Redirect the Flow of Art

1995, Redirect the Flow of Art, p. 2

Sometime around 1992 I was reading the summary reviews of movies playing in the area in my local paper the Hartford Courant. Each review listed the film rating – G, PG, PG-13, or R – but what struck me was how each assigned rating gave additional clarification. “R, with tame and randy bedroom scenes, lots of mayhem.” “PG-13, with nudity and sensual scenes for the witch, gross out effects”  “PG, with naughty ninja tricks, nasty talk.” And with no additional explanation apparently needed “G.”

My favorite was “R, hemorrhaging in blood and guts.” It’s as if the letter itself is bleeding to death. These additional explanations were part of the MPAA’s change to the rating system made in 1990. The big news in the change was actually the end of the X rating and the start of the NC-17 rating. The pornographic stigma of an X rating was supposed to be avoided with NC-17, but most media outlets saw through the new rating’s disguise and would not advertise movies with an NC-17 rating either. As a result NC-17 ratings are equally avoided by filmmakers if they wish for their film to be commercially viable.

So the more lasting impact of the rule change is on the published descriptions of each film rating, which is now often described as a film’s “full rating.” There were many  rules and society norms that I attributed to a culture of safety that was prevalent through the 80s and into the early 90s.

1995, Redirect the Flow of Art, p. 13

Examples include New York which in 1984 became the first state to require drivers and passengers wear seat belts. Zero tolerance policies came in vogue in a number of states – school discipline (automatic expulsions for certain offenses) and sentencing guidelines (three strikes laws). There was the emergence of gated communities with their fences and private security guards. and  in 1984.

Everyone seemed afraid of something at the time – there were numerous choices – AIDS, Nuclear War, Crack Epidemic, Ecological Disaster (Exxon Valdez & Chernoboyl), etc. These events of the 80s were some of the archetypes of upheaval at the time. But the reaction by society to establish a sense of safety was a very different reaction to the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s. This time there was going to be control.

Being an adolescent in the 80s, it often felt like we were being punished for the previous generation’s bad behavior. I always sensed that the rules were being rewritten with an effort to keep a closer eye on this generation. It’s a silly, but one example was how high school seniors were no longer allowed to leave campus for free period. Everyone had to go to the cafeteria, where you could hang-out, play cards, whatever. But the days of driving off to do all the things you wanted to do or weren’t supposed to do were gone.

physical chemistry

Physical Chemistry, 1993

Only two electrons can occupy an orbital.” Sounds like advice a marriage counselor might give to a couple after having finished reading a biography of physicist Niels Bohr.

How about if the counselor continued to say, “It is impossible to simultaneously, with arbitrary precision, specify the position and momentum of a particle.” Wait you lost us. Are you saying that we need to focus on the bigger picture of our relationship and  not the nitpick the details? “Yes and No. I’m saying that you need to recognize that there will always be uncertainty in your relationship. It will always change in ways you won’t expect.” Oh.

At the turn of the 19th century, the first experiments to observe subatomic particles were conducted, including the famous “Gold foil experiment” which discovered the existence of an atomic nucleus. The “planetary model” of an atom with an electron orbiting around a nucleus was proposed, and still holds most of our imaginations, as it is used by many to symbolize the atom, including the US Atomic Energy Commission.

Physical Chemistry, 1993

But when Werner Heisenberg introduced his theory of “uncertainty” as it applies to quantum mechanics in 1927, this model failed. You couldn’t know both where that electron was and how fast it was going around a nucleus. Suddenly, there were limits to what science could measure precisely. In fact the act of measuring would affect what you were trying to measure.

Star Trek fanatics are familiar with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle needing to be solved when it comes to the “science” of the transporter. “Beam me up Scotty!” “But captain, we can’t locate the position and speed of all the particles in your body!” “Turn on the Heisenberg Compensators dammit, and beam me out of here!”

Ok, Scotty and Kirk never had that dialogue, but Heisenberg Compensators needed to exist in the Star Trek Universe, otherwise everyone would have been transported into mush.

Physical Chemistry, 1993

It could be seen as a manual for the Heisenberg Compensators, explaining the unexplainable, using diagrams of group yoga/dance to solve many of the atomic (physical) chemistry axioms I learned as an undergraduate chemistry major.

I imagine that these are all the various contortions your body would necessarily move through during transport to keep you from turning into mush.

Or maybe the book is a self help manual for working on your relationship – from a quantum mechanical perspective. “Because there is interaction between the two electrons in the potential energy term the values cannot be made independent of each other.” What? “Don’t expect to have a solid relationship unless you constantly work at it.” Ok, that’s what I thought you said.

Physical Chemistry is the first work that I created that would fall in the genre of artist’s book.

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