I’ve just finished an artist’s residency with Legs On The Wall through their Open Source program. Matt Cornell and I had a month with resident curators James Dalton and Lucy Parakhina to develop a work for presentation in the illustrious Red Box.
We used this opportunity to explore new technologies to augment our skill sets so we may better serve our artistic goals. Matt and I unite our various artistic philosophies and a mutual fascination with digital life. As artists we hope to facilitate an exploration of the rich digital/online world through sensory experiences. These inputs; tactile, olfactory and kinetic are far more intuitive than purely visual and conceptual. Ultimately, we hope to make sense of the deluge of digital information and archived experience which could potentially equip us with a wealth of insight into the human condition and yet usually only serves to overwhelm or numb us.
We used a section of our budget to purchase an Ultimaker 3D printer!
The whole experience provided motivation, focus and a space to activate our ideas in.
The month culminated in two presentation nights in the Red Box, which were part performance of the work in progress and part talk on our process and future hopes for Pixel. Meat. Space…
As the audience entered the space they had a profile picture taken, which they received a print out of, (and which I received a digital copy of to incorporate into the game world). They watched an intro video and were then asked to ‘upload’ their profile pictures to complete the log-in process. This was achieved by attaching their image to a helium balloon which they then released into the air. It was a special moment watching the audience gaze up as their self-image drifted slowly out-of-reach and into possession of ‘The Cloud’. We then let them explore an online world, depicted in the Unity 3D game engine. We intend for the work to develop to the point where all navigation is activated directly by the audience through sensors and actuators. For our presentation however I just steered their avatar, responding to their movements as I watched from my tech desk. After cruising the information super highway, (presented as a literal highway), we finally ended up crashing the system with a YouTube meem overload! This completed the cycle by bringing their participation back to the tangible world, wherein Matt asked for their help to deconstruct the cloud. The component parts being delegated to their respective geographical zones and cables being drawn out to link them, as is done with optic fibre in reality. This process aimed to ground the concept of The Cloud; drawing attention to the fact that as ethereal as marketing speak would have us believe it is, the information we release into it is still just stored on a landbound computer server someplace. The performance concluding after Matt ‘scanned’ the debris with the pico projector, revealing the media content, finally tracking down an object he had found online. Popping the target balloon he was left holding a physical form of the digital entity, (in this instance a simple button). This demonstrating a concept we will be developing further; bringing tangible versions of our online lives back over the http://www.com border so that our digital selves may finally be within reach. Finally dispelling the illusion of digital dualism.
Performance photos kindly provided by Tanya Zaccak