. Treatise on Painting. Trans. A. Philip McMahon. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956. 11. [Cited in Ottinger.]
  • Ficino, Marsilio. “Commentary on the Parmenides.” Commentaries on Plato (Volume 2, Part II). Ed/trans: Maude Vanhaelen. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. 24-31.
  • Fludd, Robert. “Mosiacall Philosophy.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Harkness, Deborah E. John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 203-5.
  • Newton, Isaac. “The Commentary on the Emerald Tablet.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Newton, Isaac. The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. A New Translation and Guide. Eds./trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999.
  • Ottinger, Didier. “Contemporary Cosmologies.” Cosmos: From Romanticism to the Avant-garde. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999.
  • Paracelsus. “The Aurora of the Philsophers.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Paracelsus. “Of the Nature of Things.” The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Ed. Stanton J. Linden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim). Paracelsus: Selected Writings. Ed. Jolande Jacobi. Trans. Norbert Guterman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Roob, Alexander. “Introduction.” The Hermetic Cabinet: Alchemy & Mysticism. Los Angeles: Taschen, 2009. 11.
  • Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth.” The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd Ed. Ed. Dean Johnson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1377.
  • Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1999. 32, 33, 107, 110.
  • Van Alphen, Jan. “Introduction.” Tantra: Tantric, Jain and Cosmic Art from India. London: Joost van den Bergh, 2010.
German
  • Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim). Theophrastus Paracelsus: Lebendiges Erbe. Ed. Jolande Jacobi. Zurich: Rascher Verlag, 1942.
Italian
  • Gilly, Carlos and Cis van Heertum, eds. Magia, Alchimia, Scienza Dal ’400 al ’700. L’influsso di Ermete Trismegisto. Vol. II. Venice/Amsterdam: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana/Biblioteca Philosophica Hermetica, 2002.
Latin
  • Anonymous. “Tabula Smaragdina.” Alchemy. Brian Cotnoir. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2006. 56.
  • Burnett, Charles, Keiji Yamamoto, Michio Yano, eds. “Appendix III: Tractatus Alchabitii de Coni[j]unctionibus Planetarum.” Al-Qabīṣī (Alcabitius): The Introduction to Astrology. London: The Warburg Institute, 2004. 382.
  • Ficino, Marsilio. “Commentary on the Parmenides.” Commentaries on Plato (Volume 2, Part II). Ed/trans: Maude Vanhaelen. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. 24-31.
  • Newton, Isaac. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Michigan State University Libraries: QA 803.A2 1687.
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