February 9, 2009

Gail Wight

Professor Gail Wight is a practicing artist and the Director of Experimental Media Arts and the Director of Graduate Studies in Studio Practice at Stanford University.

Her specialty is experimental media art, with a focus on art & science.

Working primarily with installation, computer, text, and performance work, conceptual artist Gail Wight investigates issues of cognitive science and the history of scientific theory and technology. Over a decade ago, her initial investigation into issues surrounding mental illness led to successive works addressing areas of research in the neurosciences and their historical influences on our current views of illness and health.

Today, Wight's work embraces contemporary and historical neurology, scientific pedagogy, the culture and practice it creates, and aspects of artificial intelligence as her subjects. While technology often plays a role, Wight's work is more insistent in its attention to biology and it's complicity in our conceptions - and misconceptions - of "humanity."

Gail Wight believes that by engaging and teasing out the irrational, the irreverent, and the unreasonable aspects of communication, we can begin to discover ways of interacting that lie outside familiar territory and broaden our conception of understanding. In particular, our attempts to communicate with machines and other animals offer valuable insights into our assumptions about this interchange. Visual art has offered me a playful way to explore ways in which we interact within these vastly dissimilar realms, and I attempt to situate these engagements within a history of science.

She describes her work in this way:

In attempts to understand thinking, I have:
made maps of various nervous systems, practiced art while under hypnosis, designed an artificial intelligence to read my tarot, read for hours to fish, conducted biochemical experiments on myself and others, executed medical illustrations in black velvet, worked on cognitive research projects, documented dissections of humans, dissected machines and failed to put most of them back together, freely made up vocabulary as needed, removed my teeth to model information systems, self-induced phobias concerning consciousness in the plant kingdom, donated my body to science and then requested it be returned, observed nerve development in vivo, choreographed synaptic responses, translated EEGs into music, conducted a cartesian exorcism on myself, and attempted to create cognitive models of my own confused state.

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