I create my hybrid and expressive artworks by combining media, text and interactivity, using a broad palette of tools: cameras to custom electronics, computer software to sewing machines, power tools to performance. The tools serve the content and the underlying concepts. Most broadly speaking, my work primarily concerns the dialectic between hybrid minds, bodies and identities within a technological landscape. The processes by which we incorporate and transform ourselves via technology, and the sociocultural implications of such “evolution”, have long interested me. These themes manifest in earlier works such as Mnemonic Devices, Memory Ltd. and This Is Not the Fine Print, all of which explore how “technologies of remembering”, such as snapshots or home movies, can distort the ephemeral experiences they represent and affect the construction of identity. Recent works in cyborg performance and wearable technology, most especially the Psymbiote, further resonate with these ideas.
I developed as an artist by co-evolving interdisciplinary tendencies: early experiments in diverse creative forms were followed by a rigorous program of coursework in theatre, photography, video, creative writing and digital art . . As I explored new technologies, my work segued into more hybrid forms such as multimedia solo performance, net.art and interactive installation, culminating in an MFA. I continnued to expand my toolset via fellowships, workshops, and projects in CNC, kinetic and electronic systems in sculpture, microcontrollers, and light phenomena as art medium.
Regardless of the tools, techniques or media used I start with an idea and let the cerebral find the visceral, then allow visual and sensual elements to evolve organically. For example, Fragments started as a series of self-portraits on black and white film, digitally manipulated. I added graphic text elements exploring notions of mutable identity. It later became an interactive web-based hypertext, for which I coded randomizing behaviors in Perl script. A final iteration employed the same content in the form of a sculptural book.
I often mutate the devices and media I incorporate to express the ideas. For the installation None of the Above, I reconfigured a keyboard and wired it to buttons in an arcade booth to control a computer-based multimedia game I had programmed. I used juxtaposition of text and appropriated imagery to explore issues of gender and sexual identity. For the waiting area outside the booth I created video montages and posters inspired by vintage pop-media to establish a contrasting ideology.
More recent works may have shifted more to embodying the human within the machine rathan than the borg in the human, but the impulse remains at the morphing intersection of the two. For the digital poem LonelyPANIC, I wrote code for an Atmel logic controller but used it to drive an expressive LED display: diffuse blue light slow fades in a rhythm reminiscent of breathing to illuminate the word “lonely,” while 93 red lights flash in random frenetic patterns, intermittently revealing the word “panic.” A power button on the front tempts viewers to turn the message off. Some of my most recent work uses software design to explore concepts of mental bias and perception. CryptiClock converts time into moving arrays of LEDs that become easy to read once the principal is cognitively decrypted and the strategy discovered. Perception Vortex is an interactive kinetic device that lets the user twiddle knobs to play with persistence of vision phenomena, adjusting the visual imagery to explicitly signify the position of the phenomena inside the user’s mind.
My current research and creative experiment focuses on practical applications for improving interfaces and interactions with our everyday mobile devices. How can we seamlessly access the most pertinent data with the least distraction? Answering this question is crucial to developing intimate technologies that enable more than hinder. I imagine novel wearable devices: elegant and discreet jewelry for our info-driven lives. I am convinced there must be some tangible means of integrating devices into our lives in more functional and less obtrusive ways.
The traditional use of a screen as interface with our always-on devices often serves to distance us from the immediacy of the moment. How can we “be here now” when the screen is forever drawing our attention into its box of pixels? The common approach to transmitting information on mobile and wearable devices has been to cram more pixels onto less real estate. But the detrimental effects of too much small-screen use are apparent: look around any public space and count the number of people with faces cast down into screens, disengaged from the world around them. Perhaps there’s an alternative approach to compressing and expressing the data we need. How much can be communicated with how few pixels: for instance, what’s the range of data that can be made manifest with just two multicolor miniature LEDs? These are questions I attempt to address with my most recent work: the fibonacci spiral mood beacon and data gem.
Although my current methodology may look more like technology research than a traditional studio practice, I continue to embrace the spirit of play as much as the rigors of development. Meanwhile a more mature and sophisticated Psymbiote 2.0 could possibly emerge as beta-tester. The development of wearables requires fabrication of progressive prototypes, which a cyborg alter-ego could don in performance as both a method of active wear-testing and a means to engage public discourse of relevant issues. Although I have not performed Psymbiote or produced Cyberfashion since 2005, I am still contacted regularly with requests for interviews, images and video. It seems that these projects have had a lasting reverberation across the discipline. Is the world finally ready for real integrated wearables? Am I?