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For my reading assignment, I decided to look into Sherry Turkle’s The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. She talks about thinking of the computer as the second self, as a part of the social and psychological lives, to look deeper past the surface of what computers are used for to better understand ourselves as humans. She does that by talking about how the computer affects us to better understand our relationships with the world, by asking different people of different ages to understand as many perceptions of the computer and its other technologies. In the introduction she quotes a PDA user who felt “a death” when their Palm died, and felt that they were going to “lose their mind”. To have technology become an extension of one’s self is something that many of us unconsciously do in 2019, to rely on them in order to curate daily lives, or to make spreadsheets.

“Are the new generations of simulation consumers reminiscent of people who can pronounce the words in a book but don’t understand what they mean?”

Turkle talks about a time when computers were all code, and that children were made to learn programming in simple forms, to “create their own world” with their own set of rules, while “virtuality seemed new”. She also argues of how “transparency” of technology was changed, such that people no longer found an interest in computer literacy in their daily use of technology. I found it interesting, given that most of technology now relies on a visual interface that covered code, and to quote a professor, create an experience that keeps the technology invisible. It was the total opposite of what I was told to do. She makes some valid points that it allowed for important thinking skills, and to “demystify” technology, allowing children, and also adults, a sense of control.

Going on her tangent about the new era, Turkle mentions the world and culture of simulation, games such as The Sims, in particular. These are all complex simulation games that require a huge working system that can survive while being manipulated by a player. But these systems were already set up by someone else, a simulated world created by someone for an individual to experience, rather than manipulate fully and have any sort of authority. In a sense, she talks a lot about the power one had in their lives by being able to code in a world where technology was booming.

“Technology catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think. It changes people’s awareness of themselves, of one another, of their relationship with the world.”

Looking back to the start of our project, Matapolis, our goal was to hope that people would try to play “bad” in our simulation, to question things that happen in the scenes that were shown to them. I felt like I agreed with many things that Turkle had to say, and it gave me some sort of validation in the kind of project that we were making. Simulations were not supposed to be realistic, but to question the “real”. The second self was a way to reflect on where we, as humans, stood in nature, to question our being.

 

Turkle, Sherry. “Video Games and Computer Holding Power.” In The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1984-2005.

INTER-MISSION [reflection]

Happenings | Disappearance at the Bar Gallery, felt like a trip to another world. And I do not mean in a good or bad sense, but rather, just an odd one. I had brought a friend from outside of school along to witness the performance, and upon arrival, spent the majority of it trying to point out things that were happening, with zero context to anything beforehand. I had been hoping that the piece would be self-explanatory when I arrived, but it was the opposite, and an hour was spent trying to guess its complicated message. Were we trying to call upon aliens with the soundwaves? Were we questioning technology based on how static works?

Dude walking around with his tons of static-causing items. On the right is the installation “Disappearance”.

To be honest, I did not even realise that the tables were supposed to be an artwork.  I thought it was just a fancy decision to put them there as a place to rest, and perhaps have a bit of a snack. It was only until class the following week that I realise it was based off an exhibition by Lee Kang Soo called “Disappearance” in 1973.

“Unlike other performance art pieces at that time, Disappearance was completed with the participation of the audience. It was an artwork that overturned the boundary and position of the artist and the audience.

While exchanging glasses between the two of us at a lukewarm bar without any customers except for us, my gaze stayed on the wooden table and chairs. It seemed as if I was listening and seeing the sound of many people and an illusion full of smoke from cigarettes. The traces of rubbing off countless cigarettes on the table and chairs, burnt marks made by hot pots, and incessant mopping by the worker at the bar – all these seemed to make noises together. But all of this disappeared at once. I was there, and my senior was sitting in front of me, but we were there and not there at the same time. I could not prove it precisely. I could not be my senior sitting in front of me, and he could not be me. The bar I was experiencing could not be the same as the place he was encountering. Where were we?”

Referenced from http://artradarjournal.com/2018/10/10/disappearance-lee-kang-sos-1970s-works-at-gallery-hyundai-seoul-original-interview-extract/

By buying the chairs and tables of said bar, he had wished to recreate the bar experience, the intimate experience of drinking with his senior, to the gallery in 1973. He basically wanted anyone to sit there for the art to work, an opportunity for the audience to share a memory that was private, from a specific, intimate place.

So in what way was this related to INTER-MISSION and Happenings? How did they co-exist in the same space? I look into INTER-MISSION’s about page to better understand their motive in creating art. They call themselves “an art collective dedicated to discourses of technology in art”, inhabiting the gap between technologically engaged artworks, artists and audiences. They also build “transnational networks to promote sustained dialogue and engagement with media practices, encouraging collaboration, reflection and participation in our ever-changing technological environment through interactive performances, etc.”.

I started to think a little deeper into this, maybe they were finding the ghosts of Lee Kang Soo’s imagination? One of them had been holding tons of recording or sound-making things; the one with the mask. He had also started walking around, putting his arm up to the audience at the Bar, which in response would cause more static noises to come out of his headphones. It felt odd, but being a fan of dumb supernatural shows, static was often used in this context to look for ghosts, in order to communicate with them. Was INTER-MISSION searching for this intimate memory? Was INTER-MISSION maybe instead questioning this intimate memory? Who knows?

One of the dudes with a camera to his face, which is projected out onto any surface in front of him.

There were also several projections displayed, each changing repetitively and quickly in succession, of different angles of the Bar, and of a live setting in Tokyo. I guess it could potentially be talking about being able to actually experience an intimate setting in today’s world with technology. The Bar at the Gallery would have been very different there. Was the Disappearance now a different meaning interpreted from what Lee Kang Soo had put together decades ago? Was the visual manipulation of these screens a rising question about how technology should be viewed, likewise with its loud static audio? Was the other dude with the camera projection of his face walking around to find some kind of entity, or maybe the purpose of this whole performance?

I looked up INTER-MISSION’s other works, to better understand their message as a group. They often used the same techniques to perform, in reference to their collaborative audiovisual event during IAFT 16/17 but with each performance came a different visual, while the sound… Well, it could be different, since it was not the same place after all. (I cannot tell for the life of me. My ears are bad as is.)

With each piece came a different context, depending on the environment they were in, despite them performing. But from Happenings, I gained a different perspective when given an idea what “Disappearance” had been about. There was a lot to question about the art, and with the performance came a new perspective opened for me. I had googled Happenings and found another performance at NGS, by several performing artists.

“My fellow artists and I found ourselves performing within a bar made almost 50 years ago, for an audience living in modern times. It presented an untrodden path that led to a joyous journey for everyone involved. After the performance, as we stepped out of the bar, we realised that a new door had opened for us.”

Referenced from https://www.nationalgallery.sg/blog/happenings-at-disappearance-bar-in-the-gallery

It was an interesting look from another artist’s perspective, how they had perceived the art piece and collaborated within that space. It was like entering a different world, time; an alternate universe if you might, in this space. I feel that maybe INTER-MISSION might have felt the same, being in different spaces with different chemistry, and it is something that their work looks into. So while I did not fully understand their piece when I was there at NGS, I guess it was in a way, an arbitrary piece, that I could still interpret bits and pieces of and had my own personal takeaway. It was an amusing experience to say the least, and had many questions, and I do wish to see them talk more about it in detail if they ever would.

Future You

 

Retrieved from https://www.dexigner.com/news/32131

An interactive piece that I found interesting is “Future You” by Universal Everything. It is a digital interactive installation that “replicates” the human, into a sentient synthetic form. This form is mostly blob-like in nature, and whenever a different participant stands in front of the installation, the “reflection” changes, showing a new synthetic form, to represent this new participant.

While the installation is relatively simple in its interactivity, it converts one’s being to another form, giving one a sense of new, or uncanny identity. This can be perceived as a mask, or a projection of how one would be in the future.

The artwork is presented in Barbican’s AI: More Than Human exhibition, as the first thing that the public sees when they first enter. It acts as an introductory piece  to the exhibition that focuses on artificial intelligence and its predicted future, an interactive reflection of the future self. To me, the piece feels like a portal to a new future where one’s form is no longer “human”, but given a futuristic version of themselves to fit into this new world where AI might play a more important role than it does today.

Retrieved from https://universaleverything.com/projects/future-you

The screen acts as a mirror, the reflection  captured by a camera facing the participant. The camera detects various parts of the human body, and follows a rigging system attached to a variation of the reflection, then projected onto the screen. These reflections then mimic the visitor’s movements. These reflections start off as primitive, and then learn to adapt from the movements of visitors, creating a more “superior” version of themselves. Through this evolution, it generates a new visual response for each visitor, and apparently there are 47 000 variations.

Retrieved from https://universaleverything.com/projects/future-you

From what I have observed in the videos documenting audience feedback, many visitors were very interested in the project, as it was a very personal and unique experience to each and every one of them. A lot of them participated willingly through exaggerated body movement, children and adults alike.

Retrieved from https://universaleverything.com/projects/future-you

Retrieved from https://universaleverything.com/projects/future-you

The given context made a huge difference to how the project would be perceived. As someone who was aware that the context of it was an installation in an exhibition about artificial intelligence, I perceive it as a piece of work questioning this identity of artificial intelligence as it mimics life. However, should it be placed in a different context, it could mean something else entirely, or simply not have any meaning attached to it, and just be fun-driven. The ability to interact with it in a space curated about artificial intelligence gives it a sense of importance and message, I feel, that cannot be replicated in a different environment.