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Lisa--Visiting Artist Response

Amy Youngs' lecture

I attended Amy Youngs’ lecture last Wednesday, and I thought her work was really different and fascinating. Her mission is to get people excited about interacting with the natural world. As a child she bred bunnies, and that concept of working with nature to create a “perfect? organism has continued to inspire her art. She uses a combination of organic matter (live plants, animals, etc.) and technology. Lately she has been using sustainable systems in her pieces.

The driving force behind Youngs’ work is her desire to get people to remember their relationship with nature and to appreciate it. Some of her artwork focuses on bringing people’s attention to animals that we barely notice, but that are essential to our survival, like insects and worms. One of my favorites, Intraterrestrial Soundings, amplifies the sounds of compost worms doing their thing. Other pieces have you communicating with crickets or watching compost creatures eat your dinner leftovers. I think bringing the viewer/participant into close contact with these creatures in a gallery environment would make the encounter more pleasant and would encourage people to think about how close our ties still are to the earth despite the technological advances we’ve made. Some of Youngs’ other pieces, like Micropropagation and Rearming the Spineless Opuntia have more to do with altering nature—how and why we might do it. Micropropagation has more of a political tone, questioning our tendency to focus on what is good for humans over what is good for the world and turning that idea on its head, asking what might humans be deprived of if we were the ones being bred for someone else’s consumption? This piece also has a scary undercurrent of realization that it might someday be possible to grow brains in dishes and harvest them. The images of the double heads certainly have a disturbing quality to them. Rearming is a more lighthearted piece, but still has to do with the concept of what is good for humans versus what is good for everything else. The opuntia cactus has no spines, which is good for humans but not for the cactus. In this piece Youngs rearms the cactus with technology, but the defense is imperfect—you could just unplug it. To me, this demonstrates how delicate ecosystem is, and how difficult it can be to set it right again, even with all of the technological “fixes? we now have access to. All of Youngs’ work is very focused on nature and pro-nature, and though it can be humorous and at times ridiculous there always seems to be a serious message underneath that ridiculousness.

One of the things Youngs said that I thought was very compelling was that she wants people to know how she creates her pieces and be able to duplicate them. She was excited about the fact that a random website was “selling? one of her pieces that she had no intention of selling because she thought it might encourage people to make their own piece like it. It seems to me like the current artistic community is really into being original and exclusive, so it’s refreshing to see someone who gladly shares everything about their work and even encourages people to duplicate her work.

I liked her presentation. I felt like she was holding back a little in discussing her pieces, or maybe she just didn’t want her lecture to be too serious or preachy. I thought overall that it was informative, particularly the question and answer session, and everything flowed well. Her personality was completely different than what I was expecting, but in a good way. She came across as charmingly nerdy and very likeable.