The show Materiality was presented as part of the Rethinking Sustainability: New Critical and Cultural Horizons conference on the UBC Okanagan campus. The show (and the title piece) was a collaboration between myself and Jeannette Angel. I go into technical details about the Textural Music Glove used in the work in a separate post. In addition to the title piece, Materiality, I also exhibited the first iteration of a solo work, Photosynthetics.
The following are descriptions of the two works, written by Jeannette Angel:
Materiality is an interactive media installation that combines and crosses over visual, tactile, olfactory and auditory elements in the construction, representation and engagement with the word “materiality.” Each letter of the word stands approximately 11 inches tall and is made from a different physical material, some of which are found in natural environments, such as tree bark or moss, others of which have been altered or transformed for human needs, a computer motherboard, dyed cotton velvet, black goose feathers or synthetic woven leatherette. The word, displayed on a rack 5 feet off the ground, contains a sampling of materials chosen for differences in texture that allow varied sensations as the letters are experienced through sight, touch, sound and smell. On a hook below the rack is a sensor attached to the index finger of glove that has a wire leading to a set of headphones on another hook. The gallery attendee is encouraged to put on the glove and headphones and then gently stroke the letters. Depending on the texture of the material and quality of touch, the sound registering in the headphones changes slightly in timbre. The texture becomes a sonified experience with eyes closed; the texture is felt and heard. In addition, the letters engage the olfactory senses, bringing forward the smell of Ponderosa Pine, moss and earth or melted plastic. The installation allows for playful sensory exploration while between humans, nature and technology.
Two delicate yet oversized linen leaves hang in a dark corner of the gallery. A single bright light comes on and initiates a subtle movement in the leaves that resembles the rise and fall of a creature breathing. The light goes out and the leaves very gradually return to stillness. The leaves are beautifully crafted examples of high-low technology, merging sewing skills with metal coils and Arduino controllers. It is a work that is alive yet not living in the conventional sense, interactive and at the same time quietly understated. This is the beginnings of shy art, media works that require patience and attentiveness. These are sensitive interactions where gallery attendees bear witness to leaves that almost imperceptibly curl and unfold, images that may choose to appear or sounds that shift in quality so faintly that to breathe might mean missing the change in tone. In an age of overstimulation these works ask for a slow engagement, a quiet listening and a careful touch.