I am always looking to create a spectacle and find ways to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. I add interactivity to my artwork as a way to introduce confrontation, play, and fragmentation for participants. Overall, my interest is in understanding the human element when the physical world is combined with the technological. How do we make sense of it? How do we interact with it? In our engagement with these types of experiences, how do we interpret our relationship to the technological and how can we adapt to this new extension of ourselves?
My research and creative activity can be followed through three stages of evolution. The first stage could be described as being one-directional; that is, people viewed the artwork, perhaps thought about it, and then continued on without any additional interaction. The second stage involved combining the physical with the digital as well as the introduction of interactivity, resulting in the viewer transitioning from passive consumer to active participant. My current perspective continues to involve interactivity but I have now begun layering in additional elements that focus the interactivity on elements like play, confrontation, and fragmentation.
In my earlier work, I focused on interests such as life experiences, science, popular culture, and politics. My art was often presented in the form of physical objects, such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, and films. As evidenced by my piece, “Red, White, & Blue-Bot,” I was moved by the ideals of the American dream and how society continues to pursue it even though the dream is in a constant state of decay. Using 20,000 blue bottle flies that I hatched, harvested, and preserved, I constructed a 40” x 50” American flag that was then entombed in a large acrylic case as a way of referencing history as a contributing factor to the decay. The loaded symbol of the American flag draws you in as the spectacle unfolds, during which you realize that the flag is constructed from row after row of meticulously placed blue bottle flies.
The second point of evolution in my creative activity centered on the question, how do I relate to technology? How do I sculpt and move technology, which is nebulous and intangible? At the same time that this questioning of technology was happening, I was also beginning to deconstruct my approach to storytelling. The outputs of my stories became less linear and transitioned into something that was consumed in a much more fragmented state. I also became acutely aware of the hybridization that was taking place when all of these concepts and elements were combined. This led me to a broader understanding of how the spaces that technology permeates begin to take on a fragmented existence. Recognition of this evolution profoundly affected the focus of my art as well as my art creation process. I began collaborating with a group of academics on an idea for an immersive experience that would allow me to further research the possibilities of combining all of these thoughts, elements, and interactions. Through this experience, I engaged in world-building, storytelling, episodic filmmaking, real-time performance, LARPing (live-action role-playing), and experience design. Situated within a zombie apocalypse and focused on survival in catastrophic situations, we placed participants in a virtual environment that allowed for a custom experience that was unique to them. The result of this collaborative project was an immersive experience that we eventually called a M.O.L.I.E. (Multimedia Online Learning Immersive Experience). It also utilized interactivity through social media platforms, content management systems, and content that was created by the participants. The experience garnered six American Advertising Awards- Gold and Silver ADDY Awards as well as recognition by popular culture personalities like Conon O’Brien and online newspapers and magazines such as Teen Vogue and the Daily Mail as one of the most unique college courses around the world. Creating this experience quickly made me aware of the impactful nature this type of hybridization could have on participants as well as the societal culture at large.
Most recently, I have begun to notice an additional common technological denominator in all of my work. As a result, I have shifted the focus of my work towards this continually evolving awareness and relationship with all things technological. This transition has created many uncomfortable moments of realization, especially that my work and understanding of self are changing into something that is layered with complexity and not easily understood. How is technology integrated into our lives? How has it ushered in a rapid political and cultural evolution that has resulted in our current fragmented existence? A representation of this shift is a piece titled, “Influences of The Sympathetic Nervous System.” Viewers become participants as they pushed arcade buttons on a physical interface to change a story that is being told by a large projected face constructed from videos that are submitted anonymously by people online. Due to the way the physical interface is presented, participants are compelled to press the buttons and change the face by loading new videos into the various parts of the face, thus customizing the art experience and becoming an active participant in the art creation process. This piece not only reflected my interest in how we engage with and relate to technology, but also the idea of our lineage and stories being told and consumed in a fragmented state.
I often imagine the rise of a technological world as an ominous cloud that until recently existed only on the horizon. However, that distant future is now a contemporary context that brings with it an often uneasy existence and an unknown future. Technology will continue to permeate all spaces and fragment our existence, but will this make for a better world? Will it become smarter and evolve into something that opens up new intellectual possibilities, cures diseases, and allows us to create experiences that go far beyond our current physical abilities? As a result of me shifting my focus towards the technological art experience and the emerging media arts, my current work is at the final crossroads. This is evident in my latest piece titled “Destroy This Art.” This piece represents the next stage of evolution of my art journey from physical art that is minimally augmented by technology into art that will be governed by a new set of technological rules. In this piece, the transition from physical to technological will be the result of the destruction of a large 7′ x 9′ light-up sign that reads “Destroy This Art.” Its destruction will be captured by motion-triggered cameras and then posted on destroythisart.com, existing from that point on only in a technological form. All of this foreshadows my own transition from the physical to the technological and acts as evidence of my evolution as an artist. In my future work, research, and creative activity, I will continue to unravel the complexity and interconnectedness of all these topics as well as further discover where all of it is leading to.