Session 1

Caitlin and Misha: Breaking Through to Participatory Experiences

In this presentation the artist duo Caitlin & Misha will describe their six year journey of creative destruction. They will detail how they combined literal destruction of sculptures with the creative misuse of various technologies to create participatory art that eventually evolved into the piece Ecology of Worries, which is part of the Glitch is the Soul of the Machine exhibition. Our Ecology of Worries piece in the Glitch is the Soul of the Machine exhibition evolved from our participatory art project called Worries Bash (website, video interview with Boston Art Review). Worries Bash is a participatory installation consisting of recorded worries collected from hundreds of people and presented as part of a continuous audio portrait emanating from fragile papier-mâché sculptures. When attendees tap or hit the sculpture a worry will come into focus so that it can be heard clearly before again submerging into an abstract murmur. Following the 2016 US election we began asking people what they are worried about and found people had a plethora of concerns at the ready. Can the destruction of these interactive worry vessels create space for clarity? Worrisome shifts in the USA’s politics triggered our interest in collecting worries. Leaders are drawing the culture inward while souring relationships with longstanding allies. The emotionalization of events by the media is engendering worries that swirl inside us, trapping us in manufactured anxieties. This project is an opportunity to collect various types of worries and consider similarities in emotional cycles across communities. A communal ceremony is used to create a celebratory environment which aims to help people share the burden of the worries collectively. The exhibition also includes drawings and data visualizations inspired by the worries. The first Worries Bash took place at Agva-CIAT in Berlin. Since then it has been at Proof Gallery (Boston), Blue House Gallery (Dayton), and Montserrat College of Art (Beverly, MA). The community adjacent to each exhibition location is always encouraged to contribute their worries anonymously by recording them online, directly at http://worries.io. Along the way Caitlin & Misha had to augment their paper mache techniques with a preservative to make their sculptures survive a humid Berlin summer, update their software so that the installation can be “tuned” to the electrical interference noise of each specific venue (which inevitably still causes “ghost triggers” of the sculptures which they embrace), and misuse all kinds of tools, including machine learning algorithms. This led the artists to their Ecology of Worries project (and other work). Ecology of Worries actively embraces various forms of breakage. By characterizing the synthetic worries of various sophistication as variously evolved creatures we are engaging the empathy of the viewers. It is one thing to experience a text generating neural network failing into mode collapse, which is a state where the system generates the same unchanging output no matter the input e.g. a string of the same repeating vowel. It is a whole other thing to watch a mode collapse personified by one of our critters: as we watch this creature struggling to get a word out we can’t stop ourselves from feeling like we should help it finish the sentence. The mode collapse glitched text result of ‘aaa aaaaaaa’ becomes a living wail. The critters in Ecology of Worries appear alive not because of any sort of omniscience a tech evangelist might expect from a digital assistant, but due to their very real flaws. The creatures become uncanny through a juxtaposition of familiar and abstract concerns.

Cecilia Suhr: Unpacking the “Broken Media” in an Intermedia Performance

This talk broadly explores Suhr’s overall artistic vision and inspiration behind creating interactive audio-visual installations and intermedia performance.  In this context, Suhr specifically unpacks the various mediums that culminated in her recent intermedia performance, “Demystifying the Narrative.” Which mediums were used in the performance, and how did they combine to create synergy, disruption, and tension? How does the blurring of various genres impact the creative process and outcomes? What are the potential challenges and rewards? While critically exploring the dominant narratives in the cultural and media landscapes in the year 2020, this talk further shares the inspiration behind voice improvisation which expresses chaos, instability, fear, and confusion.

Autumn Brown: Confronting Audience in Interactive Works

With the ready availability of digital and code-based media, the opportunity to create interactive and playable artworks are more accessible than ever to artists. The ability for the audience to interact with an artwork in multiple ways to achieve multiple outcomes opens new doors for artists to communicate powerful ideas and reach people in exciting new ways, but it is also the most unpredictable variable necessary for a work to communicate successfully. Most artists will eventually need to confront a scenario where their work hasn’t communicated what it intended to, but with interactive works this scenario can become more likely as the artist relinquishes control of the outcome. Borrowing concepts used to analyze video game play, and using her own interactive works ‘Believe’ and ‘Into the Light’ as a case study, Brown will investigate how artists can leverage audience participation,–and the variability this entails,–to enhance the intended experience of their work.

Karen Krolak: Aftermath: adventures in encoding the unnamed ideas in the Dictionary of Negative Space

When tragedy strikes, the echoes of “there are no words” and “I can’t imagine what you are going through” can be overwhelming…and terribly isolating. What happens, though, if we map  landscapes of loss and examine the terrain that we refuse to name? By mapping our linguistic glitches, can we build more empathetic communities? These are the questions that guide interdisciplinary artist, karen Krolak, as she amasses her ongoing project, the Dictionary of Negative Space. What began as a way to articulate her own experiences in the aftermath of losing her mother, father, and brother in a single horrific car crash, has led to virtual public art experiment that reverberates in many unexpected directions.

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