Intercepting portraits – Role of the viewer

Tentative project plan as of 20/2/2014:

Using Adobe Connect with 4-8 other participants, I will instruct them by designating them each to take a close up of one of their facial feature. The end result will be the combination of different facial features that has been arranged by me. Alternatively, they can also choose to rearrange the webcam in a way that the top half of their face merges with the bottom half of another user. Lastly, I will also grab a few screen shots and will either combine their features together, or replaced my facial features with theirs so my own identity is concealed as well. The aim is to deconstruct and blur their identity in a third space, and instead builds a collective being that signifies the collective identity over the net.

Role of the viewers:

The viewers are in fact the performers for the piece. They are free to interact with one another while following some basic rules. They are currently as followed:

1. Every 3 minutes, strive to conceal your true face in the composite under a certain set of conditions

2. Follows my set of conditions and take a photo of one of their facial feature

3. There are also timings when they are free to have fun generally. It will be ideal if their positions in Adobe Connect can be changed so they can interact with different users.

Other thoughts that I am still exploring at the moment:

Are there other ways I can deliver meaning or raise the interactivity through the instructions? For example, will it be interesting if I demand a condition instead of designating them a facial feature continuously? “Which part of your face do you dislike?” ”

Am I going to remove the sounds for everyone except myself? What will third space mean with the exclusion or inclusion of their own voice? Can I use their own sound as a tool for the project? Similarly, there are limitations of the connectivity over Adobe Connect that have to be taken into consideration.

Intercepting portraits – Influences

There are several readings that I have referred to as influences for my project.

1. Hole in space, Sherrie Rabinowtiz and Kit Galloway

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Hole in Space

“They could now see, hear, and speak with each other as if encountering each other on the same sidewalk. No signs, sponsor logos, or credits were posted—no explanation at all was offered. No self-view video monitors to distract from the phenomena of this life–size encounter.”

One thing that struck me for this performance is the fact that it has very little direction from the artist or creators of the installation. I think by not limiting or instructing the audience, viewers can be more open to experimentation or exploration, leading to their own interpretation of the work. I hope my end result is also an installation or experience where the viewers decide how they want it to be, rather than be told how to participate in the video.

Also, the scale of life sized images also added to the impact of the installation. It is also something that can be considered as a possibility for my work, even though it is not likely with the limitation of equipment in school.

2. Telematic dreaming, Paul Sernon

“When you “touch” another individual in the third space, why do you feel a connection as though you were physically present? Why is there a sense of intimacy in the third space, even though you are remote from the other person(s). Telematic Dreaming asks these questions while looking forward to how we are increasingly engaging with one another and forming relationships in the third space. ” – From hyperlecture

This work makes me think about possibilities for more intimacy between people who are connected in the third space. I feel that people do crave connections, but actions of intimacy such as a hug is not common in real life, especially for Singapore which is an asian country. Therefore if it is possible, I also wish to explore the notion of feeling the sense of intimacy or formation of relationship in the third space.

3. Shared Still life, Annie Abrahams

“This work explores the idea of the “telematic embrace,” a concept discussed by theorist Roy Ascott in terms of qualities of engagement in networked space. Here, cyberperformance artist Annie Abrahams explores the integration of two physical spaces as sets for a “still life,” in this case: a third space still life since the integration of these elements is only possible in this hybrid electronic space. As the performers combine their telematically connected bodies in the third space, they attempt to reach through the digital divide, to explore a kind of extended human presence across the network.”

I am intrigued by the digital divide that separates the two world, yet happenings in both screens combines together to become a single narrative. The divide made a distinct separation and make the viewers notice the difference between the 2 spaces even though they are on one single screen. If each divided screen represents a narrative, then combining 2 divided screen  would mean a new narrative. I also like the idea that there is an extended human presence across the network.

Also, there are important factors and points that are listed along with the project on the hyperlecture that I must to take into consideration with my project  as it involves web cam and a third space. They are as followed:

  • They are connected, using a webcam, to a shared interface where they can see images and hear the sounds from all the other performers and themselves.
  • This interface has the form of a grid.
  • They share image boundaries and can interact spatially with the other performers.
  • The sound the performer hears is a mix of all the sounds from the other performers.
  • Because of network delays the way the interface has been constructed, no two performers receive the same images and sound at the same time.
  • To avoid delay – difficulties while speaking, performers cannot hear their own voices, and cannot judge their participation in the total sound environment.
  • The performers must wear a headset to avoid feedback.

Consideration of these factors will allow me to better plan the project and execute it, since I am not aware of its limitation and possibilities. The possibility to see sounds and images from all other performers, even though delayed, may provide an interesting experience or even allow a new meaning to be born. Also, I have to take note that performers are not able to judge their participation in the total sound environment and thus I should work even more to reduce the inclusion of sound as a control for my project.

4. Trapped to reveal, Essay, Annie Abrahams

Her essay provided a substantial amount of research of what other artists have experimented with the web cam.

 “Did nobody understand that collaboration using machines wasn’t easier, maybe not more difficult either, but simply different from ordinary face to face communication?” – Annie Abrahams 

Taken from the writeup was also a quote from Brad Troemel’s in his work Why You Should Make Yourself Someone Else Online: “It argues along the same lines, “The process of image management on Facebook is already less an outpouring of expression than it is an exercise in omission of information about one’s self”.

Therefore by this statement, it is an interesting concept to explore. Images are uploaded and edited on facebook has become something that is not reflecting our life, but in fact something that tries to omit details from our life. We always present the best from ourselves (or for some, they’re always sad), but there are things that they do not notice themselves. For this project, if I were to let viewers decide which part of their face or body do they want to present, what would they choose to show or omit?

5. Huis Clos / No Exit – Tout va Bien, Annie Abrahams

“In one way or another, all digital artworks and environments are concerned with possible relationships between the physical space and the virtual, and what distinguishes them are the balance between these two realms and the methods deployed to translate one space into the other. Some artworks try to translate qualities of the virtual world into the physical environment, others strive to map the physical into the virtual; and yet others are aimed at fusing the two spaces.” – Christiane Paul

Likewise, I think this work becomes interesting as a result of compositing different spaces into one. There is not only one vision that propels the narratives. What if the conflicts of different spaces become the focus of the whole space itself?

Other influences:

These are other artworks whose aesthetics and concept inspires me in the project.

6. “Me and my friends”, “Time”, John Clang,

Me and my friends, John Clang
“Me and my friend”, a composite of several people to shape a new identity

I think this work is interesting, because the composite creates a new identity, yet it diminishes each of the individual’s true appearance. To some extent, it omits their details, while we are only left to admire the result that is created by compositing them in a single space.

Time, John Clang
“Time”, a composite of the same street taken at different timings

Similarly, the use of third space also allows the bending of time to bring about connections between one another. As webcam is prone to lag and delay, it is also a possibility that different results can be achieved because of that same fault.

 

 7. “AIDS DIALOGUE”, Drew Ludwig

"Aids dialogue", portraits of models who support the Telluride AIDS Benefit group are cut out and sticked onto the artist's face
“Aids dialogue”, portraits of models who support the Telluride AIDS Benefit group are cut out and sticked onto the artist’s face

“Aids dialogue” presents a face that is presented by compositing numerous faces over the body. The end result is a psychedelic look-alike aesthetics that allows viewers to examine it in closer details.

8. Nicolas Desmet, L’Oeil de Links: Digital Compositing

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These are digital compositing works for a TV show that I thought was intriguing with the concept of bringing the digital space along with you into real life. Are they the same identities, or are they separated identities that will have consequences once we merged them together?

As the project is still in its preliminary stage of planning, there are lots of information and influences that I am still looking into. I also understand that there is still a need to single out a single theme I wish to explore. Similarly, I also have to look at the software that is available as well as my IT capability so I can draft up a final project that is most suitably possible to execute.

 

Remixthebook

Remixthebook by Mark Amerika involves 25 international artists who manipulates the source materials that Mark Amerika have provided them. The end results are varying media arts that is each an unique interpretation by each different artist.

Mark Amerika stated 2 aims for his projects:

1. To create a collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach to the way contemporary theory is performed.

2.  To anticipate future forms of art and writing that challenge traditional modes of scholarly production, while taking on philosophical issues of our time

Mark Amerika provided excerpts of his writings and research on his website, which has now become a open content platform. (The content are great by the way, even though I have not have the time to finish it) I suppose people can now use the source materials for their own practice based research into remix art and culture.  It is compelling that he tries to encourage new ways of writing which challenges the current writing, and I think this has yielded very interesting results. Relating to remix art, I think the works produced for this project will, just like traditional academic papers, become invaluable references for the contemporary art students in the future. To me, it’s an exciting thought to see the potential of new media writing as a form that is comparable to academic paper writing.

I have briefly seen through most of the remixes, including the 3 highlights stated on the hyperlecture. It was a tough choice deciding which is my favourite out of the 3 highlights, or out of the 25 works. Yoshi Sodeoka’s “An Artist Yapping About Some Art Stuff X4” presents a video with hypnotic and repetitive movements from Mark Amerika that is aesthetically pleasing. Yoshi Sodeoka deconstructs the sounds and focus on remixing the image into an attention grabbing video. The end result is a video where we barely can hear anything clearly, a new state of writing that is a critique of Mark Amerika’s video: that it is simply too much to take for an artist with a short attention span like him.

Next, I am quite delighted to see Will Leurs’s “A Pixel and Glitch Hotel Room”. This is because I have tried to experiment with a video using a similar theme before, even though I did not succeed as I find it really hard to make it aesthetically pleasing or interesting. It was thus interesting for me to notice how other artists have executed it successfully. In this video, Will Leurs uses the nature of pixel and glitch aesthetics placed in randomly generated grids to create a moving image. The product is a video with a randomly generated grid that generates footages as random until a concept, pattern or design finds its form. There are so many possibilities within an moving image with randomly generated grid where an interesting visual can be produced. Combined with sound, particularly the voice from the lecture by Mark Amerika regarding artists developing a sense of visual, the work itself seems to have developed a meaning for the viewer. I find pixels and glitch in this case, have become a texture or some sort, lending its aesthetics to the work and connects it together. By zooming in to details and turning them into texture, as well as implementing or superimposing sounds, I see the room for improvement I could have made for my video way back in my first year.

Lastly,  Craig Saper’s  “Remix Machine, Paik in Amerika” was a work that I thought was not as interesting compared to the other two. However, it turns out to be a work that I felt was the most insightful. In Saper’s work, he uses scratching, a sound made by movement of a vinyl record back and forth on  a turntable while adjusting the DJ’s mixer, to modify the voice of Mark Amerika’s lecture.  With this, he wish to examine or compare the process of DJ scratching to how people actually can read a text. While he mentioned that some people feel that scratching is something that distorts music, he sees another potential and feels that it is crucial to ‘scratch’ in order to read or uncover more meaning. During scratching, it is possible to emphasize certain musical parts, or transform something differently by playing it backwards. It will be interesting  to translate this from music to writing.  He wonders what will happen if people learn by ‘scratching’ instead of learning how to read the ‘natural way’. I agree to some extent because I think the process of scratching makes a person deconstructs a music by rendering it, sometimes, beyond recognition. However, the person, in the meanwhile, can construct a new piece of his own. This is an interesting notion that provides new possibilities in writing. Even if scratching is not a viable option for writing, I believe there is a certain message or symbolism that Caper wants to bring out in his work that have made use of the medium.

To read wat else Craig  Saper has done, please read his Saper’s write up where he explained more about his work, as well as a visual form of his work (also available as an audio link).

In this project, instead of getting artists to conform and contribute to research using research writing, Mark Amerika made use  of collaborations with artists to see how different artists applied and integrated their theories to their works. Therefore, instead of numerous reports that looks the same as they follows an academic paper format, the results are different projects where artists have applied different methodologies and achieved different results. This, I think is the most interesting element out of Mark Amerika’s project.

Intercepting portrait

  1. Introduction: summary paragraph that overviews the project
  2. describes its concept generally, emphasizing how it engages the Internet and/or net culture.
  3. The introduction should be concise, engaging, and clearly describe what the project is about and its artistic objectives.
  4. Include media in the form of video, sound, image that helps illustrate the project.

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Taking selfie is the norm of this era, how about taking a selfie as multiple people?

In this project, I aim to create a portrait that is the end result of different viewers merging a part of their face with one another.

I’m exploring possibilities to see if it is possible to do this project online with a webcam. I’m also exploring the possibilites of not doing it live but use users submitted self taken photos on instagram and facebook for the project.

My objective or statement is to tear down individuality among users on internet to create a collective body. Also, interactivity is involved as the viewers play a role in completing a face.

What are the implications of multiple selves?

How do we reconstruct identity when we are a multiple person?

Does this tie in with the notion of distributed presence?

When you work on part II, influences, you might want to address these kinds of questions based on the lectures and discussion, and the references to experts in the field, readings, etc., found in the lectures.

Also, do any of the artworks we have looked at help you think about the concept of this piece.

Amie Goode – “He’s fake, and I’m real”

“He’s fake. And I’m real. And I’m hurt and he gets away scot-free. I want to get across that I’m a victim. And that doesn’t mean I’m stupid, I believe he was really the person he presented himself to be but this is a silly notion on my part because… he’s not real.” – Amie Goode

In Life 2.0, there are several characters who plays Second Life in order to  achieve some sense of satisfaction. Among them is Amie Goode, a housewife who feels emotionally unfulfilled despite claiming that she has a good life. She joined the Second Life and met fell for anther avatar Bluntly, in the  virtual world,  an encounter they called ’emotional adultery’.

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Amie’s romance with Bluntly on Second Life: They both have a marriage of their own in real life.

In my opinion, not only does Amie Goode wants emotional fulfilment, she also has a strong desire for someone to love her for who she is.  As a result, she presented herself raw in Second Life, baring herself almost entirely to Bluntly on Second Life.

An astonishing yet terrifying example is the house in Second Life, which she have rendered according to her house in real life: She invited Bluntly over and shows him around the house, making Bluntly feels as if he had a Deja Vu.

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Wow somewhere between emotional adultery and a real adultery. This is some serious intimacy thing going on

To me, Amie doesn’t use her avatar as a new identity or as a mean to escape from her real life. Instead, she hopes to use the avatar to enhance her real life. She hopes to finds fulfillment within Second Life using an avatar, to connect with people whom she cannot come into contact with in her real life. I think this is the beauty of third space in Second Life: It allows people from different parts of the worlds to connect. Interestingly, this point is also mentioned by her daughter as an example while she plays a different online game.

When Amie thinks she finally does find someone who can provide her with emotional fulfillment, she is eager to then merge that with her real life. As a result, she is elated to show Bluntly to her daughter. She is even more excited when Bluntly finally moves in with her in real life. They both decide to quit Second Life and strives to make a life of their own in the real world.

“The real world with him, how great is that, too, to be able to say that I’m in the real world with him”

However, the transition from Second Life to real life seems to be very difficult for the both of them. Amie blames it on the fact that Bluntly is not the person whom he portrays himself to be. Amie she portrays herself as a victim who chose to believe entirely in the avatar that somebody have created. Friction also occurred between the two as they tried to live together

Personally, I am able to relate to her somewhat with my own experience in entering the virtual gaming world when I was a teenager. However I feel that creating an avatar alone creates a fake identity: People manipulate avatars differently and assume different identities in order to satisfy themselves emotionally.  One cannot simply say their avatar is truly them in  real life.

It just so happened that Amie chooses to merge her identity with her avatar, and finds herself a victim when she realizes that the person she fell in love with did not choose to do the same. She feels betrayed, yet she acknowledged that she is naive for believing in someone’s avatar entirely, just only because she is completely truthful with hers.

The loss of control in the real world also contributes to the failure of the relationship. Second Life draws in people because it is a life that people are able to control in the third space. They can change their looks; interact with people they want; build a house readily; start a career readily etc. They are able to do all these while they are cut off from hassles in the real life. For Amie and Bluntly, the transition to real life comes with a price: Separation procedures, Amie’s daughter’s dislike for Bluntly and their own tension with their spouse. As much as Amie wants to merge her Second Life with her real life, it proves almost impossible now with the inclusion of things that she can no longer control.

This documentary makes me think about the emotions over the internet. While people developed feelings on the internet, it is something that does not materialize in the real world easily.  I think it is important to factor in the fact that our online personas may conceal or alter certain details. Because of this, avatars can allow a person to express himself in more than 1 way. People uses avatars differently, while I think it is fine to present your true self in an avatar, a person should not assume or believe entirely in a person just based on his online persona. Yet it is interesting to note how the nature of a relationship changed drastically over in the third space.

Through rose tinted glasses, or not.

In this project I juxtapose a suicidal man’s thought with the cheerful sounds of the children as they play.  Transiting into the suicidal man’s point of view, I tried to think how my constructed identity would respond to the sounds that we hear everyday.

I simply like to create contrasting soundscape, and this project prompted me to think about newer possibilites or contradicting sounds that usually do not exist at the same time, but can give birth to new meaning.

Stelarc: Ping Body

It is amazing that Stelarc created Ping Body in 1996, when the internet have yet to mold each person’s identity as strongly as today’s age with the social media.  Yet, it chillingly captured that state of the internet almost 2 decades later where everyone relies heavily or even developed an addiction for social media and internet.

One element of this work that strike me is the analogy of the metaphor that links the various network connections with the arteries in our bodies. Stelarc demonstrates and embodies himself with the internet, allowing users to create pings that cause his body to move involuntarily.  This analogy is as if the internet users become all the pulses that a brain can send. This is interesting as it reverses the whole notion of human controlling the internet. A human ends up being controlled by other humans via a connection in the third space. He made himself a puppet for the masses, yet we are all puppets for one another as we are all connected and affected by one another on the internet.

Illustrated diagram for Ping Body’s complicated mechanism

Unlike pieces where the artists have absolute control over the multimedia and technology they designed (such as Telematic dreaming that i have covered last week), Stelarc is not able to react to the audience, simply because he can’t. There is interactivity with the audience  so that the audience can participate in creating involuntary movements for Stelarc. However the artist is reduced from a participant to an observer: He is at the disposal of others and can only observe what others are doing to him.

Stelarc and his robotic third arm, which Stelarc has retained control while he forfeits control over his own body. (Click on image for more info)

I find this decision a very simple yet complicated concept due to the complexity of human’s psychology, and it is what makes the work very captivating. He loses control of his own action and body while others inhabit it, giving it life and movements, or maybe even an identity.  Is is truly thrilling to be able to manipulate or control another person? This notion of subjecting oneself to others reminds me of Yoko Ono’s Cut piece in 1964 where she remained still as people cut up her clothes. I thus draw a parallel comparison as both Stelarc and Yoko Ono subject themselves to abuse from others, yet it is a very intense examination of how human connections can be, even over the third space.

Yoko Ono’s Cut piece (1964)

This same notion of losing control one’s self and having others reconstructing or manipulating their movements and identity becomes frightening in today’s context. An example would be cyberbullying, where users of social media can be forced out of the virtual identity they created by the amount of cruel criticism from the users of the internet. In the computer, a ping is simply a signal a computer send to another to determine a presence. Translate that to the real world and you have a ping becoming something like a destructive tumor, something that almost cannot be clamped down once it has spiraled out of control in the third space.  Our relationship with the third space is now ambiguous as our digital identity has become such intricately tied to our physical existence that teenagers are choosing to end their lives because of cyberbullying.

I believe Ping body is a very clear demonstration and reminder that the technology has already become one with us. Because we rely on the connection with one another on the third space, we are no longer individuals controlling the internet that we once invented, but we are now subjected to the connections and responses born from the connection from the third space we created.

Stelarc creates the interactive system and embodies himself with technology, however he is left at the disposal of the audience who are connected with him over the internet. Is this a parallel comparison with us nowadays? People construct their own identity online, yet there is only so much we can retain control: They are all subjected to users on the internet can easily crush them or empower them with criticism or support.

Please do check out Stelarc’s official site to see his other works that have made use of technology, such as exoskeleton and the Movatar.

Also, do check out Prakash’s writing at Scribbles of a Mind in Stasis for more information on Ping Body too!