In step inside (2004), participants make visual and aural images appear through the shapes they create with their bodies and echoed footsteps within the performance space, each affecting the other. Entering into a box that is closed off from the outside of the gallery, the participant is confronted with a double-sided screen and a wired floor. Cocooned within the box and the reverberating sound their movements produce, the performer sees only their profile. By cutting a performer off from his or her mirror image, as well as the external reactions of the audience, the work tempts us to leave behind reflection and self-consciousness and, rather, occupy a place of play and intimacy. One participant at a recent showing likened the experience to painting with her entire body." -- Nicole Ridgway, NY Arts Magazine, 2006
- Year Created: 2007
- Submitted to ArtBase: Saturday Oct 27th, 2007
- Original Url: http://nathanielstern.com/2004/step-inside/
- Permalink: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fad4n-IueY
- nathaniel stern, creator
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step inside is an immersive, multi-sensory environment, which calls attention to the perceptions of, and imperceptible within, identity. It provokes us to re-think our selves as “collage[s] in motion,” and challenges Cartesian notions of consciousness. step inside implies multiplicity and movement as intrinsic to our being; it asks viewers to explore the noise and stillness attendant on the performance of self. “I swing, therefore I am” (Elizabeth Ermarth, Sequel to History).
When ’stepping inside’ the 3 x 3 x 3 meter interaction space, viewer-participants are immediately confronted with an amplified and echoed trail of noise. This, they’ll soon discover, is the sound of each footstep they take, of all the footwork in the room.
A video camera, opposite them and connected to the step inside software, reads their bodies, and separates them out from the background. However, instead of a video mirror, they see only a profile, and are disallowed a frontal reflection. This left-hand ‘projection’ fills their 2-D forms with white noise. The amplitude of the echoed footsteps controls the video’s opacity. The ‘result’ becomes a variable wave of embodied noise.
A written statement, as a provocation to movement, is on the far wall of the space. It invites participants to perform, direct, react to, and interact with, the images and sounds they create. It asks them to try walking, crawling, gesturing, with their bodies; play between silence and tapping, scratching, audio-theatrics on the floor.
While working out how they are being represented, bodies and noises will sound and feel like a heart, racing to be understood. Through experimentation, viewers’ performances will change, as they try and direct their image to suit their fancy - a purposeful performative act. They are both inside, and looking from the outside-in.
External, non-participant viewers will also see the performer’s projected image, but not their bodies or actions inside the space. They can only guess the intent of step inside’s participant, who can likewise only attempt to promote a well-read representation of self. There’s a literal wall between what we project with our performance, and how this might be perceived.
step inside literally frames, and accents, the minute details of willing and unwilling communication. Rather than mirroring us back to our ’selves’, it provokes ‘identity as question,’ and shifts our perspectives on where and how this does not begin or end.