Coffee lids by design

Four artists explore Intelligent Design
By IAN PAIGE  |  May 23, 2007
FORM + FUNCTION: Drink toppers.

I saw at least a dozen people I knew from Portland at the Amy Winehouse show at The Avalon in Boston earlier this month. Who knows how many people from Maine were there that I didn’t know. The fact that so many of us chose to drive a solid two hours with gas over $3 a gallon, on a Monday night, says something about Maine fans’ devotion to music. As I looked around the sold-out 2000-capacity club I wondered, if the State Theatre were still open, would this tour have made it to our city? It was a grim reminder of our lack of a medium-sized venue. Back to Amy Winehouse. Her ten-person band had three guitars, three horns, drums, keys, and two snappy back-up singers/dancers. They took the stage after a lengthy break post opener Patrick Wolf. As the band members took their places the audience roared. Then all five feet, 110 pounds of Winehouse waltzed out in black bra, white tank top, jeans, and a whole lot of hair and midriff. The rumor mill had prepped me for potential vomiting, slurring, and all-out drunkenness. The only time when I wondered if she had a buzz on was during her dialogue between songs. It was hard to make out if she was slurring or if her thick British accent was preventing me from understanding her. At one point the mSage Lewis makes pinpricks on white paper, a constellation of dots, interrelating references or access points to dualistic planes of existence. To draw these points would be one thing, but a hole implies passage and begs the question “what’s on the other side?” Furthermore, calling the piece “Descartes’ Universe” would help illuminate the philosophical underpinnings of Lewis’s artistic endeavor, but the title is more actively “Pricking for Descartes’ Universe.” Philosophical discussion is modified to include the act of discussion itself. Descartes asks if matter is distinct from non-physical mental phenomena, suggesting a transcendent plane. Lewis positions herself as an actor within theories, poking her head through possibilities. In artistic practice, it’s in the asking, not the answer.

All this in an attempt to understand the alluring title “Intelligent Design,” a group show at Whitney Art Works in which Lewis asks questions with fellow practitioners Lydia Badger, Lucinda Bliss, and Carl Haase. The title establishes intrigue by summoning the recent controversy surrounding the ID movement, which posits that the complexities of the universe are best explained by an external intelligence rather than an autonomous process of natural selection. There is little to no debate in the scientific community about Intelligent Design. It is not science because it precludes the use of provable, observational experiment. ID as a movement is questionable in its desire to supplant the scientific method but is metaphysical by nature and deserving of attention within a teleological framework.

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