Jonathon Keats

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Jonathon Keats (born October 2, 1971) is an American conceptual artist known for creating large-scale thought experiments. Keats was born in New York City and studied philosophy at Amherst College [1]. He now lives in San Francisco.


[edit] Conceptual Art Projects

Keats made his debut in 2000 at Refusalon in San Francisco, where he sat in a chair and thought for twenty-four hours, with a female model posing nude in the gallery. His thoughts were sold to patrons as art, at a price determined by dividing their annual income down to the minute. [2] [3]

In 2002 Keats held a petition drive to pass the Law of Identity, A=A, a law of logic, as statutory law in Berkeley, California. Specifically, the proposed law stated that, "every entity shall be identical to itself". Any entity caught being unidentical to itself was to be subject to a fine of up to one tenth of a cent. Deemed "too weird for Berkeley" in an Oakland Tribune headline, the law did not pass. [4] However it did spark a copycat petition drive in Santa Cruz, California. [5] In the same year, amidst tightening post-9/11 security, Keats initiated a series of anonymous self-portraits of visitors to the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, created by fingerprinting them as they entered the building. [6] [7] And at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, he premiered his first musical composition, "1001 Concertos for Tuning Forks and Audience". [8]

Keats copyrighted his mind in 2003, claiming that it was a sculpture that he'd created, neural network by neural network, through the act of thinking. The reason, he told the BBC World Service when interviewed about the project, was to attain temporary immortality, on the grounds that the Copyright Act would give him intellectual property rights on his mind for a period of seventy years after his death. [9] He reasoned that, if he licensed out those rights, he'd fulfill the Cogito ("I think, therefore I am"), paradoxically surviving himself by seven decades. In order to fund the posthumous marketing of intellectual property rights to his mind, he sold futures contracts on his brain in an IPO at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco. [10] The project was later included in Ripley's Believe It Or Not. [11]

Keats is most famous for attempting to genetically engineer God in a laboratory, a 2004 collaboration with geneticists at UC Berkeley. He did so in order to determine scientifically where to place God as a species on the phylogenetic tree. In interviews with journalists, he indicated that his initial results showed a close taxonomic relationship to cyanobacteria, but cautioned that his pilot study, which relied on continuous in vitro evolution, was not definitive, urging interested parties to pursue their own research, and to submit findings to the International Association for Divine Taxonomy, on which he served as executive director. [12] [13]

In 2005 he started customizing the metric system for patrons including Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Pop artist Ed Ruscha. He did so by recalibrating time to each person's heartbeat, and mathematically deriving a new length for the meter, liter, kilogram, and calorie accordingly. [14]

Around the same time, he became interested in extraterrestrial abstract art, and began producing canvas paintings based on signals detected by the Arecibo Observatory radiotelescope in Puerto Rico. [15] [16] This was the basis of the First Intergalactic Art Exposition, a 2006 solo show at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California. [17] As part of this exhibition, he also transmitted his own abstract artwork out into the cosmos. [18] [19] [20]

In 2006 Keats undertook several new projects, including two collaborations with other species: In rural Georgia, he gave fifty Leyland cypress trees the opportunity to make art by providing them with easels. [21] [22] In Chico, California, he choreographed a ballet for honeybees by selectively planting flowers on the Chico State University farm, reverse engineering honeybee communication to suggest dance arrangements inside hives. [23] Keats also turned to himself as the subject of a lifelong thought experiment, undertaken through the act of living. To make the experiment scientifically rigorous, he established a scientific control in the form of a high-density carbon graphite block precisely calibrated to match the carbon weight of his own body. The block was placed on display under a bell jar at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. [24] And at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, he applied string theory to real estate development, enlisting the legal framework of air rights to buy and sell properties in the extra dimensions of space theorized by physics. To encourage speculation, the artist created blueprints for a four-dimensional tesseract house that purchasers might use as a vacation home. [25] [26] One hundred and seventy-two lots on six Bay Area properties were bought on the first day of sales. [27]

In 2007, Keats created a mobile ring tone based on the John Cage composition 4'33", a remix comprising precisely four minutes and thirty-three seconds of digital silence, [28] sparking controversy in the classical music community [29] [30], and the world of technology [31], while attracting a following in the world of astrology. [32]. Titled "My Cage (Silence for Cellphone)", the ringtone has since been broadcast on public radio in both the United States [33] and Sweden. [34] In Chico, California, Keats opened the world's first porn theater for house plants, projecting video footage of pollination onto the foliage of ninety rhododendrons. [35] [36] [37] He released a cinematic trailer on YouTube.[38] His film was widely commented upon in the media [39] [40] following coverage by Reuters [41] and the BBC News Hour. [42] At the RT Hansen Gallery [43] in Berlin, Germany, he sold arts patrons the experience of spending money. [44] For an exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum,[45] he designed a new kind of electronic voting booth, based on a nationwide network of ouija boards. [46] [47] While ouija voting booths have yet to be implemented in a major election, California Magazine cited the project in a 2007 round-up of "25 Brilliant California Ideas". [48] At Modernism Gallery in San Francisco the following month, Keats developed new miracles, including novel solar systems and supernova pyrotechnic displays, which he made available for licensing by gods. [49] [50] [51] In addition, he composed a sonata to be performed on the constellations, [52] released through GarageBand. [53]

Keats brought his honeybee ballet to San Francisco in 2008 as part of Bay Area Now, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts triennial. [54] [55] [56] He also erected the first temple devoted to the worship of science, dubbed "the Atheon",[57] in downtown Berkeley, CA, [58] a public art project commissioned by the Judah L. Magnes Museum [59] and funded with a grant from the University of California. [60] The Atheon opened on September 27, 2008.[61] [62] [63] [64] [65] After a Wired Science interview with the artist was featured on the Yahoo homepage on September 29,[66] controversy erupted in both the scientific [67] and religious [68] [69] [70] communities, and interest in the Atheon gained traction worldwide. [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [76] A Synod was held inside the Atheon on December 4th, [77] [78] with participants including UC Berkeley philosopher John Campbell and UC Berkeley astrophysicist Ilan Roth. [79] [80]

In the midst of the Atheon debate, Keats announced that he had discovered a way to play God, using quantum mechanics to generate new universes. [81] Enlisting the many worlds interpretation of physicist Hugh Everett, [82] his process made use of readily-available equipment including uranium-doped glass and scintillating crystal, all acquired on eBay. [83] After building several prototypes,[84] Keats manufactured a simple D.I.Y. kit that purported to let anyone create new universes with a mason jar, a drinking straw, and a piece of chewing gum, [85] a gadget much commented upon in the media [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] and widely popular in the blogosphere. [91] [92] [93] [94] [95] [96] In an exhibition at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, [97] Keats sold the kits for $20 apiece, and also presented plans, simultaneously submitted to the United States Department of Energy, for a much larger factory, which would generate new universes from the nuclear waste slated to be buried under Yucca Mountain in the next decade. [98] [99] His proposal has proven controversial. [100]

In early 2009, Keats was an artist-in-residence at Montana State University in Bozeman, where he opened the world's second porn theater for house plants, based on the porn theater he opened in Chico, CA in 2007, but in this case catering to an audience of local zinnias. [101] He also composed a song to be performed by Mandeville Creek on the MSU campus, orchestrated by rearranging rocks melodically, using the musical structure of the medieval rondeau. [102]

[edit] Related Work

Keats is also the art critic for San Francisco Magazine, and writes about art for publications including Art & Antiques, Art in America, Art + Auction, ArtNews, and Artweek. He is also a journalist, and his reporting for Popular Science has been included in The Best American Science Writing 2007. [103] He is a writer and commentator on new language, [104] the author of a devil's dictionary of technology, [105] [106] and the Jargon Watch columnist for Wired Magazine [107]. He is a book critic as well, and the author of two novels, The Pathology of Lies, published in English by Warner Books, [108] [109] and Lighter Than Vanity, published exclusively in Russian by Eksmo. [110] The Book of the Unknown, a collection of fables loosely based on Talmudic legend, [111] was published by Random House in February 2009. [112] While the stories are said by Kirkus to have "echoes of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sholom Aleichem and S.Y. Agnon", [113] compares them to The Princess Bride ("without the gloss"). [114] Since publication, the most persistent question has been whether the author Jonathon Keats is the same person as the conceptual artist. [115] [116] (A reviewer for the New York Observer even deconstructed his Wikipedia entry. [117]) However Keats has assured interviewers that the writer and artist are the same person, telling Salon that his fables, like his art, are a form of thought experiment.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Amherst Student
  2. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  3. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  4. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  5. ^ Legal Affairs
  6. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  7. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  8. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  9. ^ BBC World Service
  10. ^ Wired News
  11. ^ Ripley's Believe It Or Not
  12. ^ SF Gate
  13. ^ Wired News
  14. ^ Europa Star
  15. ^ New Scientist
  16. ^ Wired News
  17. ^ Magnes Museum
  18. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  19. ^ Oakland Tribune
  20. ^ East Bay Express
  21. ^ Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  22. ^ Extreme Craft
  23. ^ Chico Orion
  24. ^ SF Station
  25. ^ New Scientist
  26. ^ KALW Radio (NPR)
  27. ^ California Real Estate Journal
  28. ^ CNET
  29. ^ PostClassic
  30. ^ Sequenza21
  31. ^ Wired News
  32. ^ Free Will Astrology
  33. ^ American Public Media
  34. ^ Swedish Radio
  35. ^ Chico Beat
  36. ^ Rhizome News
  37. ^ CNET
  38. ^ YouTube Trailer
  39. ^ Washington Post
  40. ^ New York Magazine
  41. ^ Reuters
  42. ^ BBC
  43. ^ RT Hansen Gallery
  44. ^ Wired News
  45. ^ Berkeley Art Museum
  46. ^ Oakland Tribune
  47. ^ Gizmodo
  48. ^ California Magazine
  49. ^ Wired News
  50. ^ CNET
  51. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  52. ^ San Francisco Bay Guardian
  53. ^ GarageBand Sonata
  54. ^ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
  55. ^
  56. ^ Wired Blogs
  57. ^ Atheon Website
  58. ^ Berkeley Daily Planet
  59. ^ Judah L Magnes Museum
  60. ^ Daily Californian
  61. ^ New Scientist
  62. ^ Discover
  63. ^ Boing Boing
  64. ^ Valleywag
  65. ^ io9
  66. ^ Wired Science
  67. ^
  68. ^ Town Hall
  69. ^
  70. ^ Institute for Creation Research
  71. ^ Times Online (UK)
  72. ^ PC World (Poland)
  73. ^ Tyden (Czech Republic)
  74. ^ Tekniikka & Talous (Finland)
  75. ^ Sputnik (Mexico)
  76. ^ Bogoslov (Russia)
  77. ^ Oakland Tribune
  78. ^ KALW Radio (NPR)
  79. ^ Fora TV
  80. ^ Fora TV
  81. ^ Wired Blogs
  82. ^ Science and Religion Daily
  83. ^ Technovelgy
  84. ^ Physics World
  85. ^ New Scientist
  86. ^ CNET
  87. ^ Salvo Magazine
  88. ^ Tech Digest (UK)
  89. ^ El Comercio (Spain)
  90. ^ InFuture (Russia)
  91. ^ BoingBoing
  92. ^ OhGizmo
  93. ^ Gizmodo
  94. ^ Science Blogs
  95. ^
  96. ^ Ausgefallene-Ideen (Germany)
  97. ^ SF Weekly
  98. ^ Asylum
  99. ^ Brisbane Times (Australia)
  100. ^ Wired Science
  101. ^ Montana State University News Service
  102. ^ Bozeman Daily Chronicle
  103. ^ California Literary Review
  104. ^ Talk of the Nation (NPR)
  105. ^ CNET
  106. ^ New York Observer
  107. ^ Wired Magazine
  108. ^
  109. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  110. ^ Eksmo
  111. ^ Word Riot
  112. ^ Random House
  113. ^ Kirkus Reviews (via Random House)
  114. ^
  115. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  116. ^ J Weekly
  117. ^ New York Observer

[edit] External links

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