Kathleen McDermott: The Future Affects the Past: Technology, Mysticism, Art, and Play

Woman with short blonde hair wearing a handmade device that is strapped to your chest and slaps your face, against a white wall with various inventions.

Junk Clocks (2019), video still.

Kathleen McDermott (B.F.A. '09) is a media artist with a background in installation and sculpture. She uses a combination of textiles, sculptural materials, and open-source electronics to create absurd mechanical objects that aim to explore the relationship between human bodies and technology in both real and imagined scenarios. She holds a B.F.A. in sculpture from Cornell University, an M.F.A. in creative media from the City University of Hong Kong, and a Ph.D. in electronic arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is an industry assistant professor in integrated digital media at New York University Tandon School of Engineering in the Department of Technology, Culture, and Society. McDermott's work has been featured in a range of major publications including the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Dezeen, and has been exhibited internationally.


Drawing on the Dada principle that absurdity and shock can be an appropriate response to technologically enabled feelings of alienation, McDermott seeks to jolt audiences out of a cycle of anxiety associated with technological change through playful and strange inventions while simultaneously casting a critical eye on commercial design tropes that present technology as a solution to all of life's problems. McDermott will discuss the way in which her work attempts to evade the impulse to design technology that may make the body more machine-like and promote technology that may make the body more transcendent and strange.

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