Curated by Michael Alstad and Camille Turner
Signal: the sound, image or message transmitted or received in telegraphy, telephony, radio, television or radar.
We receive signals; they pass through and around us – some undetected, others indiscriminately assimilated or consciously ignored – informing and shaping our electronically mediated worldview. Technological advances in electronic communication networks enable one to enter the habitat of endangered species in Africa via webcams or witness presidential palaces destroyed by "smart bombs" in real time, CNN-itized with a slick 3D graphical interface. Far removed from decimated dictators and vanishing exotic species, how do we perceive these transmitted representations of remote events and behaviours? Is technology facilitating our world knowledge by removing spatial boundaries or does the promise of "real-time" experience only lead to more uncertainty when reality can be digitally augmented to suit global infotainment standards or personal agendas?
With its geographic immensity, relative remoteness, advanced telecommunications and artist-run-centre infrastructure, Canada has always been at the forefront of the international tele-art movement. As early as the 1970s, artists were using telephones, faxes, radio, television, computers and satellites to explore and question our ambiguous relationship with machines and communication networks.
signal is an exhibition of two projects that electronically record and transmit behaviours and natural processes over network cabling in order to explore notions of time, space, representation and transmutation.
Wind Array Cascade Machine: Pod, by Montreal-based artist Steve Heimbecker, is a digital landscape of the tactile and the ethereal. It consists of an array of sixty-four movement sensors on the roof of the Méduse Artists' Co-operative in Quebec City and sixty-four corresponding light sculptures at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre in Toronto. As the wind blows across the roof in Quebec, the sensors gather real-time data and transmit it through the internet to the light markers in the Toronto exhibition space. The lights illuminate according to the pressure waves of the wind, showing the audience a visual representation of the pattern related to the amplitude, direction and wave motion of the wind at the remote location.
Bedlam Telekinesis is a collaboration between Quebec artist Bill Vorn and Australian artist Simon Penny that explores the creation of mixed or augmented reality through the use of computation and telematics. It is a two-way telematic/telerobotic installation that joins two locations within the DECONism gallery space.
An enclosed space in the back of the gallery contains four cameras that capture and record bodily gestures of the visitors. This data is used to determine the behaviour of a vaguely anthropomorphic robot installed in the semi-public space of the gallery window. A fifth camera records the robot and the responses of onlookers that are then projected in the video-capture space at the back of the gallery. In this way, a highly mediated gestural communication loop is formed by Bedlam Telekinesis.
As signals continue to occupy and affect our daily lives, the artists that prompt us to explore these technologies reveal how thought, emotion and behaviour are consciously and unconsciously adjusting to these mediated worlds.
Signal is presented with Year Zero One as part of the 2003 Subtle Technologies Festival. Sponsored by DECONism, Avatar, Méduse, the McLuhan Programme in Art and Technology.