Correspondence is a 70-minute, live-video production, created in collaboration with Tony Massett and Grace Bridgman. It revolves around two stilted and strange romantic letters written a hundred years apart. We interact with pre-recorded and live streaming video to create an evolving understanding of the letter writers’ identities and motives.
“Some time ago, nearly two weeks, you sent me a postal card saying that you were going to write to me that night, but unfortunately, up to this date, no letter has come to hand. It seems to me that you are not at all careful in promises you make and break. If someone asked you to accompany them on a stroll or theatre engagement on a certain night and you promised you would and then didn’t, it would hardly be a very good recommendation for you, but what is the difference?”
The first of the letters was written to a young woman (my grandmother) by an older man in 1915 and reveals an unbalanced and inappropriate longing expressed as belligerent complaint. The sender’s identity remains a mystery. Exactly one hundred years later, another letter arrived:
“For a long time I like you, and every day I see how you get out of the house. Every day I look at you from the window of his house and cannot seem to have the courage to come to you. I badly want to meet you. I came up with the idea to record a video clip for you. I know that after watching the movie you immediately recognize me.”
This second letter, in contrast, flatters and entices the reader. Its origin is suspect but it promises online intimacy by leveraging voyeurism and fetishizing surveillance. Both letters use a formal and precise tone: one to suggest superiority through exaggerated language, the other to feign naïve innocence through broken English.
This 30-minute meditative film is a reflection on consciousness and community: the things that bind us to others and keep us apart. It was shot in Jungle Village, a training facility maintained by the New Tribes Mission for preparing missionaries for overseas work. The two characters, while clearly in some kind of relationship, exist as kinds of figments in each others imaginations.
The Jesuit missionaries in my own family struck me as exceedingly kind and conscientiousness individuals and it is very hard for me to reconcile that image with the culturally destructive role that missionaries have played in indigenous societies throughout the world. The chasm that separates religious and intellectual proponents at both ends of the spectrum in North America is one instance of the mystery surrounding the difference that our tenuous understanding of consciousness and community generates.
I am very grateful to Michael Tweed (camera) and Sonja Posod (my co-performer) for their commitment, trust and interpretive talents. PJ Dean-Thornton sang the song that I wrote and Tony Massett contributed his improvisations on the sax to the original music.
A group of folk musicians strum and pluck and croon away to a familiar ditty while viewers using cell phone swap players and instruments to create their own arrangement. Premiered at Nuit Blanche in Toronto, where over 3,000 viewers called in to re-arrange the musicians and the song!
“I chose to showcase folk music because of its politics of participation and inclusion. Folk was started by people who felt like they had something to say, who wanted to get involved. As a genre, it puts less emphasis on technique, and makes music more accessible.
“Everyone is getting creative with digital media these days, so I see media art as the new folk art.
“We’re increasingly surrounded by large public screens, and I’m hoping that not all of these will be advertising. People should have access to them, be able to play with them and inject their own content. I want people to leave feeling empowered, and that they might want to try something like this on their own.” (from interview with Jordan Bimm)
Three drawings, each of which has a video image projected onto it.
The process of creating this work is revealed in its own presentation. I am recorded on video, working in the studio to create these images.
The gestures captured in the lines of the drawing, and the motivating characteristics in these figures, float loosely somewhere below the surface. Defiance, unity, stubbornness, and self-conscious fear put these characters into a situation: an ongoing narrative that might have happened just before or just after the one which was captured in this particular drawing.
After three years serving as an elected politician, I made Speech to reflect the strange role that language plays in the public arena. The on-screen character silently mouths a campaign speech, while an original sound track addresses the tension between being and appearance.The sound is played on headphones. The image is projected onto a raised circular screen, six feet is diameter.
Tentacles is a collaboration between Geoffrey Shea, Rob King and Michael Longford. We set out to create an ambient play environment in this public space. It was intended to be always on – something to be discovered within the city. Without a beginning or an end, participants could join in or leave casually.
From within the crowd, viewers can step onto the stage of the projected environment – to display themselves in action, engaged with other virtual creatures. Movements and gestures become part of this spontaneous public performance. Like on a dance floor, where rules about decorum, engagement with strangers and physical contact are suspended.
Sin or transgression is examined as a technology for shaping human action. On a certain level it is a useful tool for smoothing social interaction and guiding us towards improvement, but typically it requires a huge element of faith—faith that questions we cannot answer can be dealt with by other means, that ambiguous guideposts can point us towards a destination far over the horizon.
Man + Sin is a triptych of images that are much larger than the screen on which they are displayed. Users navigate the images, exploring beyond their edges and discovering sounds and motifs that parallel the act of structured discovery in life.
Presented as part of CODE Live 1 and located in one of the creative exhibition spaces at the Centre for Digital Media, Great Northern Way Campus, PLAY: The Hertzian Collective is a musical sound sculpture created with projected video images and controlled collectively by viewers with their mobile phones. Viewers receive instructions on how to play by dialling a toll free phone number, and by pressing buttons on their keypads, which enable them to take control of different parts of the action.
In a phrase coined by the artist, The Hertzian Collective refers to the intersections that are possible when the musical tones and radio frequencies (both measured in hertz) that underpin this artwork are controlled or played by the ad hoc collective of individuals who happen to be standing in front of it at a given moment, cell phones in hand.
Inviting and participatory, the work encourages viewers to play with it. Visual and sound rhythms and sequences are created by the players and exploration quickly gives way to jamming and collaboration as each person realizes that they are sharing the creation of this interactive artwork with other viewers standing nearby. Structured like a primitive musical instrument or an elaborate clockwork toy.
A tiny character struggles to relay a poetic text from a wall mounted video display. Speaking of hope and despair, she is overwhelmed by the static emanating from a nearby, rotating radar antenna. It scrambles her signal and garbles her train of thought.
‘She poured her energy into the cracks and crevices that surround a life…’
‘He spread his sharp brittle soul thinly, in every direction till he blended into the world…’
‘He said: I’m working for pay and for pride and for you in fields we’ll harvest tomorrow…’
‘The phone rings twenty-five times, grating on her nerves. At the other end, the caller sinks in desperation….’
Cell Phone Xylophone was originally developed as part of PORTAGE, an artist and designer driven research project, led by Geoffrey Shea and Paula Gardner in the Mobile Experience Lab. It allows participants using a simple cell phone to control and play a networked, mechanical instrument. Created with Rob King, Ken Leung, Peter Todd, Leighanne Pahapill, Patricio Davila and Jennie Ziemiannin.
Viewers simply dial a toll free number and are then prompted to enter key presses. The patterns they enter correspond to arpeggios and loop several times. Their phone connects to a VOIP service which delivers their key presses to an Asterisk server which relays them to the control machine wired up to the xylophones custom controller board. This version was presented at MobileFest in Sao Paolo, Brazil. See more at www.mobilelab.ca.