Category Archives: forensicEvidence

a little game

info_art

my art can sometimes feel a little ‘all over the place’

i don’t like to limit myself too, too much when it comes to my vehicles of expressive delivery — that combined with my natural tendency toward a scattered but exciting sense of ADHD plus my rather lengthy and continually-expanding collection of influences and inspirations makes for a rather eclectic body of work that i sometimes try to organize into threads or streams of my work

in my design thesis from Dynamic Media Institute, ‘confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy,’ i purposely chose the term ‘streams‘ for a few reasons:

  1. i feel like my subconscious is a far more present and powerful force in my creatively expressive, personal work;
  2. i enjoy following my subconscious — my streams of subconscious — to archeologically mine for the deeper, personally-symbolic inner significance that i’ve accumulated like a patina over the course of my life;
  3. i know that i naturally tend to bury certain emotions, memories and stories in the strange style that a chipmunk saves away little morsels for the long winter ahead — these might be feelings that are far too shocking and powerful for me to handle in any conscious manner in the current moments i am living in, and i am almost certain, for the most part, that a significant amount of people partake in this similar activity as a mere means of surviving the ‘day to day‘ dysfunction and chaos we all encounter along our life’s journeys;
  4. i also tend to hide away from time to time, sometimes for large spans of time, greatly depending upon my mood and certain life events — i can nicely attribute this behavior, to sort of tuck myself away inside my shell, to being born under the sign of Cancer — the symbol for Cancer, of course, is the crab — and after spending many an afternoon tide pooling with my wife and son, flipping rocks along the shallow shoreline out at Lynch Park in Beverly among other beautiful Atlantic coastline seaside retreats, i’ve developed an observational understanding of not only the ‘tough, outer exterior’ of the crab and the notion of ‘crabbiness’ that might be somewhat symbolically mapped to the drastic shift in moodswings i experience on a fairly regular cycle, but i also now better ‘get‘ how these little pinchy critters live — tucking themselves away, a bit under the sand or between the rocks as the tide ebbs and flows — its an interesting lifestyle to study and reflect upon, especially knowing that there are definitely some similarities between my own behavior and that of these amazing little moody crustacea;
  5. i guess i’ve veered away from exploring why the term ‘streams‘ so nicely captures the nature of my work and certain categories of recurring episodes in my work — this last enumerated bullet point, to get back to the concept of these streams of subconscia, pertains to the rather interesting evolution within certain streams of my work — as i tend to, at times, act more like a chess player than an artist, as i move and follow both the journey of certain objects and installations from literally geopolitical ‘place to place’ as well as the state of its existence into the next, and sometimes even beyond itself out into the metaphorical afterlife of the piece or its sub-componenture

today’s update on the information kiosk i purchased from Border’s Bookstores prior to the closing of the bookseller chain brings us just a few yards away from where it previously resided over the last 6 to 9 months or so — i don’t think this will be its final destination, by any means, however, i can see an interesting new stage in the piece’s evolution coming together in my mind’s eye

i original purchased the kiosk to build out a prototype for my Laugh Observation Library back at DMI @ MassArt — the LOL included a bookcase collection of 100 bottles containing a variety laughter samples per bottle along with this oddly orange information booth housing a laughScan Station to actually activate each sample for further faux-scientific research into humor and the human phenomena behind laughter

the original and only installation of the Laugh Observation Library appeared in The Pooka Lounge in Bakalar Gallery at MassArt as part of forensicEvidence — the name of my final showcase of work in the 2011 MassArt Thesis Show from my DMI @ MassArt experience

in retrospect the statement that my micro-installment made perfectly fit the bill regarding my discoveries around both MassArt and gallery exhibition in general — and this particular piece, although not exactly aesthetically matching the clinically sterile environment of a traditional scientific laboratory setting, especially that of a forensic investigation crime lab, really seemed to appropriately comment on my personal feelings regarding what Brian O’Doherty describes as the ‘white cube‘ controlled context of the gallery space associated with High Art

in fact, this installation and my personal aesthetic not only provided a silent and polite, subtle sociological commentary on both Art and Science as rather haughty professions, but the rather organic, make-shift style of my work also appropriately mocked the institutionalized aspects of high formality associated with not only Art and Science, but even with Design itself for encouraging a somewhat exclusive attitude within its highest of the high socio-professional, pseudo-political circles

the pieces i presented in forensicEvidence were the dead remains from my work at MassArt — the physical evidence of my work, but also of the pretend criminal activity i either partook in or witnessed while researching and working on my art at MassArt — now, of course, art-making is not exactly a criminal activity, although sometimes it can feel like such an endeavor when living and working outside of the inner protected sanctum of academia and its related artedness, but in some ways i felt like i definitely witnessed what i came to call ‘Crimes Against Creativity‘ — i won’t elaborate too, too much here on these crimes i witnessed, but i definitely felt a bit disappointed in some of the people and vibes i encountered while working toward my graduate degree at MassArt and unfortunately these were events, policies and behaviors that i will not soon forget and nor would i ever expect an institution of higher learning to simply grin and bear without pursuing some follow-up activity to properly set the record straight and rectify unacceptable, malicious and ignorant behavior

… anyhow …

following forensicEvidence — the kiosk remained in the back of my truck, nicely sheltered from the elements, but definitely getting in the way of any sane semblance of life

a month or so after i took the information booth out of my truck and left it at the head of my driveway — although a bit silly-looking in its now more ‘natural’ surroundings in this highly wooded area of Boxford, i actually loved seeing this ugly, orange desk-like fixture from a typically highly-corporate retail environment now planted in the midst of trees and lush, green ferns and other fertile elements of the great outdoors — and i was extremely happy not to have followed my original bad instinct to just leave the kiosk in a nearby cemetery { after, of course, taking some choice photodocumentation of this potentially-strange, satiric gravestone tribute to The Information Age — which would’ve certainly been bound to be an entirely illegal but hilarious act of vandalism or refuse disposal in the eyes of the court, i’m sure }

but now, many months later, after surviving an Autumn, Winter and Springtime out in the driveway, i decided to drag the information kiosk up the steps into our backyard and set it out just at the edge of our deck

here i hope to festively decorate the kiosk with some simple crushed stone around its base — maybe arranging some beautiful potted plants on the tabletop and around its stable and heavy periphery — perhaps this Summer and into the Fall, this will be our funerary preparations for the kiosk before finally allowing myself to emotionally let go of a piece that never quite got beyond the prototypic stage — this might be a truly wonderful way to commemorate the short lifespan of this mysterious object that i’ve carried around with me from place to place, an object that has come to symbolize the weight of the personal information we carry around with us in life

its time for me to prepare

these are the last few months i will live with this bizarre physical manifestation of my memories, feelings and unnecessarily burdensome set of heavy experiences i still find myself hanging onto

i will be certain to document these last arrangements i make with the kiosk — i hope to focus on growing something positive and beautiful on, around and through the information booth — to evolve some of the confounded emotions and energies that remain into / toward a blossoming garden of new vegetal information for further maturation and growth and positive seed for the future

alone together

sherry-turkle-phd

Sherry Turkle has been researching and studying: technology; our relationships with technology; and our relationships with each other through technology — as an expert singularly focused on the fascinating psychology of technology, she’s been on the case for decades now — along the way she’s published her findings in the books:

needless to say, i’m one of her biggest fans

without her critical, observation-based body of psychological research at MIT in the psychology of Sciences, Technology and our Devices i do not think we’d have such a cohesive and thoughtful collective of intellectual material that really reports from the front-lines of these matters with such an objective sense of discovering the nuanced facts of the matter

i recently had the pleasure of coming out to the Boston Athenaeum to a promotional lecture for her most recent book Alone Together — and more than the talk itself, more than the questions and answers, i found the micro-conversation i had with Turkle to be the most intriguing part of the event

i eagerly waited in line with my friend’s book in hand for the author to sign — i wasn’t sure if i had the courage to bring it up, but i had an important question based upon some of the feelings and thoughts i personally experienced in the middle of reading Alone Together just months prior to this event — this seemed to be my only chance to find out if the author herself might have the same notions regarding the research she conducts as i was having regarding rather dark discoveries about the current state of humanity and our relationships with and through technologies

i finally got to the front of the line in this rather illustrious neo-classical, intellectual and academic library setting

Turkle asked who to make the signature out to and started to quickly ink in her John Hancock on the title page of the open book — and while she scribbled away the instant sentimentality of this anonymously scribed autograph, i started to ask my question — i described the personal horror i felt midway through the reading of Alone Together, these frightening discoveries and extremely deep philosophical questions that arose in me due to the very material of her critical research in the book that she wrote and was now in the middle of signing

here’s the gist of what i asked { in summary, as best as i can recall it at this point }:

i wanted to ask you about some thoughts that came to my mind in reading about sociable robotics — i found it fascinating, the kind of deep and real emotional relationships you described developing between people and machines — there was a section of the book, you visited these isolated, lonely elderly people in their retirement and care facilities and, after deciding that it might be difficult, if not impossible, for the elderly to enjoy the companionship and company of a real pet, such as a dog or a cat or some other small animal, you introduced the simulation of a pet into their living environment, this robotic seal

i think you reported that after introducing the seal to the elderly person and leaving it with them in their home, that it only took about a week for them to develop a real relationship with their new pet — although shy at first when talking with you in the company of the robotic seal, within the course of an hour you observed affectionate behavior and genuine interaction between the new owner and the seal

the owner conversed with the seal in the same way one might with a real pet and all of the ways in which they interacted with the robotic seal indicated that this simulation of being accompanied almost seemed good enough to introduce love, companionship and a reduced sense of loneliness with these elderly people living out the end of their lives

this, of course, brought up a ton of questions — some ethical, some psychological and some philosophical

the main question that came up for me might have something to do with the psychological nature of attachment, i’m not sure

but basically, i wondered — if it seems that easy for someone to form a genuine, human, loving relationship with a robotic seal, what does that say about our real relationships to each other as human beings? do we simply project and imagine love onto each other? are we, as the title of your book suggests { if only in very Freudian Slipped-like ways }, truly Alone Together?

Turkle finished signing the book and looked up at me, almost as if she were disgusted by my presence now, and replied:

No, no, no — that’s not what the book is about at all

and the conversation was over — she might as well have said, ‘NEXT!’ at that point because the book in front of her closed, she handed it back and we were simply done with these dark discoveries and intriguing philosophical questions i felt might at least be implied by Turkle’s oeuvre of critical research, perhaps even the more important and deeper meaning behind the surface of the kind of psychological self-analysis we’re all conducting now through the things we use to think with that are now the things we also feel with

i just put in an order for one of those robotic seals, should be coming in the mail any day now

i might just have a more empathic conversation with it than i did with Sherry Turkle

i heard it only takes less than a week to really get properly bonded with my new pet

seal

inBetweeneSs and failure

float

i have a lot to say — and yet i know from my own personal experience and active exploration of the mediatypes of blogging and social media that it is unwise to tell the whole truth of the matter, especially when feeling a certain sense of loss, frustration or negativity about a life transition

here she is

floating in the sea

beautiful failure

drenched in an entirely unsubtle misery

injustice is never easy to swallow

especially if you have been left to swim in it, alone and abandoned

i am not speaking with some sort of encrypted metaphoric language to obscure or poeticize the shipwreck

how could we foresee the depths of certain challenges

challenges she couldn’t handle, depths of impatience with no help, no friend or searchPlane to come save her

i know she now needs to swim

but for now, floating feels good — its a fitting end

it feels — it actually feels appropriate, this illusion and this inBetweeneSs

there is no rescue

she needs to do this for herself

she needs to let a bitterness go and simply swim

not to the shore or to land or even to a new seavessel — no, no — its nothing like that at all

now its more about floating and being one with the seawater

there is a certain sense of acceptance now

this fate seems reasonable, its all starting to make sense

it doesn’t feel like failure anymore

or even survival

fathoms of water

or just a little over her head

it doesn’t matter

this is the saltwater

the lifematter

the place we belong now

there is no forgiveness, though — please, don’t be confused

injustice is injustice

and those that assist in these matters of discarding without any sense of humility, empathy or common decency

those that have moved on, completely unaccountable

and only reacting to a vague sense of discomfort, an insecurity that might have felt, perhaps, more like a threat or even an insulting awakening to a different place in reality

a larger reality at that

you will, of course, meet with a karmic and sudden yank to feel the very basic Laws of Newton

the action deserves and begets an eventual reaction

and you will most likely suffer

and feel it most

at Planet Fitness

remember

its not a gym

its Planet Fitness

planet569

correspondence from forsensicEvidence

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Spring of 2011 I participated in MassArt’s MFA Thesis Show III in Bakalar Gallery, installing my microExhibit ‘forensicEvidence’ in The Pooka Lounge. I designed a fold-out postcard that mapped out my art objects on display in the little room toward the front of the gallery space — and I designed the map to spoof on CSI, making my overall installation look like a crime scene, even claiming the gallery offices as a personal, artistic crime lab for my fictional Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation.

I think I just have a thing for Horatio Caine — the overacted, ridiculous character on CSI: Miami portrayed by the utterly brilliant David Caruso. I also love William Shatner, too. Jack Klugman in Quincy. You get the picture.

38587062-horatioCaine

And I’m a bit of a cheesy actor myself sometimes. I take myself somewhat seriously, but not so serious as to never lighten up and just have some fun. But anyhow, back to the show …

‘forensicEvidence’ featured an array of pieces, all in various states, I guess, or at least somehow covering little stops along the full continuum of creative expression available to all artists, designers, performers and musicians. Some mediatypes were not covered in the microExhibit. I featured mostly what I consider to be ‘the dead arts’ — those more traditional, object-based creative artifacts that sit on the wall or on a pedestal. These are the kind of works that — at least since my rigorous research, studies and work at Dynamic Media Institute — when I approach these more traditional artworks now, I tend to think, ‘Yeah, but what does it do?’ I think one of the points of fE was to point out this feeling to others, at least those colleagues and gallerygoers that might’ve seen some of the shows, presentation talks and other works I created in the 3+ years I studied at DMI. By comparison, these were definitely the dead remains of projects in my creative streams, these evolving cycles of cybernetic ( one might say ‘cyberSurreal’ ) work final found like roadkill in the gallerySpace.

I will definitely come back to this topic and the major themes I expressed through this microExhibit, but for today I wanted to elaborate more on an object I titled ‘correspondence‘.

Take a look at the map:

Tucked into the corner of the gallery, somewhere between my excerpt from the Laugh Observation Library and disConnections, a simple, plain, manila envelope sat on the beautiful, blonde wooden gallery floor. The envelope is unassuming and could be misconstrued as trash, potentially not actually an intentional part of the show at all. But its definitely marked on the map and was an entirely intentional component to the show.

Through my active work in Gunta Kaza’s ‘Design as Experience‘ at DMI, I almost immediately divined a subconscious thread connecting most of my work, or at least one of the many threads I chose to pick up and follow back into the curled up inner recesses of my psyche. In this particular case, I seemed to have this fetish for containers: bottles, cans, boxes, envelopes — anything you could open and close and potential hide or reveal things with, these metaphors for ‘what’s inside’ seemed to keep coming up as I worked on trusting my instinct and quickly working on a daily basis with physical materials. In fact, I even consider each one of us as human beings to be living, breathing containers — each of us carrying with us certain energies, experiences, memories, issues and other ‘unknowns’ that typically remain hidden in our polite, public lives, but that could spring out at any moment depending on our daily interactions with people, objects and environments in the real world.

But I digress once again.

The envelope contained pieces of paper — about 4 or 5 printed messages, all pertaining to a controversial petition that at one point circulated around the MassArt Graduate social and political circles. I was upset about this petition and didn’t know what to do about the negative, angry energy that seemed to build and fester inside me. The original document was an attempt to oust my department from the MFA Thesis Shows, which I found not only utterly preposterous but extremely offensive and actually quite sad. Here were a group of my supposed peers, right? Near-future fellow MFA candidates that might go on to become university-level professors or potential future leaders in the fine art mileau — and here they were acting in the most ignorant and exclusionary way imaginable. You tend to think of artists as cool and mellow, rather accepting people that fit the typical blueprint of liberal lifestyles and all, but here about 22 of my colleagues suddenly became nothing more than potential assistant manager fodder, utter corporate politicians in every sense of the phrase. It was just so uncool to find out about and it definitely affected my workflow as an artist, designer and student at MassArt. And I couldn’t get out of the maelstrom of negative energy started by this petition in time to really focus on my work and graduate on time.

You know, you can’t just run around screaming in horror about this stuff, right? And you can only complain or try to fix it with the administration so many times. And then you just need to get back to work and express what you feel, what you experience. So, I decided to make a piece about it. And that piece was ‘correspondence’.

38585798-correspondence

‘correspondence’ was my attempt to provide a fair and equal written and documented counterpoint to the petition. I mean, if I couldn’t resolve these matters post-petition with my 22 colleagues, why wouldn’t I either write my own petition or maybe just produce other similarly official documents in an answer to the request set up in the petition? If I put my written, emotional reactions to the petition inside the manila envelope and left it on the floor of my microExhibit like some sort of unimportant debris ( as, I guess, they indeed were ) would anybody even notice? Would anyone pick up the envelope and read my thoughts and reactions to the petition? And if they did, would they be the parents, friends, colleagues and faculty of my 22 colleagues involved in these political antics?

I’ve noticed that, besides this return to the container as a material vocabulary in my personal expressive works, I also tend to leverage actual tension whenever possible. I think its part of the natural humorist in me, at least that’s my retrospective assessment at this point. But in order for comedy to succeed — even if the very content of that comedy is more on the side of black humor — in order for comedy to succeed you need to set up tension for the audience. The tension is just one part of a 3 part system called ‘The Benign Violation Theory‘. And in this case the tension came readymade in the total chance Duchampian sense of the word. I seem to figure out a timely tension to tap and then, at times, use that tension to my advantage. And that’s what I was trying to do here with ‘correspondence’, although the actual inspiration for the project work was anything but funny to me.

I think at one point I wanted to write a letter to George. Later on, toward the end of the semester I just needed to let it all go. But I feel that the matters of this petition and the fact that the readymade tension and the social segmentation between each department at MassArt, well, it was never fully addressed to my liking. There was no resolution to any of it. And that’s why I don’t feel bad at all to candidly talk about my work like this. To let you know the real story. I mean, I probably won’t name names or anything, at least not in this post, but I’m pretty tempted to at least list out the initials of each and every one of the graduates that signed that petition.

But back to the work.

I’ll admit, this piece was thrown in as an afterthought. And if you think about it, not a lot of time or energy goes into putting a big, cartoonish manila envelope with written secret messages in it on the floor of a gallery. But in this case, its the thought that counts. And the setup.

I don’t really know if anyone read the contents of ‘correspondence’, but I certainly hope so. I hope it caused a little anxiety, some return tension back atchya, that sorta thing, right? And I hope it might’ve made a few of the 22 start to think about the real people on the DMI side of the fence that innocently thought we could show with our colleagues with no controversy, politics or emotional repercussions. I mean, we all paid the same entry fee, right? And we might take different classes, but that’s no excuse to be so utterly insensate. I thought people came to creativity with a sense of empathy and a need to understand ‘the others’ in the world.

There was one morning that I arrived at The Pooka Lounge — I needed to troubleshoot my ‘bottled laughter’ prototype on a regular basis throughout the weeklong course of the show — I got to the gallery, entered my area, and it seemed the envelope was gone. Was it confiscated? Neatly tucked away, perhaps? Maybe somebody felt remorse or shame or who knows what. But anyhow, I found it pushed up inside the information kiosk of my Laugh Observation Library piece, so either someone thought it was misplaced garbage or they wanted to hide the evidence of the petition and my reactions to it.

I didn’t get the chance to sit in a hidden corner and watch if people picked up the envelope during the opening or the length of the show. I only have that one bit of proof that someone moved it, hid it away. I wonder sometimes if my imaginative flights of conditional ‘what ifs’ might be more important to my process than the actual forsenic evidence I would’ve accumulated with a webCam capture of the show. I think I put together certain projects just to help discover what the important questions are. To build out certain stories and scenarios in my mind as a way to run through the possibilities. It might be the experience designer in me coming out in projects like this, projects that run somewhere between participatory performance art and concept. A clever plant or maybe a trap. At the very least, a lure, an invitation, a provocation.

Anyone wanting to read up further on this and any of my other projects can pick up my thesis from Blurb. Its called ‘confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy‘ and I think by continuing my writing, by reflecting further on the work and research I’ve done, I am actually beginning to better understand my thesis and what I originally set out to do with my work at DMI.

38586944-confoundedCover