One World, Many Cultures

The Beall Center for Art & Technology, at the University of California-Irvine, has recently commissioned an ambitious installation entitled, in a thousand drops... refracted glances. The work was created by Aleksandra Dulic, Martin Gotfrit, and Kenneth Newby, members of the Computational Poetics Research Group, a collective of artists, engineers, and scholars based at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University. The premise of their work is that by creating new tool sets and scenarios for "interdisciplinary computational media performance," they can "enable creative and performing artists to enter into new collaborative relationships with encoded systems." The installation's title comes from a passage German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814) penned in 'The Destination of Man" which speaks to the life force that flows from nature through our bodies, bonding humans to each other, as it helps us self-actualize. "In a thousand drops... refracted glances" features multiple audio channels and digital collage (a la David Hockney's "joiner" photocollages). The space is strung with over a hundred monitors, hung like a mobile. The fragmented images displayed on each screen, when viewed from the right angle, form a "complete" picture. These images are pulled from a database in response to sensor data about viewers' presence and movement. The "big picture" in this work is really the artists' narrative about diversity. The question of the completeness versus fragmentedness of individuals' identities has long amused existentialists, but the query has been given new life in a world of high tech engagement. To this discussion, the artists wanted to bring a consideration of diversity and its vitality to a healthy culture, arguing that the diversity represented in the compartmentalized images seen on their screens reflects the diversity found in nature and humanity. The corresponding audio installation seeks, literally, to bring viewers into 'harmony' with what might otherwise look and sound like cacophony. They say of their project, "Interactions with the work take the form of refracted glances both rewarding and confounding in an ongoing process of making sense of a chaosmos--the balance between confusion and order--the fantastic and the logical--dream and reality." The installation is on view through March 15. - Marisa Olson