My work is an attempt to bridge the conceptual and the corporeal. How we use our bodies to create abstract symbolic systems, and how these systems (language for example) have reverberations on our physical self is a matter of great concern to me. The dialog between these two realms is the subject of both my traditional and interactive work, and it is particularly relevant to our contemporary culture as we aim to grapple with the ramifications of virtuality and our increasing relationship with the interfaces and representational systems of our machines.
The interactive medium provides a rich environment to explore the connections between physical bodies and the myriad of representational systems possible in the digital realm. Physical-digital interfaces – ranging from the familiar mouse and keyboard to more unusual sensing systems – provide the connective tissue between our bodies and the codes represented in our machines. I take these interfaces as both a practical and conceptual artistic challenge. Interactive systems determine the grammar of our interaction with digital media, and ultimately its possibility for meaning.
By developing physical-digital systems that engage people’s bodies instead of just their fingers and eyes, I hope to refocus attention on the embodied self in an increasingly mediated culture. Many of my interactive installations respond to participants locations in the installation space, to spatial relationships between participants, or to actual gestures and body language. By creating installations that use video tracking software to respond transparently to a user’s entire body, I create a visceral connection between the real and the virtual.
In other works I use different sensing technologies to track participants in physical situations which resonate symbolically. Both see/saw and Potent Objects ground language in the realm of the physical – blurring the boundary between the symbolic and the corporeal. By allowing participants to play with this line in my installations, they gain new insights into their own definitions of the “real”.
Central to my work is the tension between the abstract realm of ideas and the corporeality in which we live and interact with these ideas. Text Rain, hinges the behavior of falling text to the physical movements of human bodies. Reading in this piece becomes a physical as well as cerebral endeavor. Composition – a series of pieces exploring representational images created from symbolic ASCII code – relies on the participant’s body as data’”. In Drawing from Life (commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History for an exhibit on the Human Genome), a viewers body is visually transformed into the symbolic letters of DNA, raising questions about the connections between descriptions and reality on many levels.
I find it essential to engage with the digital medium at the level of code and electronics. By writing my own software and designing my own interfaces I free my work from the limits and assumptions of commercially based tools and products. Only at this level can one truly sculpt the medium. An understanding of the language of code and computation allows me to reject normal data structures in Liquid Time – where I deconstruct the video frame as a unit of display, or repurpose those structures in Drawing From Life – where the image becomes text characters themselves. My custom video tracking systems, including the patent-pending system developed for Text Rain, have redefined current notions of interactivity.
By refiguring the possibilities for interaction with digital media, I question and explore the space between the symbolic and the corporeal; between the virtual and the real. By creating poetic relationships between these spaces I hope to engage people both emotionally and viscerally.