My work synthesizes digital systems in order to explore the relationship between art and everyday life. Some build robots to replace human action. Others use technology to learn new ways to approach old problems. I use technology in multi-media art installations to create interactive experiences. These experiences address the condition of the human soul in relationship to digital communication systems that are radically shifting the configuration of contemporary social structures. Attempting to bridge the gap between body and mind, self and community, my work underscores that the human experience is more than the sum of quantifiable parts. The artworks attempt a utopian remediation that prioritizes memory and “nature” in place of cultural amnesia. The spaces provided by my artworks redeem the human agent and offer a transcendent experience of the sublime.
Dissecting humans does not explain the creative, emotional, and spiritual soul. My work interweaves hybrid practices, remaining in the liminal, and creating a space for the transcendent and metaphysical. To clarify these points for the audience, my installations explore the impact of emotions that constantly reshape human perceptions of time. The work bridges the edges of mind, body, and technology by drawing spectators into an interactive experience that promotes awareness of socio-technological environments and, by so doing, emphasizes human responsibility inside them.
For example, Echo & Narcissus, and Shi.Ko ltd. 2007, draws contrasts between human and mechanical responses to “noise,” defined in signal processing “as random and unwanted data without meaning.” Unlike data-input devices for computers, humans possess the ability to choose which kinds of stimuli become data. By consciously imposing our will, we can choose to focus on certain sounds and thence derive meaning. Echo & Narcissus and Shi.Ko ltd. 2007 both use sound and video processing algorithms to record, manipulate, and deliver altered and time-delayed content. As they move through the installation, audiences will see and hear recordings of their time-delayed selves, and this awareness prompts their behavior to change. Augmenting individual perception, these machine-made images progress out of sequence, mimicking the pathways by which embodied time unfolds, and underscoring the limits of information processing.
Similarly, Peek-A-Boo, and The North Wind & The Sun, alter how we perceive information, by layering and the slowing down or speeding up the pace of conveyed information, blending the past with the present, and using signs outside of their usual semiotic systems in order to create a sense of the uncanny: the strangely un/familiar. With my video works, I rely on layering of information to augment the experience of the brain. The “digital bi-quad filter” is a simple programming filter taught in introductory-level computer science class. It is a recursive system, using and reusing fresh and filtered data. I use this filter as a metaphor for the human experience. When applied metaphorically to the human experience, it is corrupted by the senses, clouded by the emotions, and creatively revised as memory, the sum of perceived experiences. This filter sits at the foundation of my research.
In SuperBowl Series and the objet petit a, I layer video stills of popular imagery to create oscillations between the familiar and the strange. Proliferation of information systems results in the normalization and commodification of life, thus creating great confusion regarding the very nature of our existence, destabilizing our perceptions of self, body, desire, and the social. The ever-heightened velocity of images and ideas presented to us by mass media promotes amnesia. There is so much to remember that memory fails. I employ the appropriation, compression, and decontextualization of mass-media imagery to bring the familiar to a halt. By manipulating “ordinary” imagery exploited by industry for their consumptive value, I aim to create an oscillation between the ordinary cultural environment and the existential unknown. The resulting images epitomize the ineffable. In SuperBowl Series, several years of televised SuperBowl games are projected side by side. Each video is collapsed vertically into a sequence that lasts ten minutes, creating a wild layering of form, movement and color. The videos are essentially identical except for the score bar and the broadcast network logo, changing the content from game to generic televised game space, and thus interrogating the role of spectator and spectacle.
In objet petit a the source materials for the images are captured broadcast American television commercials that have been layered through a digital process, which results in the denotative erasure of the commodity that was being advertised. Yet, traces remain, and it is that stubborn refusal to disappear that infuses this series with poetic melancholy as well as political critique. I hope to refer the audience back to its own experiences, to disrupt it, to “expose it;” in the sense discussed by art theorist Hal Foster, in such a way “[that I] might reveal its automatism, even its autism.” The ubiquity of information systems embedded inside capitalist constructs has resulted in the normalization and commodification of everyday life. This has created great confusion regarding the very nature of our existence, destabilizing our perceptions of self, body, desire, and the social. In response, the objet petit a series explores the allure of the unattainable by revisiting television commercials, a genre that sets up unresolvable tensions between erotic desire and ordinary banalities. This series distills and crystallizes the desires being represented, rather than the object being sold. Highly saturated, dreamlike, and blurred, the images in these series first evoke a sense of hope and nostalgia. As the viewer continues to scrutinize the images, they begin to reassemble into something vaguely sinister. Led to reimage their relationship to popular media, viewers reflect on the manipulations of commerce as well as the role of beauty, aesthetics, and cultural conditioning inside acute political realities. By lifting the commercial images out of a capitalist system, this series offers the possibility of re-envisioning new possibilities based on the creative failures of the old.
Quantum Populi is a sculptural installation that simulates biologically diverse ecosystems and social networks in order to call attention to mutual interdependence. To develop this project, I received a $10k Creative Scholarship Award from the University of South Florida. This functional habitat for artificially intelligent robots includes six different kinds of robots built in multiples, as well as intelligent sensing stations for robot and human interaction. The robots respond to human agents, forcing the audience to consider its own impact on abstract and natural systems. How do individuals form themselves into a community, producing phenomena such as social behavior and intelligent action? Why does this result in apparently closed systems where individuals are only seen in relation to the social matrix? As an exploration of the aesthetics of artificial systems as well as a metaphor for community, Quantum Populi calls into question the nature of collective systems, as well as the relationship between the art object and the observer, and art and life. The work is scheduled for an exhibition in September 2012 of interactive kinetic sculptures at the Glass Curtain Gallery at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois, and will be shown alongside the work of artists such as Jeremy Boyle, Theo Jansen, Sabrina Raaf, and Steven Laurie.
The public works Pinwheel, and The Artist, explores the relationship to the individual actions and the collective spirit, as well as the ephemerality of human works. In Pinwheel, wind power generates electricity to power lights that shine back on the wind turbine itself, creating a mirror ball effect. This project was conceived for the municipal public art project, “Lights on Tampa,” an annual juried event that began in 2006 with the objective of establishing Tampa as a cultural center by literally shining a spotlight on the city. Pinwheel was selected for inclusion in “Lights on Tampa” by a jury composed of David Hickey, Jerry Saltz, and Anne Pasternack. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled due to budget shortfalls resulting from the financial crash of 2007. Another work that was also initiated and then created for “Lights on Tampa,” The Artist, is a 26’ tall x 50’ wide video projection of the working hands of the “Tabaquero,” a tobacco roller. Its intention is to honor the manual trades by focusing on the cigar industry that helped define the city of Tampa. This installation includes the taped voice of “El Lector” as he reads news and literature in Spanish to the cigar factory workers, stressing the curiosity, intelligence, and engagement of the immigrant Cuban and Italian workers with their new country, America.
Other works continue to stress small individual decisions that impact the larger whole. With The Tower of Babel, for example, I was interested in destabilizing the conventional social structure of an event opening. Inside of a large, tent-like pod, I placed a white conference table with enough surface area to support a 1,000-piece puzzle of The Tower of Babel. As the audience purchased tickets to enter the event, they were given a single puzzle piece. It was their choice to either support the collaborative effort of assembling the puzzle, or to undermine the effort by refusing to participate. Called to re-create an image that is nothing more than the sum of its parts, the guests were given the option of relinquishing the role of sociable strangers in order to become collaborators with a common cause. Similarly, Bush by 537, a one-night event in Palm Beach County Florida, illuminated the political consequences of social passivity and collective inaction. This work critiqued the problems with the vote in Palm Beach County during the Presidential general election in 2000, by representing the number of votes that lifted George Bush to the presidency through the display of 537 living butterflies.
Future projects are underway as part of the Enlightenment series, an upcoming research project for which I also received a $6k Creative Scholarship Award from the University of South Florida. Using the machine as a representation of selected human biologic processes, viewers will be made aware of themselves as collective beings in a post-modern world. The works in the Enlightenment series are meant to augment human sensory systems while acting as poetic analogies to the physical rhythms of our corporeal existence. It can be seen as a direct extension of Breathe, a sculptural object which functions as a vehicle for the experience of a singular focus and experience of the breath. For the viewer, the dictum “stay with your breath” bears repeating. Breathe utilizes simple technologies to draw air in and push air out of a rubber bellows. The sound of the air being inhaled and exhaled is meant to stimulate the viewer to follow the machine. In this art piece, a machine simulates a human experience, forming a recursive relationship with viewers as they experience their own internal rhythms. The bellow’s intake is as irresistible as breath itself, even as viewers are drawn into and defined by a community that relies on breathing to survive. Combining advanced digital technology with electronic technologies and analogue mechanisms, Enlightenment joins together past and present, and represents a true synthesis of my artistic explorations to date.
Ultimately, I am an inventor, with the goal of providing innovative ways of approaching contemporary life. In the vein of many computer scientists, I build in order to learn from my machines. I seek to understand the world through a systematic, empirical study of naturally occurring phenomena. By applying the logic of these phenomena, such as gravity and fire, to my study of motion, memory, and information processing in humans, I develop poetic systems that function as tools as well as mirrors held up to the world. By creating a work of art that uses both old and new technologies to query the human experience, I can create new spaces for re-engaging the question of human identity in an increasingly technological world.