Systems Trilogy (2009)

MaxMSP, Computer, Camera, Stereo Sound, Video Projector

I. A Swift, Fevered Language

The author William S. Burroughs famously proclaimed that "language is a virus". Favouring the associative and fragmentary over a totalized aesthetic form, this interactive work inverts that statement, such that a virus, in this case SARS, is reduced to the language of its genetic sequence.

In this work, viewers create "mutations" in real time by interacting with a projection of the SARS sequence, which plays out across an 8 x 4 array. With each mutation, the visuals degrade further and further. If there is no interaction for a period of two minutes, the work reverts to its original quality.

An audio lecture delivered by Burroughs plays while the sequence is in the process of being visually transcribed. When interaction is detected, and mutation takes place, the audio is re-sequenced, effectively "cutting up" his lecture (a reference to the author's most prominent writing style, the "cut-up technique" developed with Brion Gysin).

The work is an entry point into an examination of what systems - and their codification - represent when considered at the most fundamental level of operation, as well as the effect that chance or other variables have in the disturbance of so-called predetermined/programmed environments.

II. Study for The Digital Denaturation on L.

"Study for The Digital Denaturation of L." is a large scale projection with accompanying audio component. The narrative associated with the subject of the work is such that this individual has undergone a medical procedure which has left significant scarring along her left forearm. In an immediate sense, the piece attempts to reflect the intangible feelings of dislocation or fragmentation one can experience as their body recovers from illness or surgery. At the same time, the work examines issues of system failure by taking a seemingly coherent, functional system and breaking it down into multiple finite components for closer consideration, which invariably reveals flaws.

The single-channel projection is composed of 100 equally-sized frames distributed across a 10x10 grid, the contents of which are abstracted details of the body of the subject - "L". With a great deal of visual activity, based on a programmed logic, these frames repeatedly group and regroup themselves across the projection in both organized and random fashions, as still images and/or as moving ones. The work runs in a continuous, non-repeating (visual) loop, running off real-time programming which uniquely offsets the above mentioned frames with each new loop.

III. Template for Re-Calibrating My Grandmother (In The Petrochemical Era)

This interactive work is an abstraction of a personal narrative, as I watch my grandmother deal with Alzheimer's related dementia.

The viewer is presented with imagery which simulates activity across a neural network (of sorts). In the absence of any interactive presence around the work, the activity will be limited and vague. When a presence is detected, there is a heightened - but still highly fragmented, unpredictable and inconsistent - degree of activity displayed.

Characteristics, such as colour, and properties of behaviour are recognized and fed back to the viewer. While it is not possible for the work to "recognize" you, i.e. to reflect your image, it is probable that a connection can be forged through mutual engagement and stimulation. The audio component of the work alternates through progressive cycles of deterioration and reinvigoration.

This piece continues an investigation into the nature of systems, but here one which is in the process of failing. In tandem with a personal impetus, the jumping-off point for this work is the evocative nature of the term "grandmother cell". This is a hypothetical neuron that responds only to a highly complex, specific and meaningful stimulus, such as the image of one's grandmother.

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