06 Feb

Mixed Realities Symposium

Imaging Beijing

This Friday, February 8, I will be leading a panel discussion at the Mixed Realities symposium at Emerson College. The panel is titled “Immersion, Presence and Place.” Participants include John (Craig) Freeman, Usman Haque (via Second Life), Pierre Proske (via Second Life), Michael Takeo Magruder, Drew Baker, and David Steele. Each of the artists on the panel will have their work displayed in the Mixed Realities exhibit that opens the night before. With the quality of each of the pieces represented, I’m confident that we will have an interesting discussion. The panel starts at 1pm EST at 216 Tremont Street, Boston, MA and here in Second Life.

Freeman’s piece, entitled “Imaging Beijing,” is an extension of his existing work on the “Imaging Place” project in Second Life. Freeman produces panoramic nodes of the streets of Beijing, where locals describe their personal experiences of that space, and more interestingly, how that space conjures up seemingly unrelated personal experiences. He calls this concept a memory map. The Second Life-based artwork enables avatars to walk in and out of the nodes, capturing and inhabiting the intimate street life of Beijing.

Usman Haque will be talking about the piece “Remote” by Neill Donaldson, Usman Haque, Ai Hasegawa, and Georg Tremmel. This piece produces what he calls a fundamentally “human architecture” by suturing the physical space of a Boston-based gallery with a Second Life space. The human actors in Second Life, combined with the human actors in Boston, have to work together to create a merged space – one that is comprised of the collective efforts of the inhabitants.

Pierre Proske will be discussing his piece called Caterwaul. Essentially, mixed reality wailing wall, is a physical wall built in the Boston gallery that gives people the opportunity to verbally lament the loss of their loved-one’s time in online spaces. The chorus of lamentations will then be transmitted into Second Life, where an identical wall in Second Life will broadcast those voices. By crossing over, it allows mourners to speak to the “dead.”

Finally, Michael Takeo Magruder, David Steele and Drew Baker will be representing the piece “The Vitruvian World.” Stemming from da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Magruder and his collaborators put together an installation where the human intersects with Nature and the built environment. Only now, this is manifested by the intersection of the physical, virtual and the network that connects them.

All of the pieces represented in this panel, while exploring the notion of “mixed reality,” seem to be drawing more significant attention to the “limits of reality.” In other words, where does the physical end? Where does the human end? And, where does the real end? In fact, it is the limits that provide tension in this work. We might be comfortable with a mixed reality, but when we confront the limits of familiar psychological and social categories, we grow anxious. This is what makes the work powerful, and I suspect, this is what will provide some interesting fodder for discussion.

Each of the pieces points to changing notions of place. In geographical terms, place is experienced space. It is meaningful space, enhanced by personal encounter, perpetuated by memories. But when space is “neither here nor there,” but a combination of the two, how does place take shape? Do digital spaces have the same capacity to be experienced as physical spaces? And what’s at stake? We might find answers to this question as we address the concepts of immersion and presence. Do we need to be immersed and present to experience? Consider Heidegger’s notion of dasein, or being there. For Heidegger, being was tied to presence. Human experience was always grounded in da-sein, never just sein. Is dasein possible in a mixed reality?

And finally, we might talk about the problem of attention. Multiple realities, multiple places, would seem to pull our attention in multiple directions. Does this work point to the loss of focus? Is it possible to be present, without paying attention? Or, do we need only to reconsider the current economy of attention? Perhaps, mixed realities points to new structures of attention, where we can distribute our payments for enhanced benefit.

The panel should cover some combination of these topics. If we all pay attention, perhaps we’ll arrive at some conclusions.

01 Mar

What if the landscape had no words

This project is a surprisingly unsettling look at the relationship between words and the urban environment.  By blocking out text in urban environments, it nicely displays the power words have in shaping subject perspective, position, and interpretation. 

          Untitled Project

          is rooted in a base interest in the nature of power. With the removal
          of all traces of text from the photographs, the project explores the
          manifestation of power between large groups of people in the form of
          public and semi-public language. The absence of the printed word not
          only draws attention to the role text plays in the modern landscape
          but also simultaneously emphasizes alternative forms of communication
          such as symbols, colors, architecture and corporate branding. In doing
          this, it serves to point out the growing number of ways in which public
          voices communicate without using traditional forms of written language.

          The reintroduction of the text takes written language out of the context
          of its intended viewing environment. The composition of the layouts
          remain true to the composition of their corresponding photographs in
          order to draw attention to relative size, location and orientation.
          The isolation of the text from its original graphic design and accompanying
          logos, photographs and icons helps to further explore the nature of
          communication in the urban landscape as a combination of visual and
          literal signifiers.


Link here.

Also, see this other project by Steinbrener and Dempf where the block the signs from Times Square.  Talk about strange. 

Link here.

25 Aug

Visible Evidence

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Montreal after attending the Visible Evidence conference.  It’s been years since I’ve attended this conference, and I’m glad to be back in the fold.  It’s really a quite sophisticated gathering in many respects.  While the discourse on new media leaves something to be desired, the participants are dealing with many of the issues that confront people working in new media: indexicality, reality, ethics, arhives, etc.  I found the sincerety of the discourse at the conference to be refreshing.  More than many conferences, it seems as though there is a common project between academics, filmmakers and artists.  The role of documentation in a culture obsessed with documentation is a theme that demands many voices, and I commend the openness of the disciplines involved for accepting that multiplicity.

Over the past several days, I discovered new connections in my own work as well.  First, I realized that the paper I gave was too concerned with criticizing art work for not acknowledging connections.  I don’t want to be one of those people who criticize because they have no other way of participating in a discourse.   The work is interesting as experiment.  All I intend to do is place the work in a different context – a larger context of urbanism and spatial consumption.  The idea that artists are beginning from the same assumptions as commercial developers shouldn’t come as a shock: we’re all building on an existing culture.  The goals are certainly different, but that doesn’t detract from the important lines that connect the different aspects of cultural production and consumption. 

In the paper, I argue for something called cartographic navigation, a practice of consumption used to communicate the "authenticity" of space.  I argue that it is in the movement (or play) of space accompanied by the personal documentation of that space, where place is communicated.  This is not the only way place is communicated, but trends in design suggest that it is a common method of communicating experience and ownership of public space.  By looking at these artworks, we can better understand what is happening in new consumer spaces that are quickly appropriating these methods of communicating place.

03 Aug

Realism Lacks Presence

HaaaaaaaaaaaaCommunicating the body at a distance.  Seems to be all the rage these days.  This project R*Emote Mirror sets up a mirror in New York and another in Seoul.  A full length mirror in each site shows the outline of the remote person’s reflection.  Funny, how video images don’t seem to cut it anymore.  Realism lacks presence.  Abstract representation, or avatar subjectivity, communicates a sense of presence and individuality within the technology.