Wednesday, March 18, 2015
ARTS 308 - Body Extension Sculpture Post Mortem
Last Thursday I exhibited my body extension sculpture to the public. Besides my peers in class, a few children from a social program and some video cameramen came to try out our sculptures.
I was inspired to make this sculpture from an idea I had about having an extendable hood that let you use your phone in dark places like a movie theater (and also from my wife frequently telling me to put my phone down and pay attention). I thought about how technology controls our attention while tempting us with mass connectivity. It's as if portable technology has attached itself permanently to us, and immediate person-to-person interaction is becoming extinct.
One of the biggest design challenges was shape language and communicating the austerity of technology as it fuses with the organic self. Using foam board, I crafted a box which represents the universally rectangular shapes our portable technologies come in. The wires, representing physical electric connection and also "mass connectivity" offered by the World Wide Web and social media, are uniform as they leave the box. As they travel towards the viewer, the shape language of the wires become more organic. They spread, twist, curve, and interweave in a synthetic network of vessels and veins. The cloth around the mask section runs along the naturally organic curve of the viewer's face.
The all-black design accomplished my goal of creating a sculpture entity that was oppressive and cold. The sight of the wire network attaching itself to the viewer's face brings to mind images from cyberpunk visionaries such as H.R. Giger. To me, the sculpture became a symbol of our present relationship with portable technology but also a model for a possible physical relationship with technology in the future. My choice of materials was critical in creating such a symbol.
I would display this piece in a public gallery and have it either performed by someone or permanently attached to the face of something like a mannequin. There was still the option, however, of inserting one's iPhone into the box and viewing, with absolute focus of attention, our own portable technology. I would have liked to have developed ways for viewers to put on the sculpture with an iPhone inserted, assuming viewers wouldn't destroy my sculpture in the process.
From what I could tell, the overall reaction towards my sculpture was curiosity as it stood alone. The curiosity turned to repulsion at the sight of the sculpture's parasitic relationship with the viewer/performer - most agreed that it was "creepy". I feel that this reaction reinforced the purpose of the sculpture and that my design and material choices contributed to the reaction.
The children who visited the class didn't seem to understand the sculpture, although they were curiously less afraid of it. I'll admit, I felt apprehensive showing them such a negative sculpture.
If I could do this sculpture over again, I may have crafted a longer tunnel of wires connecting the box to the viewer's mask. With budget constraints, I could only afford to make the tunnel/tube about 18 inches long. Perhaps I could have developed a way to attach the box to a wall and have the viewer walk up to it and peer through the mask.
These limitations did not ruin the project, however. I thought the need for the performer to hold the box in their hands reinforced the image of portable technology that demands not only to absorb our attention and focus, but also to occupy our hands.
The foam board box is rudimentary and I could have spent more time and care making a more sleek-looking box.