"A connected world is a polyglot world. As we gain access to the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of people around the world, our potential for knowledge and understanding expands. But so does our capacity to misunderstand. As we become more connected, we’re able to comprehend a smaller and smaller fraction of the conversations we encounter without help and interpretation." - Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection by Ethan Zuckerman
"Reading books, and looking on the world through books, teaches us to relate to that which we cannot fully know. Books teach us to see the world multiply, from all its angles… The digital face, on the other hand, encourages us to see the world as multiple, as consisting of hybrids, compositions… Facebook presupposes an inherent presence of another, that there is no I without You… There is an entanglement to social networking that is as meaningful as the book’s pedagogy of mental distance, that I can never in the end fully know you." – Book Was There: Reading In Electronic Times by Andrew Piper
"The world as a whole has never been richer, and it has never been more heavily in debt, living off borrowed money. The record shows that, for society, the richer we become, the harder it gets to live within our means. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity." – Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge: the serenity to accept the things we cannot predict, the courage to predict the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference." - Nate Silver
"A graphic representation is not merely a drawing, but often entails a heavy responsibility when deciding on how to proceed. One does not ‘draw’ a graphic representation in a solid form; instead one constructs it and rearranges it until every relationship between the data has been revealed." – Jacques Bertin, 1977 (quoted by Sandra Rendgen in INFORMATION GRAPHICS, Taschen, 2012)
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
distillation /ˌdɪstɪˈleɪʃn/ n. 1 the action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling. 2 the extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.[i]
Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions by American artist Eve Andrée Laramée consists of an array of tall metal stands, clamps, PVC tubings, glass beakers, flasks and vials. Although much of the equipment looks standard from afar, the installation is a dysfunctional and mythological sort of laboratory that highlights the inherent but often unnoticed subjectivity in scientific inquiry.
First conceived in 1994, Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions has been showcased in numerous exhibitions including Facts Are Slippery[ii] at Rice University Art Gallery and Unnatural Science[iii] at MASS MoCA.
In this fantastical and visually dazzling Apparatus, many of the glassware are hand-blown with various cloudy or luminous turquoise solutions and copper wires attached to large exotic flowers contributing to the spectacle of a giant chemistry experiment gone amok.
Upon close inspection, a second level of complexity is revealed by the seemingly unscientific words and phrases such as “HANDFULS”, “LEAP IN THE DARK” and “UNNECESSARY EXPLANATORY PRINCIPLES” delicately etched into the glass, exposing a sense of insecurity and imprecision behind the process of science.[iv]
Last but not least, Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions not only evolves and adapts through each incarnation in different contexts, its state of being also changes over the course of any one exhibition setting as water evaporates and metal gets oxidized. This double temporality mirrors the fluidity of science and the obsolescence of new technologies.
In her artist statement, Laramée affirms, “I am interested in the ways in which cultures use science and art as devices or maps to construct belief systems about the natural world. I try to draw attention to areas of overlap and interconnection between artistic exploration and scientific investigation, and to the slippery human subjectivity underlying both processes. Through my work I speculate on how human beings contemplate and consider nature through both art and science in a way that embraces poetry, contradiction and metaphor.”[v] In an interview, Laramée further iterated the similitude of the process of art and science by saying, “To me, my art is my research. While my work has its place in the art world and the art market, what really drives me is the research. I make art about the things I am passionately interested in that I do not understand.”[vi]