Maiko Tanaka Tag

Review in Canadian Art

I really appreciate this article by Tatum Dooley for Canadian Art on the Worldbuilding exhibition curated by John G Hampton and Maiko Tanaka at Trinity Square Video. My work Project H.E.A.R.T. which highlights VR and emotions made with Alex M Lee is featured, among other great works by Jeremy Bailey Kristen D Schaffer Eshrat Erfanian and Yam Lau.  Following is an excerpt from the article:

“The gamification of our bodies renders the physical form void, replaced by screens where our bodies and emotions can be morphed and manipulated. Perhaps the only way to create art with technology as advanced and recent as VR is to reckon with its potential consequences.

Gee’s project, the most realized out of the four artists in the exhibition, masters this reckoning. I spoke with Gee in the lead-up to the exhibition, and she explained the conceptual backbone of the piece. “I’m working through questions of emotional sincerity when it comes to self-help. In theory, if you can technologically master your emotions, if you can just make yourself excited, then you can make yourself a better, happier person. I don’t know how sincere that is…”

Click on the link below for the full article.

VR and the Failure of Self-Help Technology

In general, I feel very proud of this work but also very exhausted by it.  The work is matched in technical complexity by its conceptual complexity, as I conflate pop music with war, self help with sincerity, and ultimately I’m working through these issues of performativity in play and life.  During the panel for the exhibition, there was a question of whether I was “pro-war”, and it’s one that I have received a few times in facebook messages from curious friends from far away, so it’s obviously something that needs a bit of addressing.  I personally am not pro-war.  However I also am also dissatisfied at the idea of an artistic protest that makes a cartoonish, didactic utopia where rainbows and love shoot out of guns instead of flesh-tearing bullets.  The project is complex and confused and vague because I think it has to be.  I  do not understand “real” war, for starters.   I have never served my country in any military: I’m a millennial woman born on the Canadian prairies raised in relative privilege that went to art school.  The best I can understand is how war is mediated to me: through video games and news cycles, through abstract discussions of other people on the radio. In this way I don’t think that the goal of this project was ever to address the terror and complexity of geopolitical conflict, but rather, to propose a psychedelic pop culture mirror, imagining a video game ruled not by characters that espouse self-righteous violence and grit, but technologically manipulated empathy and enthusiasm.  This game fails to address war in the same way that all technologically mediated attempts to do so likely fail to address war.  I guess a part of me is wondering if perhaps maybe it’s easier to question and hate this version however because it’s feminized.

Project H.E.A.R.T.

Project H.E.A.R.T. is the code name for the Holographic Empathy Attack Robotics Team, a biosensor-driven virtual reality artwork developed by Erin Gee in collaboration with 3D artist Alex M. Lee for use with the Oculus Rift.  The game was commissioned by Trinity Square Video for the exhibition Worldbuilding in November 2017.

A twist on popular “militainment” shooter video games, Project H.E.A.R.T. invites the viewer to place their fingers on a biodata gathering device and then summon their enthusiasm in order to direct their avatar, Yowane Haku, in “combat therapy.” The biosensor device gathers the human player’s positivity and energy to drive Haku’s voice forward to boost morale as soldiers battle not only against a group of enemies, but also against their own lack of confidence and rising anxiety.

Fans of the Vocaloid characters may recognize Haku as the “bad copy” of Japanese pop celebrity Hatsune Miku, a holographic personnage that invites her fans to pour their content and songs into her virtual voice.

 

 

As Kathryn Hamilton pointed out in her 2017 essay “Voyeur Realism” for New Inquiry,

“VR’s genesis and development is in the military, where it has been used to train soldiers in “battle readiness,” a euphemism for: methods to overcome the innate human resistance to firing at another human being. In the last few years, VR’s usage has shifted 180 degrees from a technology used to train soldiers for war, to one that claims to “amplify” the voices afflicted by war, and to affect “world influencers” who might be able to stop said wars.”

The colorful landscape of the game was built from from geopolitically resonant sites found on Google Maps, creating a dreamlike background for the warzone. In-game dialogue wavers between self-righteous soldier banter typical of video games, and self-help, bringing the VR participant to an interrogation of their own emotional body in a virtual space that conflates war, pop music, video games, emotional investment, and virtual-movement induced nausea.

Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid.  Images of Worldbuilding exhibition courtesy of Trinity Square Video, 2017.

Credits

Narrative Design: Sofian Audry, Roxanne Baril-Bédard, Erin Gee

3D Art: Alex Lee and Marlon Kroll

Animation and Rigging: Nicklas Kenyon and Alex Lee

VFX: Anthony Damiani, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon

Programming: Sofian Audry, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon, Jacob Morin

AI Design: Sofian Audry

Sound Design: Erin Gee, Austin Haughton, Ben Hinckley, Ben Leavitt, Nicolas Ow

BioSensor Hardware Design: Erin Gee and Martin Peach

BioSensor Case Design: Grégory Perrin

BioSensor Hardware Programming: Thomas Ouellet Fredericks, Erin Gee, Martin Peach

Featuring music by Lazerblade, Night Chaser and Austin Haughton

Yowane Haku character designed by CAFFEIN

Yowane Haku Cyber model originally created by SEGA for Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA 2nd (2010)

Project H.E.A.R.T. also features the vocal acting talents of Erin Gee, Danny Gold, Alex Lee, Ben McCarthy, Gregory Muszkie, James O’Calloghan, and Henry Adam Svec.

Thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and AMD Radeon, this project was commissioned by Trinity Square Video for the exhibition Worldbuilding, curated by John G Hampton and Maiko Tanaka.

This project would have not been possible without the logistical and technical support of the following organizations:

Technoculture Art and Games Lab (Concordia University)

Concordia University

ASAP Media Services (University of Maine)

WorldBuilding: TSV Toronto

My work made in collaboration with 3D artist Alex M. Lee for VR and emotional-biosensors, Project H.E.A.R.T. (2017) was debuted on November 5th at Trinity Square Video, Toronto.

This project was commissioned by TSV by curators John Hampton and Maiko Tanaka, thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. The exhibition also features amazing works by Canadian artists Jeremy Bailey and Kristen Schaffer, Eshrat Erfanian, and Yam Lau.

You can see Worldbuilding for yourself from November 3rd – December 9th 2017 at Trinity Square Video, 401 Richmond, Toronto Canada.

Worldbuilding was declared a “must-see” show by Canadian Art magazine!

Visit the Worldbuilding website by clicking here.

 

VR Commission Update

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the art developed last summer in a residency at the Technoculture Art and Games lab at Concordia University with lead 3D artist Alex Lee, AI designer Sofian Audry, art assistant Marlon Kroll, and research assistant Roxanne Baril-Bédard. Among holographic popstars who may or may not have their own consciousness to begin with, the project includes rhetorical analysis of post 9/11 counterterrorist video games, reality television, startup culture, and self-help manuals for improving emotional state.

I am implementing the Biosensor control system this Winter and plan on working on finalizing the game’s art, music and sounds this summer for a launch towards the end of 2017 in an exhibition at Trinity Square Video in Toronto.


In the future, weapons of war possess advanced AI systems, systems that guarantee successful automated combat on behalf of soldiers wielding the technology.  The military still trains its soldiers in case of equipment failure, but at this point, fighters function more as passive operators. The terrorist threat has nothing similar to this technology in their ranks, and the effectiveness of our systems is swift and deadly.  Historically, our soldiers manning the machines have never witnessed violence or devastation at this scale: the largest threat to soldiers today defending our nation’s values is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

To address this unfortunate state of affairs, the military developed a startup fund open to the public to resolve this issue through technological innovation.  Significant scholarships and research funding was provided for researchers interested in devoting time to creating a means towards mitigating the psychological crisis.  A risky but intriguing proof of concept was eventually presented: the creation of a revolutionary entertainment for the troops as they fought the terrorist threat.

Yowane Haku became the face of this entertainment: a mobile holographic pop star engineered specifically for psychological distraction on the battlefield.  

The world’s most talented engineers, design consultants, and pop writing teams were assembled to enshrine Haku with every aesthetic and technical element to impress not only the troops, but the world with her next-generation technology.  However, the initial test-run of this mobile holographic pop medium in combat trials was….a failure.  

On the battlefield, Haku’s perfect body glowed faintly amongst the dust and screams, bullets and explosions passing ineffectually, dance moves precise, vocalizations on point. But ultimately her pop music performance lacked resonance with the battle.  Instead of the soldiers being emboldened by this new entertainment, which was intended to distract or inspire them from their gruesome tasks, their adverse psychological symptoms…flourished.  Some of the men went mad, laughing maniacally in tune with the holographic presence smiling sweetly at them.  It was only due to the superiority of our AI weaponry and automated drone operation that the morally corrupt foreign threat, with their violent and technologically crude methods, were stopped that day. The minds of our soldiers were lost.

Months later, a young pool of startup professionals would provide another solution.  This vocal minority of engineers…though others called them crazy….had a hunch. For the hologram pop star to “work,” her systems needed access pure emotion, to link a human element with the trauma of the human soldiers.  But it was not clear who, or what, could best provide this emotional link…and what amount of embodied “disruption” this might entail…

This enthusiastically crowdfunded group of millennials completed their groundbreaking research without the strings of ethics funding or institutional control.  Human emotions and consciousness now flow direct to Haku via experimental trials in VR technology.  Haku rises again on the battlefront.

Simultaneously, a new reality television show has been borne of these first human trials. The star of this reality show could be…….you.

Could you be the next American Sweetheart?  Do you have what it takes to provide 110% Best Emotional Performance?  Join us through advanced VR technologies, Live and Direct on the battlefield, to find out if you could be fit to man the ultimate weapon of war: Our Next Holographic Idol.

This project is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and Trinity Square Video’s AMD VR lab

Artist talk and Catalogue Launch for Vocales Digitales

I will be giving an artist talk on Saturday April 23rd at Hamilton Artists’ Inc. to support my solo exhibition Vocales Digitales.  The event will also feature a catalogue launch, featuring a bilingual publication that includes essays by philosopher Eric Lewis and curator Maiko Tanaka.

The next day on Sunday April 24th I will be giving an artists’ workshop that introduces the Teensy microcontroller through basic electronics and biosensors.

 

Vocales Digitales

Erin Gee
Vocales Digitales
March 26 – May 14

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 26, 2:00-4:00pm

Artist Talk and Catalogue Launch: April 23, 2:00pm
Biosensor/Arduino Workshop: April 24, 10 am (full day) $25 registration required
Original Performance with Daniel Àñez and the Hamilton Children’s Choir (June 25, 2016)

Hamilton Artists Inc. is pleased to present Vocales Digitales, a solo exhibition by new media artist and composer Erin Gee, featuring installations exploring the potentials of human voices in electronic bodies as well as electronic voices in human bodies. Based on a robust research practice, Gee draws from neuroaesthetics, a field that investigates the potentials of neurological and physiological data, as both the basis of, and inspiration for, her technologically complex installations. Turning the inside out, Gee culls data from physiological sources such as the human larynx as well as intangible sources such as human emotions, and transforms them into highly realized aesthetic and musical compositions. Using languages of notation, code, and data, Gee explores the flesh and experience of human bodies, seeking out poetic languages of machine visualization to return the quantitative once more into a space of aesthetics through the experience of music.

The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual publication featuring essays by Maiko Tanaka and Eric Lewis. The catalogue launch will be accompanied by an artist talk and will take place April 23, at 2:00 pm. The catalogue can be downloaded HERE (4.5mb).