Technology links everyone and everything in my world. Narrowing down a big topic like technology, to a manageable scale, is what I attempt in the following pages. The goal of the paper is to identify what, if any, special opportunities are available for female artists today. My unique contribution to this subject is based on qualitative research, mainly my own creative practice. Ideas from several noteworthy thinkers are included to validate and illuminate this topic. My hope is that by better exploring the relationship between psyche and technology, a task perhaps best suited for women, humanity can avoid unexpected tragedies in the future.
My most established creative practice is the technic of painting. Painting is not considered a new media, but it is classic technology. Paintings can visually represent spiritual as well as psychological realities in still image. “Psyche is the ancient Greek word for ‘soul’ or ‘breath.’ Techne is the word for ‘craft’ or ‘art.’ Technology is the study of craft/art, just as psychology is the study of the soul” (Lane, 2015. p. 1). My experience as a painter has led me to investigate further the nature of the relationship between mind, body, and soul. The technique of painting has evolved over centuries and Levi-Strauss (1966) described the unique position of the painter in his book Savage Mind:
The painter is always mid-way between design and anecdote, and in his genius consists in uniting internal and external knowledge, a being and becoming, and producing with his brush an object which does not exist as such and which he is nevertheless able to create on his canvas. (p. 25)
While studying the history of art and psyche I began a painting. The image popped into my mind and was quickly transferred to the canvas. The painting seen in Figure 1 is titled, She feels everything and nothing. The material is mostly acrylic and the size of the canvas is 24” tall by 48” long. The image is mostly symmetrical, with a women looking straight out, in the center, and seen from waist up. She is holding two flowers, one in each hand, in a balanced pose. Her face is stylized and expresses contradicting emotions of anger, sadness, and contentment. On either side of the woman are two large stylized animals whose faces peak in from the edge of the canvas, as if to smell the flowers. The animals represent opposites because one is a cat and the other a dog. The colors are bright, and the background of the painting sparkles with glitter.
Figure 1. Painting by Mitra Cline (2015), She feels everything and nothing.
After completing the painting I started to reflect on it. I was curious how the image related or revealed insight into my study on technology and the psyche. The main character is a woman, and I feel this gender identity is important in technology. According to Davis (2015), “Decades before men invented electronic brains, women who performed calculations for a living were known as ‘computers”’ (p. 346). I also noticed her face was unusual, due to its conflicting emotions. Hyde and Chabon (2010) provided insight into why the face was unusual because in history, as a form of communication, technology is connected to a trickster or shape shifter god. “Trickster is a polytropic, which in its simplest sense means ‘turning many ways’” (p. 52). In addition, the balance pose between two opposites speaks to other aspects of the trickster nature. According to Hyde and & Chabon (2015, “The most successful change–agent avoids either fate and manages to stay on the threshold, either in or out” (p. 224).
I have established my creative practice, painting, resulting in a unique image that visually represented psychological concepts associated with technology. In transitioning from painting I want to reiterate the role of the female trickster in technology because she becomes more complex in the digital world. As I move into the topic of new media, which I use to share my work with others and enhance my relationship to painting, I will illustrate key principles. New media, as defined by Manovich (2002), included the following principles: “numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and cultural transcoding” (p. 20).
When I paint I take videos and photos of my work in progress, as seen in Figure 2. I then upload these digital files to the Internet and post them on social media sites as well as my blog. In the process the media is logged with a date and time stamp. In addition, the file is encoded or replicated so that the computer can display an appropriate file size to any viewer based on that viewer’s specific device capabilities. This is easy to visualize if you think about the quality of the video on a small cell phone verses the quality of a video on a large computer monitor. The viewer has the ability to control interaction with the video, like adjusting sound volume. They also have the ability to share or distribute the new media in their own way with or without my knowledge over the Internet.
Figure 2. Video, Balance – work in progress (Cline, 2015).
Another way that I share my art using technology is by setting it up to be reproduced mechanically. I have several accounts with online printing companies that will print one product at a time as ordered. There are various options for choosing products to place the image on, including pillows, shirts, scarves, blanket, shower curtains, and coffee mugs. Although I make some of my images available for reproduction on utilitarian products, I prefer to focus on making wall art reproductions in the form of prints on paper or canvas. Recently I created a 3D gallery, seen in Figure 3, where I display both images of actual paintings, along with reproductions. It is impossible to discern the difference by looking at the screen. I feel that this gallery allows me to share my work with a larger audience. Benjamin (2012) saw the power of mechanical reproduction in a similar way. He said:
Technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or phonographic record. (p. 221)
Figure 3. 3D Gallery screenshot of Secret garden, by Mitra Cline. (2015).
In the final paragraphs of this paper I want to address the idea that there are opportunities for female artists in new media. This idea was put into my head over 10 years ago. I was told, as a young painter, that I would always be compared to many historical male counterparts. As such, the likelihood of gaining any recognition or acclaim was extremely unlikely. In comparison, the world of new media is without precedent and open for women to claim creative mastery.
I disagree with the idea that digital technology is new from a psychological standpoint, particularly for creative people. McLuhan (2013) said, “Artists in various fields are always the first to discover how to enable one medium to use or to release the power of another.” (para. 19). (Kindle Locations 837-838). As such, I do agree that there is a unique opportunity for women artists, like myself, to discover how older technics like painting can release the power of new media or vise versa. I also want to stress the challenge of working with trickster, as she is associated with insatiable hunger. In other words, Hyde and Chabon (2010) explained, “There seems to be only two options: limited food or limited appetite”(p. 28)
I believe studying the past is important for artists working in new media today. Although our forms of communication have changed, the psychological realities of the trickster remain critical to creative practice. As mechanical and digital devices have become ubiquitous there is a rumbling of growing complaints. Romanyshyn (1989) said, “Our unease, are dis-ease, however, maybe the very vehicle of return, the means by which we are restored to ourselves, to our bodies, to the world” (p. 81) It is my hope that the painting, She feels everything and nothing (Cline, 2015), speaks to a natural balancing power in technology and communication.
Benjamin, W. (2012). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Scottsdale, AZ: Prism Key Press.
Cline, M. (2015, October 22). Balance – work in progress [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljIFVgHUNk8
Cline, M., (2015, November 3). Secret garden. Retrieved from http://publish.exhibbit.com/011535828/archetypal-exploration-/
Cline, M., (2015, November 11). She feels everything and nothing, 24×48 . Retrieved from https://mitracline.com/2015/11/11/she-feels-everything-and-nothing-24×48/
Davis, E. (2015). TechGnosis: Myth, magic, and mysticism in the age of information [Kindle version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com
Hyde, L., & Chabon, M. (2010). Trickster makes this world: Mischief, myth and art. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Lane, T. (2015, Fall Session). Course syllabus: Technology and the Psyche-HMC 250. Carpinteria, CA: Pacifica Graduate Institute.
Levi-Strauss, C. (1966). Savage mind. London, England: Littlehampton Book Services.
Manovich, L. (2002). The language of new media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
McLuhan, M. (2013). Understanding media: The extensions of man. City, ST: Gingko Press.
Romanyshyn, R. (1989). Technology as symptom and dream. London, England: Routledge.