Anxiety Art's Escape Route

Many signs reveal the public anxiety resulting from what the German scholar Ulrich Beck calls the 'risk society' that characterizes our age. Paradoxically, in a post-9/11 era, it is the state obsession with security that most reveal this anxiety, as demonstrated by the escalating 'preventive measures' now taken against terrorists. In a further illustration this tendency, last year Boston set up an $827,500 emergency evacuation system. The city's preparedness for catastrophes--hurricanes, snowstorms, fires and, of course, terrorist attacks--informs new media artist Kanarinka's latest project, entitled 'It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston.' The work will be presented this week by Kanarinka's collective, iKatun, at the 2007 Boston Cyberarts Festival. In the past few months, Kanarinka has run the route of Boston's emergency evacuation system and measured it in breaths, which were counted, amplified through a microphone and speaker, and broadcast into the street. These travels through public space comprise one of the three parts of the work; the others are a web podcast of the breaths and a gallery installation of the breaths' archive. Rooted in Kanarinka's interest in 'the politics of digital information, feminist performance, participatory culture, and the emotional landscape of Homeland Insecurity,' this piece examines both the collective fear marking contemporary life and the ideological apparatus evolving from it. - Miguel Amado