Steven J LeMieux's blog

Coffee Robots/Service Humans

coffee robot, some humans

Image Credit:

There’s a coffee robot upstairs. I have never used it. Sometime earlier in the year—maybe over the winter break—a new, brightly colored store-front popped up in the Flawn Academic Center. It seemed to be selling coffee. It also seemed to be a robot. Rather than a counter with cash register, tip jar, and human barista, all the trappings we’ve come to expect , its front façade has screens and cups and coffee spouts.  From what I’ve seen you can order right there, off to the side on a touch screen, or online. Think about that, you could buy a cup of coffee while you read this. If the coffee robot teams up with a fleet of delivery robots we’d really be living in some kind of future.

Conspicuous Radios

Geddes' 'Patriot' radio

Image Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Before creating the “Patriot” radio, Norman Bel Geddes had long been involved with traditional, cabinet radio design. And while many of his cabinet radios follow the robust, furniture-esque aesthetic common to radios of the day this radio, created for the New York World Fair, 1939, breaks that mold. The “Patriot,” rather than simply blending into the décor of a room, forcefully makes itself known. This radio, rather conspicuously, embodies a particular patriotic flair. Most prominently, it features the seven red and six white stripes of the United States flag. Its knobs feature stars, and in most models red, white, and blue are the predominate colors.

Becoming Animal: Feeling Horsey

Laval-Jeantet near a horse

Image Credit: Miha Fras via we make money not art

While in Star Wars, Lonesome Dove and True Grit we saw particular examples of the relationships humans have with horses —relationships that always seem to oscillate between recognizing horses as companions and treating them as bare property. And while with Jasha Lottin (NSFW) we saw in her slaughter and photo shoot the extent to which these animals are splayed out as props for both viewers and those actually interacting with actual horses. With a piece titled Que le cheval vive en moi, May the Horse Live in me in English, and created and performed by Marion Laval-Jeantet and Benoit Mangin (together they compose Art Orienté Objet) we can begin to see the emergence of a differently possible relationship between humans and horses.

Eating the Golden Calf

Stone statue of the Golden Calf

Image Credit: Harry Ransom Center

Eric Gill’s Calf is currently on display at the Harry Ransom Center as part of their new exhibition The King James Bible: Its History and Influence. The calf first appears in the King James Bible in the following verses. “Make us gods, which shall go before us... And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me...And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 32:1-4). In both the statue and in this chapter of Exodus we can begin to consider the relationship between these humans and gods and animals.

Horsing Around: Inside and Out

white horse against a white sky

Image credit Unknown via f*** yeah, wild horses

Last week I wrote about the curious dual-natured relationship we seem to have with horses. In books and film and popular media horses are situated as both friend, companion, partner and as disposable beast, object, mere chattel. Last week, too, I teased the case of Jasha Lottin and the relationship she had with a horse. Her story is surprisingly simple at first blush. Lottin and her friend bought a 32-year-old, near-dead horse already scheduled to be euthanized. They shot it in the head with a high powered rifle—apparently killing it instantly and painlessly. Then Lottin, a nudist and Star Wars fan, staged a photo shoot featuring her and the now-dead horse. Throughout the following post I’ll be discussing her pictures with the horse. They are excessively gory; there is some nudity. Discretion advised. Not safe for work content after the break.

Horsey Beginnings: Setting the Stage

Wild Horses

Image Credit the Bureau of Land Management

In George Lucas's Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo rides a tauntaun out into the frozen wastes of Hoth; he needs to find his friend, Luke Skywalker. In George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, Deanerys Targaryen, a princess in exile, takes center stage in a ceremony for the sake of her child-to-be. She has to eat a raw, fresh horse heart. In Washington County, a Portland woman and her friend buy a near dead horse, shoot it in the head, cut it open, and take pictures, lots of bloody pictures. The following post does not contain these images (a future post will, though). 

Staring at Shoppers Staring

Two elderly people shopping

Image Credit: Brian Ulrich, Elkhart, IL 2003

Over the holidays I stumbled across Copia, a series of photos by Brian Ulrich. Throughout them he resists the packaged narratives we have for our consumerism. In both critique and support it seems that the act of shopping is pushed toward two extremes. There’s shopping as glitzy exuberance and shopping as a soul crushing slog. In Copia we can see a different perspective. He writes that the project “began as a response to the heated environment of 2001.” In the aftershock of September 11th any possible community driven healing process “was quickly outpaced as the government encouraged citizens to take to the malls to boost the U.S. economy thereby equating consumerism with patriotism.” His photographs show, more than anything else, a deadening sense of resignation. The people in his photos are grimfaced; they are doing their duty as they move through the various middleclass shopscapes. In these photographs we see shoppers as the products experience them.

Journey to the Center of a Triangle

I don't often get terribly excited about geometry. But in the case of the above video I just can't help myself. My first impulse, after viewing the entire clip was to blame my sense of wonder on the soundtrack. By layering music from Inception Robert Mikhayelyan and Alex Gill are hitching their wagon onto an incredibly carefully manicured experience. Inception was sold as, and sold itself as, this evocative, mind-blowing experience. And whether or not the film actually accomplished that for any given viewer hardly matters in the face of a sale we could so easily read. Inception, both in and out of the film, sold its sense of wonder so blatantly that it's the sales pitch that sticks--slightly Pavlovian, we hear the music we prepare for befuddled amazement. 

Feeding Machines, Eating Machines, Digesting Machines

formal place setting

(Image Credit:

Our encounters with food are wrought through with machines; we eat alongside them in human-machine collaboration.  Almost any moment of consumption has at its conception this collaborative process. Simple tools like knives and forks and plates and cups when combined with hands and mouths as well as concepts like etiquette form complex eating machines. Dinning, even absent any consideration for the bodies that are actually being consumed (and hose bodies, of course, have perhaps even more drastic combinatory consequences for the human body), always involves this sprawl. The body is expanded, splayed out, so that any particular point--tongue, teeth, fork, fingers--act as a discrete component of a larger machine. 

Drawing on Pigs: Wim Delvoye's Art Farm

Tattooed piglets

(Image Credit: Wim Delvoye)

It's pretty easy to understand (and probably join in) the outrage surrounding Wim Delvoye's work with pigs. Tattoos aren't exactly taboo in any real fashion anymore, but even as commonplace as they've become they still seem to provoke discussions about the use of bodies as writing platforms. In casual conversation clothes don't have nearly the same effect; though, it could be argued that they write on the body just as much as any tattoo. Clothes, though, seem to be commonly taken up as transient while tattoos are (mostly) permanent. I doubt there would be nearly as strong a reaction to these pigs if they were just dressed up on a daily basis.

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