Vol 1 Issue 1 | April-June 2021
Love for Dummies
Story by Venita Coelho | Art by Pia Alize Hazarika
Love for Dummies explores a post-human cityscape, in which the clever machines that humans leave behind wander around in an endless loop, until a pair of crash test dummies are accidentally confronted by art.
How might discovering a work of art like Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, prompt an inquiry into the meaning of love and intimacy for two crash test dummies?
How AI will rewire us:
Fears about how robots might transform our lives have been a staple of science fiction for decades. As machines are made to look and act like us and to insinuate themselves deeply into our lives, they may change how loving or friendly or kind we are – not just in our direct interactions with the machines in question, but in our interactions with one another. The growing presence of AI in our lives may yet require a new social contract – one with machines rather than with other humans…
Crash test dummies: Anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs) – commonly known as crash test dummies – are high-precision test instruments used to measure human injury potential in vehicle crashes. They are used by researchers, automobile and aircraft manufacturers to predict the injuries a person might sustain in a crash.
Crash test dummies simulate human response to the impacts of a crash. Each dummy is designed to model the form, weight and articulation of a human body.
The most basic dummy costs around $130,000 to make. Hundreds of sensors and transducers located within the dummy provide life-saving data to safety test engineers, measuring the precise physical forces exerted on each body part in a crash event.
Prior to the development of crash test dummies, automobile companies tested using human cadavers, animals and live volunteers. Although this type of testing may provide more realistic test results than using a dummy, it raises ethical concerns, given that human cadavers and animals are not able to consent to research studies. Today, computational models of the human body are increasingly being used in the automobile industry, as a complement to the use of crash test dummies.
Creation Of Adam is a fresco painting by Italian artist Michelangelo, which forms part of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It was painted between 1508 and 1512, and illustrates the Biblical creation story from the Book of Genesis – in which God gives life to Adam, the first man. It is considered to be one of the greatest artistic expressions of the Italian High Renaissance culture.
The Renaissance period in Italy was characterised by the growth of powerful new ideas and liberating philosophies based on science and humanism. In the field of art, Michelangelo, along with many of his contemporaries, broke through the shackles of church-imposed conventions, and strove to bring a deeply human-centric, rational and radical vision to the depiction of religious as well as secular narratives.
The Kiss by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt is an oil-on-canvas painting with added gold leaf, silver and platinum. It is one of Klimt’s best known works, and has acquired an iconic status the world over in the years since it was first exhibited in Vienna in 1908. Love and sexuality are themes often found in Gustav Klimt’s works. The Stoclet Frieze and the Beethoven Frieze are other examples of Klimt’s focus on romantic intimacy. Both these works were precursors to ‘The Kiss’ and feature the recurring motif of an embracing couple.
Stylistically, the artist borrows from different schools of art. The use of gold leaf harkens back to classical Byzantine artworks and mosaics, while the composition of the work – combining three-dimensional representations of the human figures with flat two-dimensional patterns of their garments and surroundings – reflects the influence of Japanese prints. The contrasting patterns of the two lovers’ cloaks also reflects the European Arts and Crafts movement of the era. Bringing it all together, Klimt imbued “The Kiss” with elements of his signature Art Nouveau style.
The Weeping Woman is a cubist portrait of photographer and model Dora Maar, painted by the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in 1937. Cubism is an art movement pioneered by Picasso and his contemporaries. In Cubist artwork, objects in the visible world are analysed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form. Instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint and in a single moment in time, the artist brings together a multitude of viewpoints to represent movement in space and time. In terms of its ideas, Cubism represents one of the most significant breaks from earlier traditions in the European/Western art canon.
Picasso made many versions of the ‘Weeping Woman’, which were all part of his response to seeing newspaper photographs of the aerial bombing of the village of Guernica in the course of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. They also have a personal background: Picasso’s mother wrote to him from Barcelona that smoke from the burning city during the fighting made her eyes water. He explained in his own words about it: “For years I’ve painted her (the weeping woman) in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one…”
Picasso also painted a large mural on the same theme titled ‘Guernica’ – which is one of his most celebrated works.
Two Fridas is a double self-portrait by the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Kahlo painted a number of self-portraits throughout her career, through which she explored ideas of her Mexican and female identity, and her own intense struggles with physical and emotional pain. She drew inspiration from Mexican traditional artforms, and combined them with a modern, internationalist perspective – developing a style that is rich in symbolism and narration. She was also a committed revolutionary – associating with many leftist artists and activists including people such as Leon Trotsky and M.N. Roy.
‘Two Fridas’ was completed shortly after the end of her marriage with the artist Diego Rivera in 1939. This portrait shows Frida’s two different personalities. One is the traditional Frida in Tehuana costume, with a broken heart, sitting next to an independent, modern-dressed Frida. In her diary, she wrote about this painting and said it originated from her memory of an imaginary childhood friend. Later she admitted it also expressed her desperation and loneliness at the separation from Diego.
Joiner Self-Portrait is a photo-collage work by British artist David Hockney, who coincidentally was born the same year that Picasso painted ‘Weeping Woman’ and ‘Guernica’ – 1937. From an early age, he was interested in art and especially admired Picasso. In the late 1970s, while working on a painting of a living room, he took a series of Polaroid camera instant photos as references that could help him paint the image of the room, But when he put the photos together on his table, he noticed that they assembled into a kind of photo collage, suggesting a form of art by itself.
This accidental discovery led him to explore and make more of this type of art – creating many works depicting landscapes, architecture, interiors, portraits of friends and much else – including this self-portrait. He called these works ‘Joiners’ because each artwork was created by joining many smaller images. In a way, the Joiners represent a new development of Cubism.
Balloon Dogs are a series of stainless steel sculptures by American artist Jeff Koons. Born in 1955, Koons’ work reflects his interest in the world of American consumer culture, advertising and pop art. His work explores contemporary obsessions with sex and desire, race, gender, celebrity, media, commerce, and fame.
Jeff Koons’ most iconic works are his balloon dogs, which look like giant toy balloons that are used typically at children’s birthday parties. However, their massive scale and hard shiny metallic surfaces play with our perceptions and can be disconcerting for viewers. According to the artist: “I’ve always enjoyed balloon animals because they’re like us. We’re balloons. You take a breath and you inhale, it’s an optimism. You exhale, and it’s kind of a symbol of death.”