Ontario 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.  Through the project I’ve been working through the relationship between pop music and war, self help and sincerity, and ultimately I’m working through these issues of technique and technology in how life and trauma comes to us.  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.  The project is complex and difficult to read because I think it has to be.  It reflects my own mediatized understanding of international conflict, maybe my own frustration at my lack of understanding.

The best I can understand war is how it is mediated to me: through video games and news cycles, through abstract discussions on the radio. The goal of this project was never 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 fail to address war.  I also am also dissatisfied at the idea of an artistic protest that makes a cartoonish, morally didactic utopia where rainbows and love shoot out of guns instead of flesh-tearing bullets. I think the answer about the politics of this game lie in the end screen: an abstract screen that confronts you with statistics of death and trauma as a result of the battle itself.  I don’t think there is a way to win the game.

Song of Seven: Biochoir

A composition for children’s choir featuring seven voices and seven sets of biodata with piano accompaniment.

In this song, young performers contemplate an emotional time in their lives, and recount this memory as an improvised vocal solo.The choir is instructed to enter into a meditative state during these emotional solos, deeply listening to the tale and empathizing with the soloist, using imagination to recreate the scene.  Choir members are attached to a musical instrument I call the BioSynth a small synthesizer that sonifies heartbeats and sweat release for each individual member to pre-programmed tones. Sweat release, often acknowledged as a robust measure of emotional engagement, is signaled by overtones that appear and reappear over a drone; meanwhile the heartbeats of each chorister are sounded according to blood flow, providing a light percussion.

The musical score combines traditional music notation with vocal games and rhythms determined not necessarily by the conductor or score but by beatings of the heart and bursts of sweat. Discreet flashing lights on the synthesizer boxes in front of the choristers allowed the singers to discern the rhythms and patterns of their heart and sweat glands, which therefore permits compositions to incorporate the rhythms of the body into the final score as markers that trigger sonic events.

This choral composition was workshopped over a one-week residency at the LIVELab (McMaster University) with selected members of the Hamilton Children’s Choir, and facilitated by Hamilton Artists Inc. with support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

For more information

Hamilton Children's Choir
Daniel Àñez (Spanish biography)
Hamilton Artists' Inc
LIVElab
Canada Council for the Arts

Piano accompanist: Daniel Àñez
Hardware design: Martin Peach
Software design: Erin Gee

New VR artwork commission from Trinity Square Video

I’m thrilled to announce that Trinity Square Video will be presenting new artworks for Virtual Reality interfaces in 2016-2017, including a new commissioned work by myself!  The work will feature pop music’s potential military applications in a first-person shooter style video game – expect autotuned voices, virtual pop stars, and new embodiments of my emotional biosensor hardware to take shape in this new work.

The project will feature Alex M. Lee as head artistic designer as well as work by Marlon Kroll and Roxanne Baril-Bédard.  I’ll continue to post teasers, hardware updates and more through this summer 2016!

BodyRadio

(2011)

Four-part score for electronic voices in organic bodies debuted as part of New Adventure in Sound Art’s Deep Wireless Festival of Transmission Art, Toronto, Canada

Body Radio is a composition for four performers that reverses the interiority/exteriority of a radio, which is a human voice in an electronic body. Small wireless microphones are placed directly in the mouths of the performers, who are each facing a guitar amplifier. The performers control the sensitivity of both the amplifier’s receiving function and the microphone’s sending function in accordance with the score. The final sounds are a combination of inner mouth noises, breathing, and varying pitches feedback controlled by the opening and closing of mouths.