Reflections on Frankenstein
ARTISTS:Catherine WAGNER                              
                   QIU Jingwei

ARTIST RESIDENCY:2017.10.22-11.14
EXHIBITION DATES:2017.11.11-2018.02.28
EXHIBITION OPENING:2017.11.11. 16:00

Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein" tells a Gothic story of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created a monster. This novel tells a story based on the frontier of scientific research in the nineteenth century Western world. In many ways Shelley’s novel is the precursor to all modern Science Fiction writing.
Frankenstein begins with a series of letters written by an Arctic explorer, Robert Walton.  Walton's scientific expedition to the Arctic was devoted to expanding the boundaries of the known worlds. Walton came across and befriended Viktor Frankenstein in the frozen Arctic Sea. Frankenstein was struggling to find the monster he created. Walton’s letters are the only record of Victor Frankenstein's peculiar and tragic story.
This exhibition is the result of the two artist’s contemporary interpretations of the novel "Frankenstein”. The themes of "scientific progress" and explorations of "the unknown" provide different facets to rethink our contemporary experience. The Unicorn Art Center provides a forum for the artwork and its various metaphors of science, technology, and the unknown.
At the exhibition opening the curator will read a letter addressed to Frankenstein, discussing the diversity of our era. She reflects on how these two artists generate their perspectives, and interpret the modern world. This exhibition celebrates the 200th year since the novel was first published.
Catherine Wagner’s reinterpretation of the novel "Frankenstein" uses the photograph to provide multi-dimensional thinking of the history of science, and the observation of how knowledge is transferred.
Qiu Jingwei works discusses the potential impact and depiction of the future world. Through his use of FMRI brain activity imagery in his wall size drawing, he reflects on how the world is presented through technology’s graphic depictions.
The artists collaborated on a series of neon lights. Excerpts from the text of Frankenstein deconstruct current discourses on meaning in a technological era.

Bio Artists

Catherine Wagner,January 1953,Born in San Francisco, California, United States of America.
For over thirty years Wagner has been observing the built environment as a metaphor for how we construct our cultural identities. She’s examined institutions as various as art museums and science labs, the home and Disneyland. Ms. Wagner’s process involves the investigation of what art critic David Bonetti calls "the systems people create, our love of order, our ambition to shape the world, the value we place on knowledge, and the tokens we display to express ourselves."
While Ms. Wagner has spent her life residing in California, she has also been an active international artist, working photographically, as well as site-specific public art, and lecturing extensively at museums and universities. She has received many major awards, including the Rome Prize (2013-2014), a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships, and the Ferguson Award. In 2001 Ms. Wagner was named one of Time Magazine’s Fine Arts Innovators of the Year. Her work is represented in major collections nationally and around the world, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, SFMOMA, The Whitney Museum of American Art, MOMA, MFA Houston. She has also published several monographs, including American Classroom, Art & Science: Investigating Matter, and Cross Sections.
Ms. Wagner is a Professor of Studio Art, as well as the Dean of the Fine Arts Division at Mills College.

QIU Jingwei is a multi-media artist and currently based in California US and GuangZhou China. He is interested in different kind of philosophical implications and phenomenology under the fast change of technology and network. Through using sculpture  painting  photography and video, he investigates how our ideology are reshaped by mass media and digital society , also how the hyperreality influences our understanding and interpretation of contemporary life.

Dear Frankenstein,

You know I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. You assumed that I would be like you and escape a journey like this, but you could rest assured now, since I have met so many interesting people and things. 200 years after we departed, I have something to tell you today. Dear Frankenstein, I’ve met some more courageous people like you, and they’ve made me see myself reflected from this complex world. They are as brave as you and me. They are raising questions for this world’s today and tomorrow, in their own ways.

In 1818, the year when you left, the Industrial Revolution was at its heyday. By then, there had been no time in human being’s history when everything was developing so fast, life styles changing so drastically and labours being replaced by machines so dramatically. The “giant” was created, and your life was hence changed.

We will arrive at 2018 in any minute while we are still pondering this ultimate question: what is the final destination of the human being?

We are at a time when people crave fortunes and personal achievements. The material possessions are accumulating at an unprecedented speed. In return, we witness the expanding gaps between individuals, the prevalence of divisive attitude, and the exponential growth in depression. These outcomes seem to be a harsh mocking smile towards people’s rationality and their material fortune. It is like the “giant” you created, who was in no need of consolation, with failed attempts to imitate human beings.

Today, I want to introduce two artists to you. Your experience has inspired them to think about our present time. Dealing with “the advanced science” and “the unknown exploration”, they are not sceptical or pessimistic, neither are they frenzied about the development of technologies. In contrast, they have maintained independent and sensible perspective on the pace and costs of technology change. 

Catherine Wagner is like an experienced archivist in a science lab. By organising, exhibiting, archiving and recording every single valuable item in the lab, she has a rigorous review of them and makes a report about it as an artist. Her work ‘The History of Science’ contains photographs of scientific models from the 1950s in order to reflect on how we have learned about science based upon an abstracted visual model. The cabinets store basic foundations for the examination of life and the mastery of the physical universe. Apart from her detailed and meticulous observation, Wagner also reveals her witiness and
humour in her work. In the contemporary “Frankenstein monsters”, she pictured the ultra-high vacuum chambers used in designing, constructing and operating state-of-the-art electron accelerators and related experiments in high-energy physics and synchrotron radiation research. “There is a sense of beauty and a human quality to these machines that can also appear as monsters with multiple arms or numerous sets of eyes.” Wagner said.

Qiu Jingwei, an artist who is also based in San francisco, works in the way of an assistant science researcher, using computer graphics to aid his research. He collects images shot by different high-tech equipment and transforms them into abstract sketches, such as images of HIV bacteria under the electron microscope, the FMRI scanned images of brain activity and the artificial landscapes formed by thermal detection. In this method, the artist is exploring our constantly changing ways of perception influenced by the technologies.In conversations with them, I have dispelled my anxiety I held about the progress of modern technologies – from the ethical issues aroused from the genetic technologies, to the social division and resource allocation problems when human labours are replaced by AIs. When science and technology are constantly developing, we are facing unprecedented responses. These two artists do not intend to offer solutions to the dilemma of science. Conversely, just like these questions they raise, the difficult part of the our future has just begun.

Dear Frankenstein, I am so glad to share my emotions with you. I’m going to continue on my journey now. It will be a long and challenging journey, fraught with precariousness. I need courage to confront my fears. Life is full of temptations that I feel so curious about.

See you! All my best for now!

Manman CHENG
22th Oct. 2017