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DISLOCATED James Oliver Senior B.A. Psychology McGill UniversIty 1998 A thesis submitted to the faculty of Parsons, The New School for Design, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Design and Technology in June 2008

Faculty Sven Travis, Spring 2008 Mustafa Kirwan, Fall 2007

Writing Advisors Louisa Campbell, Spring 2008 Mark Stafford, Fall 2007

Thesis Advisor Rees Shad

Thesis production website

COPYRIGHT Copyright 2008 James Oliver Senior All Rights Reserved


ABSTRACT I am investigating materiality and affect through this experimental research thesis. Working with installation and video, and using nature as a subject, I plot a series of twenty-five works across different ranges to determine how an affective response is changed by digitization. Hypothesizing that materiality is central in the construction of affect, I also venture that in the digital age we have learned how to negotiate dematerialized forms in virtual spaces. This new heightened ability for the viewer to complete a partial object or construct a narrative from its trace fragments has also created a new kind of emotional response, which I am calling “ghostliness�. The ghostly experience is to perceive something as having consistent materiality which does not, and to imbue it with emotional valence. In my works I intend to create this representation of impermanence, which reflects our close relationship to digital technology.


TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Introduction...............................................................................8 1.1 Spatial Design..............................................................8 1.2 Dematerialized Space....................................................8 1.3 Psychology & Design ....................................................9 1.4 HCI & Affective Computing .........................................10 1.5 Nature as Subject........................................................11 1.6 Design Goals.............................................................12 1.7 Research Questions.....................................................13 2. Domain & Precedent.................................................................17 2.1 Installation & New Media Art........................................17 2.2 Conceptual Art & Earth Works......................................21 2.3 Arts & Crafts movement...............................................25 3. Methodology...........................................................................28 3.2 Twenty-five Works........................................................29 3.3 Schematic..................................................................30 3.4 Description of Works...................................................33 4. Evaluation...............................................................................49 4.1 Methods.....................................................................49 4.2 Design Goals & Questions...........................................51 4.3 Domain......................................................................52 4.4 Affect.........................................................................53 4.5 Implications................................................................54 4.6 Recommendations.......................................................55 Bibliography................................................................................57


LIST OF ILLLUSTRATIONS fig. 2.0 Fields of study...................................................................17 fig. 2.1.1a Landscape One...........................................................18 fig. 2.1.1b Panoscope 360...........................................................18 fig. 2.1.2a The Messenger............................................................18 fig. 2.1.2b The Stopping Mind.......................................................19 fig. 2.1.3 Tall Trees.......................................................................19 fig. 2.1.4 Contagion.....................................................................19 fig. 2.1.5 Hylozoic Soil..................................................................20 fig. 2.1.6 The Work of the Forest...................................................20 fig. 2.1.7 Meant to be Lived In......................................................21 fig. 2.2.1a Many colored objects placed side by side to form a row of many colored objects..........................21 fig. 2.2.1b Matter caused to cease to function as it had...................22 fig. 2.2.2 Skyspace.......................................................................22 fig. 2.2.3 Hydra’s Head................................................................23 fig. 2.2.4 Ringdom Gompa...........................................................23 fig. 2.2.5a Untitled.......................................................................23 fig. 2.2.5b Sittin’ Pretty..................................................................24 fig. 2.2.6 Filigreed Line.................................................................24 fig. 2.2.7 Belvedere......................................................................24 fig. 2.3.1a The Forest Tapestry.......................................................25 fig. 2.3.1b Saint Cecilia................................................................26 fig. 2.3.2a Title Page Wren’s City Churches....................................26 fig. 2.3.2b Floral Design Cut Velvet...............................................26 fig. 2.3.3a Hill House...................................................................27 fig. 2.3.3b House for an Art Connoisseur.......................................27 fig. 2.3.4a Eighteen Light Pond Lily Decorative Lamp.......................27 fig. 2.3.4b Tiffany Chapel Electrolier..............................................27 fig. 3.3 Schematic of 25 Works......................................................32 fig. 3.4.1 Light Bowls....................................................................33 fig. 3.4.2 Mount St. Hilaire Panorama............................................33 fig. 3.4.3 Tinkertoy Mangrove.......................................................34 fig. 3.4.4 Church of the Hyperreal.................................................34 fig. 3.4.5 Lily Speaker...................................................................35


fig. 3.4.6 Arts & Crafts Exhibition Space.........................................36 fig. 3.4.7 Arts & Crafts Animated Portraits.......................................36 fig. 3.4.8 Semantic Spaces............................................................37 fig. 3.4.9 Aerial Panorama............................................................38 fig. 3.4.10 Byrdcliffe Arts Colony Site.............................................39 fig. 3.4.11 Sims Avatar.................................................................39 fig. 3.4.12 Mackmurdo Representation..........................................40 fig. 3.4.13 Studio Leaf Shelter.......................................................40 fig. 3.4.14 Leaf Shelter Walkthrough..............................................40 fig. 3.4.15 Leaf Shelter.................................................................41 fig. 3.4.16 Real Plant Enclosure.....................................................42 fig. 3.4.17 Natural Brooklyn..........................................................42 fig. 3.4.18 Material Adhesion........................................................43 fig. 3.4.19a Mimetic Tree..............................................................43 fig. 3.4.19b Mimetic Tree..............................................................44 fig. 3.4.20a Ghostly Sculpture.......................................................44 fig. 3.4.20b Ghostly Sculpture.......................................................45 fig. 3.4.21 Infra-Red Currents........................................................45 fig. 3.4.22 Electrified Tree.............................................................46 fig. 3.4.23 Media Worship............................................................46 fig. 3.4.24 Colored Water Pump....................................................47 fig. 3.4.25 Traces & Ghostliness....................................................48


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I owe Sven Travis a debt of gratitude for inspiration, ceaseless encouragement and thesis instruction. Thanks to Mustafa Kirwan for his energy and ideas. As a thesis advisor, Rees Shad generously gave countless hours of his time to discuss the works in this project, visit galleries with me and offer warm hospitality in the Catskills – thankyou sincerely. To my writing instructors Louisa Campbell and Mark Stafford, thanks are due for patience and for breakthrough discussions. Through this thesis process, it was an honor to listen to Nick Fortugno bring academic rigor to narrative game criticism, and to speak with Luc Courchesne who took the time to share his new media work with me – many thanks. For advice, thanks to my friends Robert Del Principe, Yasmine Almachnouk and Stuart Cudlitz. Thanks to my parents Rod and Sue and my sister Lucy who have been faithful supporters in every way. To my loving partner, Caroline Krzakowski, whose love of the arts emboldens my own, all my love.


1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 SPATIAL DESIGN In the grassroots arts scene in Montreal I worked as a designer of graphics, stage-sets, costumes and art-campaigns, hosted an arts radio show, written and performed theatre, comedy and music and produced and recorded other performers. I have worked in many media preferring to combine them together. My commercial product has been screen-based and related to the Internet from web design to programming and entrepreneurship. This work, during the 1990s and turn of the millennium, is now coming into focus as having influenced the way I think about content as needing a spatial materiality. Often my work has involved understanding the space between things. In stage comedy for example, the rigor of rehearsal is focused on the timing of delivery and entrance; in the production of music, in the restraint and placement of instrumentation; as a designer, in the pregnancy of a negative space. Travels the last five years have led me to museums and galleries where knowledge, movements, eras and modes of thinking in addition to the usual peoples, histories and events are represented in the curated space. Some mix of curiosity for knowledge and experience, designer mind for understanding how things work, appreciation for the beautifully crafted and desire for fantastical experience feeds my return to the volume of a designed space. The object, as the central thing in an exhibit can, when carefully contextualized, leave an imprint so meaningful on a person that the exhibit designer can be considered an artist in her own right.

1.2 DEMATERIALIZED SPACE I have experienced joy in sitting in a William Morris designed chapel after just a five minute visit, yet I have sat for hours non-


affectively numbed by its screen-based representation in a digital archive like the Victorian Web. Why such disparate reactions to essentially the same content? It is too simple to say this is materialized space and that is dematerialized? Here is the object itself and there is the representation? If experiences with screen-based new media are so unaffective, why do we engage in so keenly and for so long? Is this property of the technological experience due to the pace of its commercial development? In clamoring for clicks, have developers opted for addictive rather than affective? In the last twenty years, technology production has occurred at such a muscular speed that the landscape is littered with the waste of developer driven trends. As a designer then, I have to stop to think about what I am doing with digital tools – what short-lived vogues am I participating in, and what rich experiences am I depriving my users of?

1.3 PSYCHOLOGY & DESIGN My interest in affect, or emotion, was informed by my training in psychology. Psychology investigates the motivations for people’s actions, and in seeking an answer psychologists try to prove first of all how people work. Scientists try to understand the larger societal picture and pattern of behavior by breaking it down into small verifiable findings that are accrued over generations into a body of understanding. How we understand and learn is itself investigated using these same methods. For example, we look at the physiology of the eye and how it connects to the nervous system to understand the limits of sensation - the firing of cone cells and the registration of an image on the retina. This is image is immediately flipped, changed and altered into a series of electrochemical signals in the brain which helps us to understand what in the world out there is being represented in our cortex. Perception, the rendering of appearance, can be distinguished from cognition (how we construct meaningfulness). Only fragments of experience can be measured and understood with our current neural-net model of the brain though – there is little understanding of how the emotional valence (positive/negative) of an experience is stored and recalled for example. Though it may be some time before we understand the


neurobiology behind emotions, psychologists have been studying how we narrate and display affect for fifty years already. Larazus at UC Berkeley began to study emotions and coping and in the 1950s, reacting to Skinner’s purely behavioral research. In the 1960s, influenced by Norbert Weiner’s studies of cybernetics, personality psychologist Silvan Tomkins wrote the first two volumes of his own study of affect, Affect Imagery Consciousness (AIC). He identified the nine major affects, and how they are triggered by scripts, or grouped stimuli. In the 1970s, by looking at the anatomy of facial muscles, Paul Ekman and W.V. Friesen developed their own system of reading emotion - the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Their method, which allows people to become adept at reading the fleeting emotions expressed in the face, is used commercially in animation studios and in the development of computer avatars.

1.4 HCI & AFFECTIVE COMPUTING Today, affect is researched as an indicator of behavior. For example, it was recently found that positively influences sociability, activity altruism, the liking of self and others, strong bodies and immune systems as well as effective conflict resolution skills (Lyubomirsky et al, 2005). In the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), affective studies help us to better understand how people interact with computers in educational contexts such as a museum. Kirsten Boehner calls this affective computing and she remodels interaction as “dynamic, culturally mediated, and socially constructed and experienced [which] leads to new goals for affective systems—instead of sensing and transmitting emotion, systems should support human users in understanding, interpreting, and experiencing emotion in its full complexity.” (Boehner et al, 2007). Are computers helping us to understand our own emotions? I am using the creation of affect as an evaluative criteria in my work. As a designer who works within a loosely scientific method - wishing to control for variables and conduct experimental findings to accrue understanding, I explore design questions that concern us on the psychological level. To understand affect though, I also wanted to consider the ambiguities of sensation, perception, cognition and memory. These variables have


been explored by artists as well as scientists, and so working in the tradition of a studio artist – working with form, expression, temporality – has allowed for a style of inquiry that complements scientific rigor in helping me understand my subject.

1.5 NATURE AS SUBJECT This project investigates nature, the tensions between nature and urban spaces, and how they might be heightened by a feeling of dislocation that emerges from the use of digital devices. While humanity’s destructive effect on the natural environment is being foregrounded by way of climate change in the news, I am exploring the way in which we relate to these events as creative individuals, rather than as a society. To articulate my personal relationship with the land, I need to define the boundaries of both my urban community and the regional wilderness: Brooklyn and the Catskill mountains. In the city we experience a disconnection from the land. Similarly to be in the protected forests is to be removed from the realities of daily urban life. In the city, we bridge the divide between the universal access to power that we enjoy on the electricity grid and the almost universal lack of that access when in nature, by limiting our time in the wilderness, not going off-grid at all, or romanticizing time in the country as an escape from connectedness. My work aims to bridge this apparent dichotomy by exploring disconnection through a series of experiments in video and sculptural installation. I first considered using the video camera to help bridge the nature/technology divide. I set up the camera with a wellcomposed frame and then let the time pass, recording the scene. The slight movement amongst the steadiness induces a kind of state of ghostliness. I also considered the computer in its elemental form – as a conductor of electrical current. I wondered if it might be possible to make large “land computers” out of natural strata of metals in the ground. I imagine locating a continuous vein of metal in the earth and doing some experiments by sending basic input/output information through it - a sort of natural circuitry. How much noise would occur in this system? How long would it take? How might the foregrounding of the organic state of metal help me reflect on our need to construct technology?


1.6 DESIGN GOALS I am designing a series of installation experiments in different media, in both natural and urban spaces. I look at exhibition, narratives, outdoor sculpture, indoor media pieces and applied electronics. My approach is iterative, with each successive work building on the findings of the previous one. The final work in these investigations will be crafted to be the central piece in a gallery exhibition, complemented by documentary objects (photos, videos) of my process-based investigation. The sensual goal of the work is to have the feeling of the passage of time. This makes us think about the greater consequences of being disconnected from nature, not simply to bring attention to climate change, but as a turning point from which efforts will be made to re-connect. I expect to make happy accidents and controlled fusings of the urban and natural along the way. For the user, I hope to generate an affective experience. I am trying first of all to design an immersive space, one which, like nature, the user feels enclosed by and which is emotionally engaging. I am confronting in the process of designing my media project some of the theoretical problems we confront when we think about our tenuous relationship to nature. Where are we in it? How can we even access nature when our experience is generally mediated. Secondly, I aim to design the project to generate specific ideas in the user’s mind – environmental context, and the impact of progress. The user still ‘completes the art’, not in a free-associative relationship to the work, but in a interrogative relationship. How has nature been constructed in an urban setting? How can we be connected with the natural state of the earth – the air, the water? What impact has the progress of technology had on our understanding of the land?


1.7 RESEARCH QUESTIONS This series of art works contains a set of questions that I can group into three rubrics: locatability, design history and engineering. To address the first category of location, I will first ask some ontological questions about my subject. What do I mean by “nature”? The word nature points to an understanding that a thing can have a physiological, elemental form. For example, the nature of this piece of paper is that it is made of organic fibre which was harvested from trees. Likewise, a glass in its material form comes from minerals in sand. We can see in both paper and a glass that intervention has transformed them into another form, but in this form we understand its materiality, its deconstructed elements and properties. The word nature also points to the wilderness. The boundaries of a wilderness in New York State are sometimes delineated by a national park. This makes it easy for us to contain and point to nature, and to where it ends. As we leave a park though, urban development encroaches upon us gradually – there is no walled town boundary. People who live in the less-densely populated countryside don’t to say “I live in nature”, but city-dwellers would often say “I’m going out to be in nature this weekend.” In this sense, nature is a kind of urban construction that may originate in the practice of having a country home and of affording the means to travel there. Even without a home, nature becomes the location where urbanites get out of the car when we are ‘there’. This use of the term indicates nature as meaning the relative degree of rusticity. There is this obvious town-country division, but the country person could inhabit what a city person might think of as the country, which is in fact fully connected to the electrical grid. They could go still further out ‘into nature’ with a tent into the forest. This is an important distinction because it brings to light the difficulty in finding the original state of nature, not because the organic world is cyclically changing, but because it depends on your relative location. I am locating nature as meaning an approximate place in opposition to the constructed city. In Brooklyn, the only remaining virgin forest environment is a half mile stretch of forest in Prospect Park which is surrounded by meadows. To walk to into it, and appreciate it as such, we have to not only enter the forest, but consciously recognize


our leaving of the constructed experience. The nearest untouched land is two hours drive into a national park. So there is a question immediately of access. How can we relate to our natural environment if we cannot easily get to it? Why don’t we make the effort regularly? What is to be gained from leaving the urban fabric? Another way to think about nature is to imagine it as a spectrum which spans untouched land on one side to a fully constructed city on the other – both are natural. To locate oneself in an urban setting, one is surrounded by the buildings and planning of people. Nature can be seen as both existing within a city and as a state of the urban footprint before human intervention. I am using the terms in this way to summon the feeling of the passage of time, and the growth of one environment from the other. The advantages of urban living have historically included wealth, variety, proximity to workplace, opportunity and community. The boundaries of city have been linked to population density: the urban plan now has a looser edge including suburbs and commuter regions. The digital era however has brought an even further blurring of the limits of the urban fabric, due largely to the network of mobile technology. Our phones and wireless networks keep us connected, but we seem increasingly disconnected from the untouched land. Our experience now is by the digital devices that we use to navigate our daily lives. There is the persistent growth of ubiquitous computing and calm technology, both terms indicating an environment in which digital devices are embedded into our surroundings to perform automatic tasks as well as augmenting our human capabilities. However, the more devices we attach to ourselves, the less likely we are to plan a canoe trip–we don’t think of our circuit boards as being able to deal with water, dirt, wind or cold, and we might not get a signal in a remote place. These devices while keeping us on the network also keep us reliant on the electricity grid to recharge their batteries. This a different kind of reliance on electricity than we have previously had, and I aim to discover whether this pull of the central energy grid is keeping us from accessing nature, and making an individual identification with the larger context of our regional land and climate. Perhaps by looking at ways to take digital devices into nature and bring nature into the city I can create some dialogue about reconnection.


The secondary set of questions has to do with history and memory. This thesis, in looking at design and nature, requires a look at forerunners. The artist and designer’s relationship to her ecosystem has been looked at before, particularly in several movements in the last 150 years. What have we learned from repeated calls to go ‘back to the land’? The Arts & Crafts movement in 1890s England is of special importance to me as two of its practices can inform my work. Firstly, in the face of industrialization, there was a questioning of the role of the machine in how we understand our place in the environment. Craftsmen had a variety of responses to this, but a return to nature was central. Secondly in favoring the mastercraftsman ideal, many of the artisanal guilds literally moved their shops to the countryside believing that to make work that represented a rural morality one had to have good access to nature. In praxis, these principles both failed, but their intentions changed the history of design. Another relevant movement of the 1960s was Land Art or Earth Works. These artists were again going to the untouched environment to carry out a method of reconnection, but also making work that was a direct commentary on urban life. Can the expanse of open country be brought inside? Can you make art outside a white-box gallery space? What is the impact of so many artists making monumental work in the countryside? Most of the installed work of this movement was ephemeral, which brings up question of appropriate documentation, or archive building. Digital devices in this case enabled them to preserve and display their work for people like me to see. These records are mediated, I can never have the actual experience of the work. What is an appropriate archival method for experience then? These tools were also used to commodify the art and generate objects from the artistic process which have value in the art community. It is important for me to investigate these questions of history, memory and archive so that I might learn from and build on their work. The tertiary question set has to do with a methodology of building, form and user experience. As I look at the urban/nature divide through energy, access and time, I am asking about how the materiality of the installation changes the result. Can we bring an urban aesthetic to the country or vice versa with any degree of success? Is there an ethics to representing a mediated form of nature?


Sometimes city art seems irrelevant when taken out of a gallery. Does a work have to be developed in nature for nature to accept it? I am interested in creating an immersive or cinematic experience for the user. Does a work have to be viewed or experienced directly for it to be meaningful? Dynamic systems seem to create the highest level of user interaction, agency and engagement. Does the user experience have to have high integrity to my intended goal, or is the piece successful if it simply viewed, interacted with or experienced at all?


2 DOMAIN & PRECEDENT For this research thesis in the study of fine art, design and technology, I am looking at the Arts & Crafts Movement as a foundation movement, one primarily concerned with ethics and from which the concept of the master craftsman or interdisciplinary designer has developed. I work with installation and video, and reference below some of the forerunners who have used these media in the exploration of representation and mimesis. The topic of my investigation is materiality and the construction of affect. I research the period of conceptual art when materiality was questioned, and immersive new media art where the dionysic experience of the viewer is foregrounded. In carrying out the series of 25 works, I use nature as a subject to follow in the fig. 2.0 Fields of study tradition of these artists.

2.1 INSTALLATION & NEW MEDIA ART New media as a genre of art emerges from the tradition of cinema. Accustomed to viewing movies on the big screen since the middle of the last century, the gallery visitor expects immersion. Video artists commodify the immersive experience into an art object, and question the medium to help us understand how we see and hear. They experiment with new technology such as videotape, televisions and multiple channel projections in order to vary affective responses. Installation art similarly emerges from the need to immerse the viewer – drawing together practices and materials of set design, performance and graphic art and combining them into site specific works which the viewer must experience. New media art (which uses multimedia,


games and computation) uses immersion in virtual worlds to ask questions about representation, materiality and location. In some interactive works, the viewer makes a choice to participate directly in the work, increasing the immersive aspect even further. Digital devices and programming (loops and if-else statements) control structures are the latest tools that artists are using to create immersion and affect for the user.

2.1.1 Luc Courchesne – Landscape One, Panoscope 360

fig. 2.1.1a Landscape One

fig. 2.1.1b Panoscope 360

Courchesne’s work is concerned with location and immersion. Both of these pieces are large scale environments that the viewer can enter and experience, they become agents in the completing the work. In Landscape One in particular – an interactive environment – the user is surrounded by four screens which represent the views from the compass points, and textual screen cues prompt the user to make a decision about next direction. This kind of virtual labyrinth theme is continued into his work with the virtual-reality-like Panoscope 360. The user walks into the bottom half of a sphere and projectors construct a three dimensional grid on the interior surface. The user can navigate (fly) through this space with controls – using applications ranging from video gaming to gestural browsing of an archive. The practice of immersion, originating in the cinematic, is an important component of the affective experience in new media. I emulate the artist’s choice to work on a large scale, concentrating on a material experience of the conceptual phenomenon of dislocation.

2.1.2 Bill Viola - The Messenger, the Stopping Mind Viola’s work elicits intense emotional responses from the viewer. His videos of life-scale bodies are represented in states of suspension or states of slow change. The intention is to ask the viewer to reflect on the passage of


fig. 2.1.2a The Messenger

time, the impermanence of the human body and the role of the mind in filtering and constructing reality. His use of video and sound breaks away the viewer’s every day conception of herself and summons her to a consideration of mortality. This concentration on the material condition of the body is instrumental in my thinking about nature.

2.1.3 – Tall Trees Rachel Wingfield, as, is concerned with the patterns of nature on a cellular level. Her work here looks at the function of the tree as a conductor of energy. Her 20 foot tree visualizes the passage of energy using electro-luminescent wire and solar panels. She manufactures the trace-form according to an interpretation of organic patterns of building. The immensity of the work demands attention from the viewer and mimics the feeling of being under a canopy of a real tree. Representing nature as a system through which energy is transformed and suggesting the tree in frame only, are both ideas that inform my conception of ghostliness. fig. 2.1.3 Tall Trees

fig. 2.1.2b The Stopping Mind

2.1.4 Michael Petry - Contagion

This work intends to immerse the viewer in the functioning of the heart and ephemerality. A series of suspended red balloons hung at the height of the artist’s heart along a formal line, creating a space to be experienced. The windowed installation space, flooded by red light, is transformed through the day/night by the sun’s light. Two aspects of this work interest me: the denoting of boundary by suspended objects and the material representation of the heart by an empty balloon. Both illustrate the voidness of things that the viewer initially perceives to be fixed and definable.

fig. 2.1.4 Contagion


2.1.5 Philip Beesley, Hylozoic Soil Built under the rubric of “interactive architecture”, Beesley’s piece is best experienced by walking through it. An overhead framework of stalactites made from industrial plastics creates the feeling of an organic net growing down from the roof of a cave. As the user walks through the piece, the tendrils extend towards or away from the person creating traces of activity. Looking back after his walkthrough the user can see the structures returning to their former positions slowly – a temporal document of his path. Though intended to be a statement about architecture, this immersive new media work with its scaffolding-like structure impresses upon me the emotional response to an immaterial presence.

fig. 2.1.5 Hylozoic Soil

2.1.6 Judith Barry – The Work of the Forest In this new media work, Barry asks the viewer to reconsider perception and how point-of-view changes understanding. Three panels of fabric are surfaces for projections of the woods and the viewer can experience the installation in three ways: as an immersion from inside the suggested circle of panels – what its like to be in the forest; from a near distance seeing two panels together and the space between, a new combined image of the forest; or from far outside enabling a perspective on the work as a just a representation. In my works on mimesis I construct projection surfaces from paper so as to be seen from both sides in order to re-explore Barry’s findings.


fig. 2.1.6 The Work of the Forest.

2.1.7 Olafur Eliasson – Meant to be Lived In Eliasson manipulates optics to create an immersive experience for the user. His intention here is to transform existing architecture using prismatic objects and refracted light. Rather than tackle the architecture of the white box interior itself, the artist chooses to alter our perception of its boundaries and walls in order to control affect. In some of my earliest trials in exploring dislocation, I create the feeling of physicality with mirrors, prisms and light. By intervening in the perceptive process, where virtual images (a mirror, a video game, a visualized archive) are constructed, we have greater control over the affective response.

fig. 2.1.7 Meant to be Lived In

2.2 CONCEPTUAL ART & LAND ART Conceptual Art comprises a movement of people who question the notion of how the meaning of an art piece is constructed. Building on Duchamp’s notion that the audience completes the work, conceptual artists state that a work need not ever be actually fabricated – that the concept or idea of the work is where spirit of a piece exists. Lucy Lippard calls this moment the dematerialization of the art object. Here the artist is working primarily with the mind rather than the hands. Among conceptual artists that challenge the art establishment, those who leave the studio and go into nature to work interested me. This movement, called Land Art, concerns itself with perception: How do we visualize our understanding of light for example, or how does changing our vantage point transform meaning? These artists posit that fig. 2.2.1a Many colored objects placed there is both a literal connection with the side by side to form earth, and a metaphorical questioning of a row of many colored objects our relationship to it.


2.2.1 Lawrence Weiner – Many colored objects placed side by side to form a row of many colored objects, Matter caused to cease to function as it had

fig. 2.2.1b Matter caused to cease to function as it had

Weiner’s work is primarily sculptural, but as a material he uses language. The first piece here illustrates how conceptual artists wanted to concentrate on the concept of a piece. Rather than assemble the objects as sculpture, he simply gives form to the sculpture in the audience’s mind by suggesting what he intends to see with language. The graphical form of the letters themselves are the objects, creating a pun in both of these works, but also highlighting his intent to question the materiality of an artwork. Both of these pieces help me to understand how language can be made manifest, and how a concept itself can imbue affect.

2.2.2 James Turrell – Skyspace Turrell’s calm rooms, a nod to his Quaker upbringing, are constructed to help the viewer find a space where they can question the very act of seeing itself. In this work the roof of the room has a whole cut into it so that we can see the passage of light across a section of sky. By choosing light as a subject, he asks us to experience the act of observation. He asks the viewer to question how they are perceiving the work while simultaneously experiencing it, which triggers a kind of narratological thinking. This is helpful to me in understanding how to make a piece that questions how we relate to new media.


fig. 2.2.2 Skyspace

2.2.3 Nancy Holt – Hydra’s Head In this work the artist constructed shallow metal circles which she embedded into the ground into a formation that reflected the constellation of the title. Each circle was filled with water to reflect the sky, creating a continuity with the surrounding landscape. This work typifies my interest in Land Art as Holt is consciously terraforming her natural environment in an attempt to control it, but also to draw attention to it and her intervention. She uses the uncanny here to make the viewer look and think twice. fig. 2.2.3 Hydra’s Head

2.2.4 Hamish Fulton – Ringdom Gompa This photograph represents Fulton’s long walks across the land. For him the concept of the piece is the walk itself, in the Himalaya, but by stating the concept in the form of a document of the walk, a photograph, he asks the viewer to think about memory, artifacts of beauty, and whether a trek can be a work of art at all. Fulton’s position is in dialogue with fig. 2.2.4 Ringdom Gompa that of Richard Long, for whom the walk as artwork needs no document. The artist here recognizes the need to commodify a conceptual work, and he is consciously composing the document to symbolize his own temporal experiences – a position I take in my series.

2.2.5 Patrick Dougherty – Untitled , Sittin’ Pretty In these two works, the material is specific both to the site and to the overall aesthetic. He creates curvilinear gestural constructions as site specific installation to bring attention to the flexibility of bamboo. The viewer can feel the shape of the wind moving through these framework structures.

fig. 2.2.5a Untitled


Through method of fabrication, Dougherty visualizes an invisible natural force and also manages to locate, especially in Untitled, what I am calling ghostliness.

2.2.6 Robert Irwin – Filigreed Line Using Wellesley University as a site, Irwin goes about installing a long sheet of stainless steel. Conscious of the explicit seasons in this location, the artist takes fallen leaves from the ground and stamps them out of the sheet so that when the snow falls in the Winter, the ephemeral passage of time is subtly amplified for the viewer. This work is inspirational to me during site selection and in understanding how works that deal with changing light of the seasons seem to be in harmony with nature.

fig. 2.2.5b Sittin’ Pretty

2.2.7 Ron Haseldon – Belvedere Climbing to the top of the scaffolding, which Haseldon erected amongst the trees, gives the viewer the chance to take in the landscape from a different perspective. The difficulty in fig. 2.2.6 Filigreed Line climbing mirrors the difficulty in seeing the ordinary from an extra-ordinary vantage point, and the framework form seems mimetic of the surrounding tree-trunks. I like this piece for it simplicity – it could almost be called “what’s its like to be at the top the trees”. It is an installation which creates a new experience.

fig. 2.2.7 Belvedere


fig. 2.3.1a The Forest Tapestry

2.3 ARTS & CRAFTS MOVEMENT Arts and Crafts practitioners are keenly attentive to materiality and method of craftsmanship. They are the first designers rather than artists to go into nature. In concentrating on the appropriate use of wood or stone, and making obvious and plain the joinery and ornamentation of their furniture, they intend openly to create a new kind of trade – the designer – who can both architect a house and fashion the decorative objects inside it. For them, a designer (usually an architect) should control the total work. Directly influenced by Ruskin’s political essay “Unto this Last” which, in opposition to Adam Smith’s division of labor within factories, calls for an interdisciplinary unification of the decorative and fine arts and a firm ethic of soulful practice, they imbue their objects with a conservative moralism – a return to craft “for the good of the nation”. Though this now seems like colonial nostalgia for a pastoral utopia, their high ideals and acute attention to materiality – how and with what things are crafted – left an archive of beautiful objects that has greatly influenced my thinking about design as a trade.

2.3.1 William Morris – the forest tapestry, Saint Cecilia stained glass panel Of Morris’ works, this stained glass panel represents an attention to the details in mimesis of nature. The variety of greens in the glass grid behind Saint Cecilia, and the detailed patterning of each of the


squares, illustrates how Morris creates the wholeness of the design in small individually handcrafted increments. The blues and greens of the tapestry are typical of Morris’ dye coloring. His research into historical recipes and methods of dyeing wool at his workshop in Merton show the depth of his concern for the materiality of his work. He achieves the high standards of handcraftsmanship through selection of fine materials, and attention to their appropriate. Blue and green were the richest pigments for dyeing, for example. I choose electrical materials for my installation works in the city to illustrate how the urban fabric can be defined by the power grid. fig. 2.3.1b Saint Cecilia 2.3.2 Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo – title page Wren’s City Churches, Floral design cut velvet

Illuminated manuscripts are part of the medieval inspiration that William Morris admired in his Arts and Crafts thinking. This attention to text, ornamentation and image – the piece as a whole – is exemplary in Mackmurdo’s cover for fig. 2.3.2a Title Page Wren’s City Churches Wren’s City Churches. His organic stylization is carried into the other piece shown here, which illustrates how he experiments with mimesis of nature. I use his work in my projections because of the high contrast and organic form, particularly suitable for “illuminated” pattern.

fig. 2.3.2b Floral Design Cut Velvet


2.3.3 Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Hill House, House for an Art Connoisseur

fig. 2.3.3b House for an Art Connoisseur

In both of these interiors, Mackintosh is less concerned with good manufacturing than with aesthetic pleasure. In creating the total work of art, from the objects to the light fixtures and furniture coverings, Mackintosh is creating the interior as ambiance – he wants the room to create a certain affect in the user. In my series of works, the design of an experience for the user is a central goal.

fig. 2.3.3a Hill House

2.3.4 Louis Comfort Tiffany – Eighteen-light pond lily decorative lamp, Tiffany Chapel electrolier Tiffany’s work with electricity and opalescent glass combines new technology with craft in order to create new hybrid forms – the electrolier and the artists’ lamp. The lamp shows his successful fusion of emergent technology into a traditional craft practice. The electrolier as a large scale feat of engineering and design was viewed with wonder. Its first exhibition at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago rather than in a church reveals his intention for it to be displayed as an art object rather than a religious object. In visualizing the passage of current in these forms, and creating commodified objects, Tiffany successfully relocates his studio practice into the technological age. I use the ephemerality of electricity to symbolize the passage of time, and the context of suspended framework to illustrate this impermanence.

fig. 2.3.4b Tiffany Chapel Electrolier

fig. 2.3.4a Eighteen Light Pond Lily Decorative Lamp


3 METHODOLOGY 3.1 DISCPLINES I began by identifying the media with which I was to work: video and installation/sculpture. I chose video for its ability to create mood, to explore the story of my hypothesis and as a nod to the immersion of cinema to which new media owes its heritage. Projecting videos on large surfaces allows for me to immerse the viewer during presentation, to take up their entire field of vision with my imagery. This kind of experience mimics the intense focus of television and video-gaming, two media which have created the environment in which affect is defined today. It also allows for forethought in editing and removes the surprise of performance – in this sense it is a good counterweight to the ephemerality of installation. I also have a preference for video as it is easily distributable on the web and widely popular method of consuming entertainment and even art. As a method of documentation, in tandem with photography, short video clips tell a visual story in a way that neither a written description nor a verbal first-person account can compare. In my experience, showing somebody a video of people in an installation is the most effective way of translating the feeling of the piece. I chose installation and sculpture because of its tradition in art-making, and for the inherent biases which it brings for the viewer. The viewer approaches a sculpture, a known medium, with the question “what is this?” or “what is the artist trying to say”. One cannot encourage the viewer to encounter new media in this fashion for we are still trying to understand what the inherent suppositions and statements with digital art are. Implications of material are also carried within sculpture, and here I see a connection between sculpture and installation. Seeing how an installation is constructed allows us to consider the intention of the artist. When I observe an installation I ask myself “how did the artist make this?” or “why did they choose to use only bubblegum?” I am inspired by the artistic imagination of someone who might see a warehouse, or even a desert plain and reconstruct it in their mind – “my version looks like this”.


For the installation visitor though, it is not only an observable piece of work. Installation precisely aims to move the art from the observable (Apollonian) beautiful work to the temporal experience (Dionysic) of the walkthrough. Good installation for me results in the viewer thinking not “that is a beautiful piece of work”, but “that was a great experience”, perhaps even having to report to their friends “I can’t describe it, you had to be there”. This illustrates for me the temporality of a new media work. Most of my experiences with new media have resulted in an immersive ‘zone’ that I enter. For example when I surf the web I click deeper into the labyrinth of archive, play a narrative computer game like BioShock where the experience of affect is difficult to describe to others – one says “you have to play this to understand”. Installation owes also an often undisclosed debt to interior design, and the masterplan concept of the designer – each object, treatment, fabric and layout are controlled. Here the designer operates not like the artist who creates a unique piece – a vase for example – but more like an architect where every design choice down to the handle of the door is controlled to create ambiance, functionality and affect. This practice first emerged with the Arts and Crafts movement, whose leaders, primarily architects rather than craftspeople, decided to “lift up” the decorative arts into the realm of architecture and design object and wallpapers themselves. The master designer, or comprehensivist, was a notion that spread with the movement from England into Europe and America. Where we see Mackintosh in Scotland entering his master designer houses into international competitions, we also see Saarinen design pavilions for world’s fairs in Finland, and Frank Lloyd Wright design each chair and its position in his own later work. This is a significant connection to the kind of installation art that I enjoy, the crafted and detailed projected mind of the installation-designer as architect, artist and craftsperson.

3.2 TWENTY-FIVE WORKS With these media as my constraints then I began to work iteratively through a series of trials. Though I was not following any kind of strict scientific evaluation principles – double blind testing, control groups, statistical significance etc. which I feel hamper the energy and


spontaneity of making – I was consciously engaging my background in psychological methodology to setup each work. For example, to help identify the affect that a computer generated avatar strolling across a scrim in the woods creates, one has to measure it against the same experiment in the city. I employed a systematic tradition of inquiry: doubt, analysis and synthesis. Each work was a response to a question that emerged in my mind – for example creating a narrative about the Arts and Crafts protagonists was a synthesis of my research, and exploring what happens when I bounce light from a convex mirror to a planar one through water was an analysis of reflection and refraction. Trials were setup with forethought and planning as to intention and expectation. Often artistic discovery came about from creative free-will within these constraints.

3.3 SCHEMATIC I have drawn a diagram which represents the series of works. The schematic is based on the representation of two beams of light traveling down a fiber-optic cable – there is a certain harmonic to this metaphor as it represents both a natural force, the physical behavior of photons operating under total internal reflection, and also the zeitgeist of technology, our widespread use of fibre optic cabling to communicate. Each of my 25 works is plotted on one of two lines. The lines run across a series of 8 ranges. The videos and installations are shown as running against each other on these ranges. I’m using the word range to mean spectrum or continuum, for example under the spectrum of materiality I have on one side ‘ghostly’ and as its counter ‘bodily’. These terms are not necessarily opposites, but function to illustrate that each work fits somewhere on this spectrum between the two points. There are two types of work that I would like to note, the first is a pair – a comparison. Here I am setting up two trials in opposition to each other, both on the same range. For example, under “image” I have one trial of nature as ‘real’ and one of nature as ‘virtual’. Both exist as a complement to each other and the findings of both need to be evaluated in tandem. The second type of work is an equivalent, to use Minor White’s term - a successful trial where my intentions


as an artist were made explicit in the work, or that my findings in the work helped define what was previously unclear in my head. All of the equivalents are experiments where video and installation are integrated together either in the installation or as essential documentation. These five pieces tell the story of the findings the most clearly, whereas the remaining 20 serve to illustrate process and interesting divergences. Five of the trials have been flagged as tests where my learning is expanded but not necessarily in relation to the central hypothesis of affect. Find the schematic in the figure below. Each work is addressed independently and it is useful to refer back to the schematic to see how it contributes to the whole.

(following page) fig. 3.3 Schematic of 25 Works



3.4 DESCRIPTION OF WORKS 3.4.1 Light bowls. sculpture This initiating experiment looked at a projector in an optic sense – as a series of lenses through which light travels. First I shot some footage of morning sun shining through the forest-canopy in Prospect Park. I ran this video in the studio from a laptop to the projector. At the final lens of the projector I placed a small mirror at a 45 degree angle. This image was directed down into an 18” diameter clear plastic bowl of water. Underneath the bowl was a convex mirror facing upwards. I then moved the first small mirror around and filmed this movement and the resulting light patterns. Where the video itself was a representation of the image of a forest in the morning sun, by manipulating the mirrors and water and using the video as a source of green light rather than a consistent image, I was able to create the affect generated of being in the forest with broken and refracted light beams.

fig. 3.4.1 Light Bowls

3.4.2 Mount St. Hilaire panorama. Video

fig. 3.4.2 Mount St. Hilaire Panorama

I climbed to the top of a local hill in Quebec to capture a full circle panorama with a camcorder. My intent was to see how still images, first-person video and panoramic video differed in capturing the experience of surroundings. I took images using each of these techniques during the climb, making sure only to use the camera during moments when I was experiencing an affective response to the environment – joy (completed journey) and anxiety (getting lost). In showing these images to a class in New York, I found that images caused emotive responses (beautiful, wonder), but


not affective ones. The panoramic video from the hilltop created a feeling of expansiveness in the presentation room, but did not create the affect of joy since the viewers had not gone through the trial of the climb. This led me to understand that with video, affect is constructed through narrative not just imagery.

3.4.3 Tinkertoy Mangrove. sculpture

fig. 3.4.3 Tinkertoy Mangrove

I isolated myself in a dark studio with one box of plastic architectural toys, construction materials and a large surface. My goal was to build a representation of a mangrove swamp that I had recently visited without referring to any imagery of it. I first considered what I remembered about the anxious feeling of that low-tide swamp. This was related somehow to the mental image of the manylimbed forms of the above-water root of the mangroves. I remembered also their symbolism for the local people as “the walking trees”. This prototype sculpture then emerged to generate these associations – anxiety, multi-limbed, walking/moving – rather than as a representation of a mangrove tree. This outcome helped me to understand that though a visual cue of the mangrove tree exists in my brain, its valence is stored in abstract terms like ‘walking/moving’, and fragments of the whole such as ‘multilimbed’. I was learning that the qualitative experience of my subject, nature, differed in my experience of it and my mental construction of it.

3.4.4 Church of the Hyperrreal. Video I intended here to model a small exhibit stand of defunct video-game technology in which nature was depicted. I was interested in the endurance of mental constructions (what do I remember) versus the ephemerality of fleeting experience fig. 3.4.4 Church of the Hyperreal (what was it like). Using material artifacts as memory triggers, such as Nintendo’s Game&Watch game Greenhouse, I filmed a short video which illustrated what mental state was created by this exhibit stand. To show


the difficulty in accessing isolated experiences, I layered footage and diagetic sound of hands playing the games against select readings of real-time media theory and music that was in my head at the time. Though at the original time of playing Greenhouse I was concerned primarily with the action of the game, my memory of it was now largely material – the feeling of pressing buttons rapidly, the form of the now defunct controller, and these memories were obscured by the salient chunks in my short-term memory.

3.4.5 Lily speaker. Sculpture I chose traditional sculpture materials to construct an organic form for an acoustic speaker. Interested in the sound of memories – the dislocated voices and melodies of another moment in time – I intended to construct an 8 foot flower form which people could look into and hear voices and sound effects which evoked the Arts & Crafts period. The act of peering into the ‘bowl’ would trigger the sounds and the enveloping canopy would disconnect the user from the outside environment. The work triggered associations for the viewers with a peace lily or inner-ear canal. Modeling the sculpture with clay materials allowed me to work towards a natural curvilinear floral form, where designing with vector-based or CAD software would have resulted in an architectural form. The large scale of the intended piece contributed to immersion.

3.4.6 Arts & Crafts exhibition space. Equivalent

fig. 3.4.5 Lily Speaker

My research into the English Arts and Crafts period led me to identify the main influential protagonists. These figures were inspirational to me, both in their ethics and praxis, but were unknown or forgotten by many of my peers in digital technology, and only skimmed over in art history texts. I sought to re-materialize their symbolic stature in the design field through an exhibition space. In order to confront the viewer with six figures from the 1890s and their philosophies, I had to find appropriately affective images and quotations. The movement existed at the beginning of the photographic era though, so historical source materials are scarce.


Those that do exist are ubiquitous – most books I consulted have the same picture of the Morris’ rush seat. My intention was to combine the approach of multi-channel video art with the layout of sacred geometry and the “temple idea” (Lethaby 5). I proposed a 30ft2 octagonal space with seven 8ft high scrim panels which featured over-scaled images of: Gertrude Jekyll, C.R. Ashbee, A.H. Mackmurdo, William Morris, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, Walter Crane and W.R. Lethaby. In the middle of the space an acoustic speaker stands in a pool of water, symbolizing memory, from which the sound clip quotations would emerge. As the user walks by Lethaby’s video portrait for example, she would hear a voice saying “good architecture is first and foremost about masterly structure and good workmanship – the well doing of what needs doing. The fig. 3.4.6 Arts & Crafts Exhibition Space necessary basis for all right religion, art and civilization.” She would be summoned to attention by these imposing figures, reflecting the moral imperatives their philosophies espoused. In proposing this exhibition space I consulted the short proposal film for The Franklin and Jefferson Exhibit that the Studio of Charles and Ray Eames issued. I emulated their combination approach of showing a video which incorporated the overview of the exhibit model – a meta representation that would be impossible at scale, and the user walkthrough – the experiential representation that is made possible by use of tiny cameras. I looked to build this exhibit in the wilderness to mirror the Arts & Crafts colonies.

3.4.7 Arts & Crafts Animated Portraits. Video. Pair Continuing the work in 3.4.6, I returned to the narrative of the Arts & Crafts movement and how it might be re-interpreted for the user in both a linear and emergent style.


fig. 3.4.7 Arts & Crafts Animated Portraits

The original significance of the art objects – rejection of classical form and return to craftsmanship – has been documented well, so in this work I opted to create video portraits of seven of these followers of John Ruskin. I constructed a setting for each video portrait, complete with headshot, backround, audio clip and ambient sound effects. I used the z axis and 2½D camera in After Effects to create movement for these static archival photographs. For a sound design, I recorded the voice-overs myself in a dry studio and then layered sound effects on top using Pro Tools to fill out the sensory experience. The result was an animation summary of the Arts and Crafts design principles, in which the viewer sees the faces that accompany the famous names and hears their messages situated in context.

3.4.8 3D semantic spaces. Installation. Pair I aimed first to meta-tag the research I had done into the Arts and Crafts movement – to create a visualized network of names, nouns, places and verbs. Drawing semantic maps on paper is an effective and quick method to navigate emergent data patterns, and shifting mental frameworks. I evaluated this network to identify key groupings and relationships (genealogy, apprenticeships, workshops, political ideas, travels). Using this technique I identified six main stories: a) The original story that is traditionally told of these principled crafts people and the beautiful decorative objects they made. b) The story of their influence on art from Ruskin in England to colonies in Germany, Austria and Hungary, to Scandinavia via World’s Fairs pavillions and consequently to North America through Saarinen and the Eameses. c) The story of the movement’s politics of labor and how the anti-capitalist sentiment furthered not only industrial rebellion in London, but notions of romantic nationalism in Europe, non-violent resistance in South Africa and colonial India and Christian renewal in Russia. d) The story of regimentation of practice in the Arts & Crafts colonies. Far from being communities of free-thinking artists, these failed utopias were moralist enclaves, who administrators


fig. 3.4.8 Semantic Spaces

governed in inherited affluence – a model of colonial empire. e) The story of the success of Arts & Crafts practitioners in America. The movement here yielded greater and long-lasting success by embracing the machine. Stickley, the Greenes and Wright defeated challenges from their British forerunners by operating under the rubric of affordable distribution (Morris’ principle). f) The story surrounding the Catskill region from the Hudson Valley school to the Arts and Crafts people and the psychedelic New York intellectuals and artists. I chose to combine the stories in b) and c) and materialize this semantic space into a volume of air using electrical cables of different lengths based on significance to the theme. The user could walk through this space and experience both the research process and how we build story. Through rather un-affective, the materialized semantic space allowed the user to understand the how language and narrative point-of-view can be interpreted.

3.4.9 Aerial panorama, New York State. Video Looking for the boundaries of the city and nature, I followed the idea of the meta representation or aerial view literally. After looking at the terrain surrounding New York on a contour map. I took a video camera on a flight over New York state. I took footage of the ground from the city out to the forests. It was clear that there was no explicit boundary at the border of the state park. This experiment was important in leading to further questions about how we define nature as a concept. Do people who live in these wildernesses use the word nature, or is it an urban term meaning ‘not-urban’. The Earthworks idea of site and non-site became relevant after watching these videos.

fig. 3.4.9 Aerial Panorama

3.4.10 BYRDCLIFFE ARTS COLONY SITE, WOODSTOCK, NY (TEST) This colony was built in 1903 during the original Arts & Crafts period in America. The founders looked to carry on the English movement on this side of the Atlantic and after consulting with their forerunners, constructed this Swiss cottage style colony. It carried on the tradition


of the other European Arts & Crafts colonies (Hungary, Germany) that emerged at the turn of the century. This colony is still in operation after 100 years, and I chose it as the site in nature to stand in opposition to the non-site of Brooklyn, NY. The objective of these site tests was to take digital devices out into the country to see what issues arose. The main concerns in this isolated forest were access to electricity and protection from rain and humidity. Since viewership would likely be low, I also developed a subsidiary concern with good documentation. I chose three possible sites for a build out – one a ruined formal garden near the fig. 3.4.10 Byrdcliffe Arts Colony Site main house, a second on the dislocated concrete tennis court, and a third deep in the forest itself. I took photos of the cottages themselves to see how the artists worked both in the past and present, and of other sculptural works currently exhibited on the grounds. I set the camera up on a natural stone bridge over a stream to capture the flow of leaves through the water. I intended to take these documents back to the city.

3.4.11 Sims avatar. Video. Pair With a site in Woodstock chosen and a non-site in Brooklyn, NY chosen, I intended in this pair of experiments to run controlled tests. I constructed a computer-generated avatar called “Lily” using the machinima technique, and animated her in a walking cycle. I projected this loop onto a residential window blind. From the street-side, where I shot documentary video late at night, she appeared to be a virtual inhabitant of the home. This real, but nonexistent character seemed “ghostly” – a slightly confusing, but emotionally valuable reality.

fig. 3.4.11 Sims Avatar


3.4.12 Mackmurdo representation Woodstock, NY. Installation. Pair For the second experiment of this pair I traveled out to the site with projectors and a mac mini. I animated a large portrait of the Arts & Crafts architect Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo in After Effects 2½ D to turn slightly against a neutral background. I projected this loop onto a 15x8 ft scrim that a strung on fishing wire between two trees. At night this black and white digital video portrait, hanging in mid-air in the mountain forests, created a highly affective fig. 3.4.12 Mackmurdo Representation response of ghostliness. On the range labeled “location” both of these experiments illustrated how ghostliness can be constructed with digital devices in the urban fabric and the wilderness.

3.4.13 Studio leaf shelter. Installation I intended to revisit the form of installation. Having brought natural materials and experience at the site back into the studio, I chose to build 8ft leaves from urban materials. I continued with the goal of user immersion and constructed a circle of eight fig. 3.4.13 Studio Leaf Shelter leaves which a user could view from the outside or enter and view from the inside. Using electrical ground cable and tracing paper to embody mimesis, I made a prototype of three of these artificial leaves. The forms would create a spiral which would be labyrinthine – the user feels that they are entering a forest inside the gallery.

3.4.14 Leaf shelter walkthrough. Video

fig. 3.4.14 Leaf Shelter Walkthrough


I envisioned the user experience of entering the leaf shelter space I constructed in work 3.4.13, as being one of approach and entering – like how we view the forest as a whole before we are immersed in it and surrounded by individual trees. I projected images and video of real leaves

onto the artificial leaves and, returning to the walkthrough video method, prototyped a user scenario for this installation. The experience of the piece from the outside was not extraordinary, but inside, due to the translucence of the artificial leaves, the sounds of the real leaves rustling and the pixelization of the scaled projections, the affect was high. I had difficulty at this point differentiating between the sense of dislocation that arises when immersed in digital media (in this case projections and disembodied audio) and the feeling of ghostliness as an emotional response.

3.4.15 Leaf Shelter, Woodstock, NY. Equivalent This work was successful because it gathered all the small accrued conclusions of the previous experiments into a whole. My intention here was to build a temporary installation at the site in Woodstock, NY which would create ghostliness, and to document this work in order to represent these artistic findings in an archive. I took the built leaf structure from the non-site and transported it out to the site. I arrived in the dark forest into wet snow and below zero temperatures. The site was wild, and the fragile studio materials quickly destabilized with the humidity. I ran extreme amounts of extension cable from the nearest outlet I could find in an outpost shed. Conscious of my intentions, I shot footage and took photographs through the nine hour build. There was difficulty with the materials as well as the equipment. I kept a video log of my morale, which ebbed and flowed as I struggled to make art blindly in the dark, fighting against the environment and fear. Persevering I met my success criteria after working with the site as opposed to against it, using wood and ice to reinforce the leaf shelter structure and my body to keep the digital equipment warm and dry. Using the forest colony as a palimpsest, I projected images from my research into from the Arts & Crafts movement onto the surfaces of the now hybridized leaf shelter, and captured photos and videos of the results. To construct archival artifacts that simulate the experience, I edited the footage and


fig. 3.4.15 Leaf Shelter

combined both the diagetic sounds of talking into the camera with frosty breath, and non-diagetic music that was appropriate for the recreation,or semi-dramatization of the work and affective response. The structure and process were equivalent to my vision and the documents accurately represented the work. This led me to understand the nuances of working with temporality in the construction of affect, but also raised new questions about constructing technology that is in harmony with nature, rather than in an attempt to conquer it.

3.4.16 Real plant enclosure. Installation. Pair

fig. 3.4.16 Real Plant Enclosure

I explored the difficulties of accessing nature in an “authentic” form. In this pair of studio works that concentrated on images of nature, I intended to return to the shelter of the studio and the two dimensionality of the screen. In this first work I placed a real potted plant in a cylindrical tube of aluminum screen sheeting and built a structure around it using steel building guides and glass blocks. I added artificial leaves constructed from pliable shielded copper wire, molded to the form of the real leaves and lit the sculpture with LED lighting from underneath and on top. I aimed here to get at the drama of the urban consideration of natural: difficult to access, a beacon of beauty that we observe in a controlled way, and tailored to suit our ornamental fantasies.

3.4.17 natural Brooklyn. Video. Pair Working on the other side of the spectrum of “image”, from real to virtual, in the second work of this pair I proposed to make a short video illustrating how even nature in a city is a constructed phenomenon. Other than Law-Olmstead’s Prospect Park, Brooklyn is a section of Long Island which is covered with buildings. The park itself, even with its sweeping meadows and long ‘nature trails’, is


fig. 3.4.17 Natural Brooklyn

also a construction. In the midst of the park there is a small copse of Brooklyn’s original forest. After having walked through this, finding the experience largely artificial due to the sounds of the roads, polluted air, and well-trodden trails, I returned to the internet to seek a more authentic version of nature – plants local to Brooklyn, NY. Municipal botanist Marielle Anzelone posted locations of naturally occurring local plants, and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden posted images of lab specimens. I found these plants and then made virtual representations them for a short video sequence entitled “Natural Brooklyn”. This video, though aesthetically pleasing, felt dislocated from my experience of the real city – brick terraces and razor wire fences around industrial shops – even though it was representing real local plant-life. I found the explorations to suggest that both my experience of nature itself, and documents of it, failed to represent my mental construct of nature.

3.4.18 Material Adhesion. Test I chose ten different adhesive methods in this test. Addressing some of the issues of binding and construction that arose in work 3.4.13, I was looking to create an architecturally sound organic structure fig. 3.4.18 Material Adhesion from malleable shielded electronic cable, I systematically set up trials of different types of glue, twine and heat to determine the qualities of the adhesion at a 90º joint. The intention was to create a sculptural work, so the criteria were a combination of aesthetics and adhesive force. Two unusual methods proved successful, which were a hybrid method of electrical tape and narrow gauge metal wiring for support and tightly wound mason twine. Both used a series of circles, which simulated nicely the growth rings of a tree.

3.4.19 Mimetic Tree. Equivalent To understand if we need consistency and wholeness to respond emotionally to a partial object, I constructed a series of wires into a tree-like armature. In this work my

fig. 3.4.19a Mimetic Tree


fig. 3.4.19b Mimetic Tree

intention was to build a mimetic tree that felt organic and flexible like a real tree from the same mass-manufactured materials I had been using in works 3.4.13 and 3.4.16. The trunk and branches were built by adhering rings of wire to four rods at each cardinal point. The circles were reduced concentrically along the branch. Wires were twisted and shaped while they were being attached, but before they were adhered. In this way I was able to create a realistic feeling of kinetic tension of a tree branch. I documented the building of the work with photographs. The resulting sculpture was a partial object – only the suggested form of a tree. This armature was aesthetically and formally equivalent to my sketches and vision. I showed the pictures of the sculpture to the same people that I had shown the sketches to, and found they had a much greater affective response due to its materialization. I then covered the armature with scrim fabric to project images onto. Using a tiny wireless camera, I sent video of plant-life from a garden outside the studio to a receiver in the studio which I patched into the projector. The suggested form of the tree was further fragmented by the pixelated images of real leaves sent through (sometimes pleasingly broken-up) radio frequencies to the projector. This work illustrated for me that mimesis can be achieved through partial objects, fragmented forms and digitized video transmissions.

3.4.20 Ghostly sculpture. Equivalent Taking the concept of suggested materiality to its logical conclusion, with this work I intended to illustrate convincingly the feeling of ghostliness. Using the tree-like sculpture from work 3.4.19, I first shone fig. 3.4.20a Ghostly Sculpture LED flashlights through glass blocks to cause refracted light patterns against the tree and on the white wall behind it. The resulting images, both during the


experience and in the documents, created a feeling of an intrinsic quality of the suggested tree that is not normally visible. The process was simply optical, but by manipulating light I was now intervening closely with perception. I continued to explore this phenomenon. Setting the video camera up to record the wall, I shone light directly onto the structure and moved around the tree, creating shadows of the partial-object that changed in shape, perspective and scaled in accordance with my movements. The video recorded only the moving shadows (not the object itself). This was different from a shadow theatre technique where the light source is stationed and the performer moves, here I was moving and the tree was standing still. People who viewed the video and stills from this work found it to be aesthetically pleasing, but were also anxious when I mentioned that there was nothing in the images, that it was simply a representation of my own movement against the more slowly moving (still) tree. I understood a partial answer to the question about digital devices and nature – that humans and their technology are moving within nature rather than against it. It also seemed that parallax motion might contribute to how we narrativize our sense of location. If a media screen presents a reality to us which is immaterial, but which we perceive to be material, the ensuing emotional response could include ghostliness and dislocation.

3.4.21 Infra-red currents. Test I intended here to identify what qualities of nature exist that are not visible, and what counterparts there might be in fig. 3.4.21 Infra-Red Currents the city. I chose the topic of electricity to return to my findings in site works 3.4.12 and 3.4.15 concerning the limits of the grid. Since we can only visualize electricity’s passage, I ran these tests to determine


fig. 3.4.20b Ghostly Sculpture

if I could further alter our perception of an object by enabling the digital device to ‘reveal’ something that was not previously visible – the alternating current. Digital cameras are sensitive to infra-red wavelengths, so I used IR LEDs and long-term exposed photos to symbolize energy flow. The resulting images seemed like a technical gimmick rather than works generating affect.

3.4.22 Electrified Tree. Installation. Pair

fig. 3.4.22 Electrified Tree

I installed bulbs, flashlights and LEDS within the armature of the mimetic tree from work 3.4.19 with the intention of installing this outside at night in an empty construction lot near the studio. I used the electrical cable of the structure itself to pass the current, emulating the energy transfer that occurs in photosynthesis. The familiarity of the incandescent light seemed to change the suggested partial-object into an organic light fixture which required darkness to generate any kind of emotional response.

3.4.23 Media worship. Video. Pair On the range of light, which I set up in order to carry out the second work in this pair, I illuminated the partial object from the outside. Instead of direct or soft lighting though I chose to represent one of the findings from work 3.4.20 – the human desire to construct technology in deference to nature. I intended to do this using narrative fragments. To represent the ephemerality of media, I returned to the solid-state television set used in work 3.4.4 tuned to a blueish static signal on the UHF band. I covered the armature with aluminum mesh and raised the tree onto a plastic half-sphere fig. 3.4.23 Media Worship and so that the screen would reflect back at itself. I shot footage of the work from a low close-up, where the media is foregrounded, and gradually moved the camera up and away so as to see its diminuitive position within the much larger representation of nature. The video cultivated a sense of dislocation, which was heightened by the darkness.


3.4.24 Colored Water pump. Test In this test I planned to visualize the passage of energy within the partial-object using a water pump and ¼” plastic tubes. To highlight the circulating water, I dropped in food coloring by pipette and filmed the results. Later I created the same flow system on to the scale of the previous installation works (9ft), to see how quickly the coloring distributed itself and how much power was needed to lift the colored water vertically. fig. 3.4.24 Colored Water Pump I also tested adding drops of color to an already flowing system but the shift in hue was too slow to notice. Intertwining the tubes of water with electrical lamp wiring created a pleasing potential danger and the affect of anxiety.

3.4.25 Traces & Ghostliness. Equivalent My intention here was to create a work for a white-box gallery space which produced ghostliness (as far as I have understood its construction). I reflected on the findings of the series of trials across the different ranges and incorporated the four instances of equivalence. Twelve partial-objects –suggested tree trunks – hung in a circle from the ceiling. Each object was wrapped in black weed-control turf and aluminum screen material, and through the middle I hung lampwire with green bulbs. This immersive ring struck the moment on the representation range between meta and experiential – we can see nature as an observable object or as superset. In the middle of the circle on the ceiling is projector which pointed down to the floor. The content of the projection was a sequence of fragmented magneticresonance image sections of my brain, colored according to thermal activity. I chose these images to represent how perception is key to locating myself within nature, and the moment on the range of mimesis between digital pixilation (projections, MRI) and suggested form (real brain). Descending from the middle of the ceiling and extending down towards the bowl of water was an armature of a tree root system, suggesting the grasping activity of organic life. This


also represented my findings on the range of materiality – between bodiliness and ghostliness. At the center on the floor I intended to include a bowl of green water containing a pump. The water was lifted via small plastic tubes ten feet into the air, split through the twelve hanging partial-objects and returned to the bowl. This transfer of energy from kinetic to potential represented the moment on the temporality range between a static archive (basin) and the ephemerality of changing technology (water).

fig. 3.4.25 Traces & Ghostliness


4 EVALUATION 4.1 METHODS This series of works was not pre-planned. I selected nature as a subject, asked a set of research questions, chose art installation and video as method of analysis and set about designing these works with the aim of deepening my understanding of the questions. Though trained as a psychologist, I chose not to use scientific method here (hypothesis, experiment, conclude) and operate under the rubric of art research – working in both a studio and the forest with a certain set of materials and digital devices. This method allowed me to practice the method of iterative design – create a plan, execute it, document the results and then begin again with a new plan that incorporates the failures/successes of the last iteration. In this way, I was able to answer the research questions I set out with, sometimes generating an answer and a new set of questions, deepening the level of questioning. I was working as an artist as well as a designer, which necessitated another factor – a period of flow or open-minded action. It is ideal during a period of artistic activity not be thinking, but to be working quickly and intuitively. Later, as Dale Chilhuly tells us in Gardens and Glass, it is useful to reflect on that period of activity and say “what have I done? what is it that I have made here?” For example, in work 3.4.13, I intended to build a leaf shelter, so I began with a rough pencil drawing and left the details to the artistic moment, rather than executing a schematic. My evaluation of the piece when complete led me to take the work out into nature, which I definitely did not image before the trial. In this sense, an art/design methodology, rather than a scientific one, allowed for diversions from intentions and the imaginative thinking integral to art/design practice. The ranges worked as analytic criteria for the works. I was interested in exploring mimesis, materiality and representation, and other sub-topics developed as a result of evaluating other works, for example location, narrative and light. The idea of plotting the works along these ranges did not formulate for me until I had produced


enough work that patterns started to emerge. At this point I realized that while many more questions were arising, some useful knowledge was being accrued as well. For example while immersed in the cold and dark during the building experience of work 3.4.15, on returning to the editing room to cut a video, I gained valuable perspective on the importance of temporality and the artistic process. People asked “what was the experience like”, rather than “what was the form or content”. They were interested in looking at the documents of the build not just to see if a beautiful object was produced, but to get a feeling for what my experience of making art was like – what words did I use to describe the activity? what emotions came over me? how long did it take? what adversities were there? The knowledge that I was gaining was about how I work and how I tell the story of an artist, in addition to the art itself. Paired works occurred along the ranges in parallel to each other. These twin works helped me to define conceptual limits and also to see how each of the two media I was working with brought different results. For example, on the spectrum of “narrative” the Arts and Crafts video (work 3.4.7) told a traditional story, where it’s paired work, the installed semantic space (work 3.4.8) created an immersive experience of the same content. The five equivalent works, which brought together both installation and video in the work itself or in its documentation, were benchmark pieces in my own learning and research intention. For example, in work 3.4.6, the exhibition model was a combination of video art and architectural form, but both were developed in tandem. I began with a 6 foot video screen and then decided on the approximate structure which would support it. In constructing the model, I was questioning the meta representation of these historical figures, and the placement of the video within the structure led to the idea of having six of these figures as video-busts. Incorporating a previous work – the acoustic lily speaker - I was thinking primarily of the experience for the user.


4.2 DESIGN GOALS & QUESTIONS I aimed in this series to create an immersive space, one which the user could enter into, which would be enclosed and engaging. In the final work in the series called “traces and ghostliness�, which was installed in at the Chelsea Art Museum, New York NY, I hung headphones in the middle of the space to encourage gallery visitors to enter. Most people I observed entered the space, put on the headphones, looked around at the 12 enclosing light structures, down at the video of the brain MRI and stayed for perhaps 2 minutes before exiting the space. This was a successful interaction and a fulfillment of my aim. My secondary goal was to illustrate the tension between what I thought of at the beginning of the research as the urban/nature divide. My work helped me to understand that the idea of nature is an urban construct, and that when we look for it or try to define it, it becomes elusive. However it still is a valuable and useable concept, and looking at the limits of the electricity grid seems to be the closest definition I could determine. This tension was investigated under the rubric of locatability, of which I also asked if digital devices decrease access to nature. Digital tools are indoor tools, and are linked via power cord or batter-charger cord to the grid. Access to nature from the city was limited more by resources and time than by digital tools. I did not need to be connected to the cell network or to the Internet in my work, but any further works in nature which depend on these technologies will need to occur within these access zones. Digital art is limited to an urban or semi-urban environment due to the boundary of the national grid and its outlets. Electricity, represented primarily by light but also projectors and video, was present in almost all my works. The tertiary goal of illustrating design history, and the context and impact of technology was largely unmet. These questions require research into the history of technology, which would have been undertaken at the resource cost of the time it took to physically make the works. Furthermore, my subject was nature rather than technology, so as the works continued this tertiary goal became displaced. Leaving the gallery space helped me to understand the difficulty in building in the elements and the need to be situated in nature over time to


learn what is a methodology in itself. Working outside under the pressure of time, also brought to the forefront the need to design for the eventual documentation. I sketched what I intended to build, but as the works progressed I began to change my sketches and ideas so that good photographs and video would be easy to capture. Images are the primary artifact for a non-permanent installation, but also the new media art image seems now to be equal to the artwork. On the Internet, a work is represented only by its photograph, so I began to work with photographs in mind. I did come to understand that technology is an ephemeral manifestation of our desire to conquer or control nature, and in this sense any piece of technology is innately ephemeral – a moment in the passage of time.

4.3 DOMAIN In looking at the Arts and Crafts movement as a foundation of interdisciplinary design practice, I have found that analyzing a problem using several methods (both video and installation) yielded a more varied outcome. Working in nature itself allowed me to get a broader perspective on the how affect is constructed, especially when returning to recreate it in virtual environments. Frustrated with working exclusively in the virtual world, a return to the material one - working with perception, light and experience, brought more joy to my practice of design, another of Morris’ principles. Central to my discoveries here have been the limiting of hours spent in front of a computer screen. The video and new media artists that I cited worked with computers as tools to execute specific tasks (editing, coding) rather than as a primary medium of experimentation. Screen based environments can be intensely immersive, but also addictive and fantastical. There is a break with reality when we enter and leave them – much like in the tradition of cinema. However, in trying to create a physically immersive environment, whether in nature or the art gallery, I found more productive yields from manipulating materials than from constructing a video sequence. This is largely because the screen-based experience is centered around behavior – game playing, archival practice (surfing the Internet), or factory behavior (using software) – for which we suspend normal perceptive rules. Land artists relinquished the


rules of the white-box art gallery in order to understand how art can be a moment in life, such as a walk, rather than just the Apollonian observation of a piece. I also found that, like the conceptual artists, in working with materiality I was drawn to those aspects of experience which were related to perception, intervening in how our minds process sensation.

4.4 AFFECT Thinking about how a work is perceived led me directly to understand that we are experiencing a different kind of affect in the post-videogame age. We are not simply dislocated, but rather that we reconstruct traces of these dislocated ideas and then imbue the reconstruction with the kind of emotionality that we normally reserve for material things. The affects are usually listed as: joy, interest, surprise, anger, disgust/ dissmell, distress, fear and shame. Different and more subtle affects have been classified by merging two of more together. In the ghostly sculpture (work 3.4.20) I was not intending to create an illusion, but rather to investigate how we constructed materiality in the brain. The armature-object felt present to the touch and to the eye, but by altering the light source and consistency, I was able to remove the object itself and still generate those feelings. I called this ghostliness. Ghostliness, a neutral emotion, seems to lie somewhere between surprise, joy and fear. I was still using the mimetic tree, but now more aggressively engaging with my own perceptive and cognitive brain pathway. What was this emotional response being constructed in response to? I thought this was simply an “aha!” moment – a breakthrough in my own learning after many trials, but documents of this work seemed to generate the same affect in others who knew nothing of my intentions or previous work. This may be in part due to the law of closure as outlined in gestalt psychology which posits that we perceptually close up, or complete, objects that are not, in fact, complete ( Many of the works documents were only fragments of the artistic experience, but people could understand the complete narrative without difficulty. The fragmented materiality of the work itself – as a partial object, or digitized artifact – and the ephemerality of the experience combine to


create ghostliness. People can feel ghostliness through encountering images, videos, new media art objects, technology, kinetic sculpture and through screen-based video games. The construction of ghostliness requires: immersion – total stimulation of many senses and blockage of external stimuli; potential or real movement – the feeling of a change in the position of the elements illustrating the passage of time; digitally programmed technology – particularly in an unexpected context; the suggestion of a recognizable form – an easily recognizable framework onto which the viewer can project or interpret many meanings – or trace fragments of a narrative which serve the same function. This mix of the observed work and the immersion in the performance of the work created a similar if not more powerful emotional response to the way we engage digital media and gaming.

4.5 IMPLICATIONS During these experiments I have uncovered this new emotional state. I understand this feeling to be related to new media experiences because design is now concerned with manipulating virtual environments and experiences to create emotional reactions in users. To this end, it is important that we investigate what kind of affective responses new media have produced in the past and what we are aiming for in the future. I have used the idea of a video-game because this Dionysic experience is often compared to cinema. In narrative adventure games like Ico, or Legend of Zelda we identify strongly with the character and experience their emotions in a dramatic plot, but it is still a game where the user is making a choice to complete the narrative rather than a watching a completed film. The player becomes emotionally involved in what is essentially a branching choice-tree. The gamer though is completing the narrative fragments in their mind and, if the game is designed well, responding affectively to the story. This gamer though, or new media person of any kind - a video editor, a cellphone text writer, a robot user – has now become accustomed to this emotion that results from interacting with a virtual world, ghostliness, and comes to an artwork expecting a similar experience. Like in ARGs (alternate reality games) and in William Gibson’s book Pattern Recognition (where the characters assemble a dramatic plot


from short footage clips from the Internet), users expect to interrogate a structured work in order to construct their own experience. In modern art, the viewer has long been completing the art object. Now however, I would argue that the user is so used to making choices in dynamic systems every day - the object itself is has become far less paramount to emotional experience than the first person experience of the object. A good new media work now has to be an architecture for a rich first person experience. It has to be crafted as to have many possible interpretations, so the user may choose - and narrate their choice to others in an anecdotal way. The object of the piece exists largely as a personalized experience to be talked about. Understanding that new media users are looking for an experience rather than an object to observe, in creating works we can orient ourselves towards an immersive, interrogatable structure. In engineering that emotional experience we can focus on ghostliness.

4.6 RECOMMENDATIONS The work undertaken in this research thesis is primarily theoretical. I have made some discoveries about how affect is constructed using installation and video, and developed a deeper understanding of nature and urban spaces. As we are building further complexity into our virtual worlds, ghostliness becomes fascinating, and further work looking at its properties would be beneficial. As designers we are taking up new technology into our schematics and as artists we are looking at how technology is influencing the global quality of life in our works. Often we are working together on interdisciplinary teams with social scientists to bring our work into the social sphere. Exploring affect, a concept developed in both psychology and criticism, as an artist can be liberating as we can design and build rapidly and without the restrictions of formal inquiry. However, partnering with psychologists to test this theory scientifically might yield interesting and statistically significant results. In the new media art field, creating representational work using fragmentary or trace frameworks to suggest form seems to mirror the experience we have in every day life piecing together our narrative. Making art in nature with digital tools will require the solving of the energy grid


issues. Moving towards remote field power will require embracing alternative sources like wind, photovoltaic solar and hydroelectrical and combining them with electrochemical batteries to create a hybrid grid-independent portable energy source. Digital art needs still needs to reconnect with the land.


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