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Evolution Surfaces on Comm Ave

At Warren Towers, a student artist makes the most of memes


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In the video above, Adrienne Yangas (CAS’12) talks about the meaning of memes, as revealed in her art, now installed at Warren Towers.

As the face of campus evolves, student artists like Adrienne Yangas have become part of the natural selection. Charles Darwin would have been proud.

Last spring Yangas (CAS’12), a psychology and philosophy major, participated in an art competition sponsored by the Greater Boston Darwin Bicentennial committee, sponsored by the BU provost’s office in conjunction with other universities to encourage and coordinate Darwin-related events. Her work, Genes to Memes, won an award and then was chosen to become part of the BU landscape.

This is a big year for Darwin. He was born 200 years ago and made his most memorable scientific contribution 50 years after that, publishing On the Origin of Species, a text that inspires and sparks controversy to this day. The inspiration for Yangas’ piece comes from Darwin’s theory of evolution, with help from contemporary thinker Richard Dawkins.

She has become entranced, even obsessed, with the concept of “memes,” a word coined by Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins suggests that as genes carry genetic information from one generation to the next, memes carry cultural information from one person to the next.

Yangas’ piece represents the evolution of mankind from both the genetic and the memetic perspectives.

Transferring her work from a 13-inch Macbook to a public space on campus was overseen by the Site Specific Art class taught by Hugh O’Donnell, a College of Fine Arts professor of painting. Art created in O’Donnell’s classes has adorned the Photonics Center, Sargent College, Green Line T stops, FitRec, StuVi2, and Warren Towers — a new incarnation of Darwin’s famous phrase, survival of the fittest.

Devin Hahn can be reached at dhahn@bu.edu.


6 Comments on Evolution Surfaces on Comm Ave

  • Kyle on 09.29.2009 at 11:16 am

    Adrienne Yangas is brilliant.

  • Anonymous on 09.29.2009 at 11:56 am

    I am starting to become annoyed with internet memes. People become so wrapped up in internet culture that they forget about the long cultural legacy generations before us have left.

  • Anonymous on 09.29.2009 at 11:58 am

    I was not overly impressed with the artwork. I think Ms. Yangas had an interesting idea, certainly of merit, but the way she portrayed it (appropriately as contemporary art) nonetheless doesn’t pique my interests. It is a creative idea but not particularly well-executed. It feels more like a graphic-design project than a real artistic tribute to Darwin.

  • Anonymous on 09.29.2009 at 4:38 pm

    Great video–Adrienne is a winner on screen. Also loved the images and how the videographer put the whole thing together.

  • Anonymous on 09.29.2009 at 9:13 pm

    I like it, Adrienne.

    I need to go have a closer look – but it seems that there is not much of an interval between the memes depicted in the 3rd and 4th panels. Of course, the origin and proliferation of memes is disproportionately concentrated in man’s recent past – so it is not so off the mark. But perhaps instead of Renaissance and Early Modern memes, the 3rd panel could be oriented more toward the Classical and medieval periods. All this notwithstanding, it’s a great idea and it looks great too. You rock!

  • Anonymous on 09.30.2009 at 11:32 am

    Darn Win

    I loved this piece, and I love Adrienne’s art.
    She memes well …

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