“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself.” John Berzer, Ways of Seeing
The gaze is focused on outward appearances and actions, identifying oneself with a surface-level version personhood. This scrutinization causes a distorted view of the self, as if it were “other” or an object, as if it were not the same self that is actively gazing. Self Observation reflects this discomfort, exploring the altered self-perceptions and actions caused by the continuous gaze.
Contemporary aesthetic values are skewed towards idealized values of perfection. Stock images and digital models that are neat, clean and precise are sold at premium prices. Glitches in 3D scans are seen as “errors” that need to be eradicated. Plants that are cultivated and controlled into highly “perfected" specimens are prized in the landscape. Whereas those that grow prolificly and out of human control are deemed as “weeds” and are poisoned and killed. A desire for neatness, cleanliness and order are baked into our social and cultural fabric. Messy things are bad and neat things are good. This problematic dichotomy consistently ignores the complex systems and relationships that color our world.
Living trees are aesthetically valued but sentiment often changes upon branch break, trunk crack or “death”. What was once seen as “beautiful” is removed and discarded and considered an “eyesore”. However, what happens if we move past human centered benefits? If we examine the hidden worlds that these “eyesores” foster. If we celebrate the vast networks of mycelium, colonies of invertebrates, and beautiful decay that form the backbone of our ecological landscape? If an anthropocentric beauty no longer exists, what is beauty and what should be considered _UGLY?
In the midst of the pandemic, people were introduced to the concept of moving their lives online. People began to rely on virtual means to escape the constant barrage of bad news and fear that come with living in lockdown. It also marked the beginning of a new, universal craving for escapism. It wasn’t long before companies began to pick up on this, and learned that the public’s desire for virtual escapism could be marketable. The most apparent example came in the form of Facebook’s The Metaverse, a virtual reality environment where every aspect of your life could take place in a single digital space: meetings, travel, hangouts with friends, and more. It even included options for users to purchase virtual real estate and clothing for their avatars using NFTs and other cryptocurrencies. Everything about your new life - where you live, what you do, who you see - is under the control of the company you sold your life to for a few hours of escapism.
“(Virtual) Reality” is an installation that aims to confront our willingness to exchange our lives for a virtual escape. It also aims to criticize how companies are capitalizing on this desire for escapism by presenting their virtual realities as an alternative to living in a world outside of their influence. A simple bedroom scene is used to symbolize a place usually associated with comfort and privacy, somewhere safe for when you need to distance yourself from the world around you. But when a company owns your safe space, they’re free to monitor or influence any aspect of your life brought into their virtual creations. This means they also have control over how you use (or rather can’t use) your virtual spaces. Every structure is made from flimsy, hollow cardboard. They can’t provide the comfort of a bed or the light of a desk lamp. It is only the impression of things that exist in reality that cannot serve their purpose in a virtual landscape, yet are treated as superior for their use of moving designs and flashy colors. While it appears to be a perfect replacement for reality, it is ultimately unsustainable and hollow in how it affects our real lives.
The relay box is a disappearing relic in large cities. Once storage spaces used by mail carriers in between trips, they are becoming obsolete as physical mail is being slowly replaced by digital. The relay box is now a reminder of the way that communications used to move in our physical world, of our thoughts and memories lost in transit.
I started my own practice of letter-writing earlier this spring, beginning with a postcard of Picasso’s Ma Jolie (1914), which I had bought on a high school field trip and kept for some four odd years without having any clue what to do with it, out of fear of tarnishing a keepsake. After mailing it, I would later try to recall what I had written, only to find that I had no evidence of my work and nothing but vague memory to rely on. In the end I had relinquished my ownership of it, both physically and in consciousness. Letter writing became a form of trust for me, to reach back towards the places I have been and to let the contents of my mind exist in someone else’s hands, beyond the confines of my memory.
Ever since the birth of digital data and the virtual world, the pursuit of unleashing its possibilities has never stopped. Through the form of animation, 3d models, and others, we are able to recreate and even expand on reality by establishing a space that corresponds to our world. But does the digital world necessarily have the concept of time, space, and form or it only obtains the imitation of these concepts in a way we can understand?
In reality, one key element we use to recognize the relative relationship between time and space is through interaction, or in other words, motion. According to Einstein’s theory - the dilation of time was only a perspectival effect created by relative motion between an observer and the thing observed.
By adapting Kinect V2 as a mocap device, a particle system that reacts to our movement was made. By assigning the particle field with its own force field and randomized moving pattern, the independence and chaotic nature of digital space can be presented to audiences while emphasizing the concept that we need to define the digital space with elements from reality for us to understand the relationship between digital world and reality. When the Kinect V2 sensor captures the movement of an individual, the particle system would spread and collide with the individual and their movements. The reaction from the particle system represents the presence of a physical element in this digital space and allows us to give this digital space a definition of motion to transform it into a correlating space with our reality. The physical installment of two 3D printed hands acts as a metaphorical indication between digital and physical space since it was created in a 3D software then printed out into this physical reality.
Increased violence, especially gun violence in the United States, plagues the worries and thoughts of parents and students around the country. The Augmented Reality installation I’ve created is intended to bring to further attention, the presence and danger/safety of guns present in our surroundings. These volatile weapons are present, whether we’re consciously aware of them or not. Legislation surrounding gun control and access are highly contested.
The recent heightened martial tensions in the world brought this topic to my attention. It’s important to keep up the conversation and ensure that a crucial and highly impactful topic like gun control is never forgotten.
Whether they’re plainly visible or simply hidden, guns exist around you.