(e)merge // (dis)separate
Curated by Katie Varney and Jessica Fung
We are a generation who grew up in a tuned-in and fully wired world. As infants, technology enveloped us, wrapping its circuit-board blankets around us, making its way into every part of our psyche. The fact technology has acted as our overbearing parents continues to make it difficult for us to obtain an objective viewpoint.
As we grow older, we realize it will become increasingly impossible to escape from this technologized world. Many of our generation have given up, resigned to letting the discrete technologies that control them at birth continue to do so. Others attempt to shape the world with failing dot-com McDreams, filling their days waiting for the next large corporate sellout. And so we drift, like bastard children within a virtual purgatory. The electronic artworks produced by the seven emerging artists participating in (e)merge // (dis)separate address the loss, alienation and separation an individual can feel growing up under technology's roof.
Each of the seven installations expresses the artist's discomfort and estrangement with virtuality through electronic means. The feeling of loss that revealed in (e)merge // (dis)separate applies to a physical sense of loss characteristic of the virtual world which both threatens and promises to make our bodies and objects disappear. It also applies to the loss of control we experience as our individuality becomes obsolete and our autonomy impossible. The pieces in this show live in flux, much like us. Ideas are revealed and then obscured. Images shift and divide only to be become clear again. Frequencies collide and break, then flatten out. Notions of loss and separation merge with hope and expectation in a single, energy-driven atmosphere.
(e)merge // (dis)separate features seven electronic media works by recent graduates of Ryerson University and the Ontario College of Art and Design.
Aaron Buttle's Desire is a physical manifestation of the notion of virtuality. As the user moves closer to read the text on the screen, sensors on the ground initiate a gradual and random covering of the words and, ultimately, the ideas that are contained within. Thus the viewer is never able to fully grasp or comprehend the text, just as participants who become fully immersed in the virtual world can never experience an objective understanding of their network. Conversely, those who remain at a distance from the screen will find that an overall awareness of the existence of the text does not warrant a deep enough understanding of its content.
Jennifer Norton's Student in a Locker deals with the implied existence of a physical person. What the visitor initially believes to be a real being trapped in the locker is in fact a mechanical construction imitating the characteristics of a physical person – a voice, physical appendages and the expression of anger and desperation. Eventually, after unsuccessfully trying to aid the being in its emergence, the visitor gives up and separates from the locker.
Randy Knott's Don’t Forget to Remember is a non-linear video created within the recognized linear film format. It is a depiction of humanity's development, heavily influenced by the surreal. Like dreams, the virtual world does not adhere to a linear timeline but rather exists in simultaneity. The video illustrates our comprehension of the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional interface, yet includes in its exploration the fourth dimension of time and the possibility of experiencing many different points in our experience in a random manner.
David Kucherepa's Drop also deals with the concept of linear time, illustrating the gradual loss of physical existence over time. Water is the essence of all physical existence, yet, as this piece suggests, it can also be the end of our existence. As the water slowly drips from an IV tube, which ironically suggests the healing of our bodies, a projected image of the artist's head begins to fade. This creates the sense of a disappearing entity, but, as in the virtual world, its presence is never truly lost. The projection is able to reappear just as identities in the virtual world are continually created, recreated and transformed.
Steve Daniels' Synergy illustrates the inherent interconnectedness of all individuals within a virtually mediated world. The individual users of the piece begin as separate entities who then become connected to one another through a cacophonous audio composition they jointly create as they explore the unspecified possibilities of the sculptural node. In the end, the coherence of the piece results from the non-verbal communication between the users, where each user contributes equally to the experience. Here, an initially separate existence becomes replaced by the merging of physical bodies into a single, virtual entity.
Similar to Synergy, Ben Bogart's Aporia explores a network consisting of three basic planes, except that his images are two-dimensional representations of this three-plane virtuality which encompasses emotional, literal/metaphorical and conceptual. By defining the virtual world as possessing a sort of three-dimensionality, the imagery ultimately results in abstraction via the common virtual practice of encryption.
Kingsley Ng's Swing is an interactive piece in which the user moves in opposition to its supposed reflection. During the backswing, a projection of a figure appears on the ground below, swinging in the opposite direction. As the user swings forward, the reflection moves back, creating an illusion of a mirrored reality existing on the interface below. The interface depicts an alternate, virtual reality, enhancing the sense of uncertainty that results from participating in our technological and networked world. The swing itself also suggests childhood, creating a temporal distortion between the present and our memories of past experiences.