«Silicon Remembers Carbon» by David Rokeby

Silicon Remembers Carbon (Version 1)

«The central element in Silicon Remembers Carbon is a large video image projected down onto a bed of sand on the floor of the installation space. Visitors’ movements subtly affect the mixing and dissolving of video images and sounds. Each visitor leaves traces which affect the experience of the work for later visitors. The installation presents a fragile illusion, a consensual hallucination, requiring the visitors’ participation for its continuation, through their body movements, a willingness to blur their eyes slightly to hide the scan-lines, and their ability to project depth into the flat image. They are offered a range of possibilities from sustaining the illusion by creating and maintaining distance, to dispelling it by stepping into the illusionary space itself. For the artist, the visitors’ movement through this range of possibilities represents a more important interaction than the direct interaction with the technical system itself.» 1.

Technical information on how this piece exactly works can be found on David Rokeby’s website. To understand the next text, one should know that movement along the side of the projection causes a second image to be projected.

'Live Virtual Shadow' in Version 2

«The new image usually contains shadows or reflections of people along the edge of the clip that is visible. One tends to interpret those reflections and shadows as the being generated by people actually in the room, either oneselves or others, rather than as being present in the image itself. So this installation is some sort of fake reflecting pool, an inversion of Narcissus’s experience. Whereas Narcissus’s tragedy is that he cannot recognize himself in his reflection, the visitors to the space would find themselves identifying with shadows and distorted reflections that had only circumstantial relation to them. The identification is be momentary, and elusive. My intention is to play along the boundary of identification.» 1.

In the second version, the technology was adapted so that instead of casting their usual shadows, the audience cast shadows of video. At the same time a previously recorded shadow is projected in this image. More info on the second version can also be found at Rokeby’s website.

The interaction with the artwork that is so important to Rokeby reminds of the 1970 piece called Live-Taped Video Corridor by Bruce Nauman. That work plays with its audience and disorients the viewer through the relative placement of videocamera and monitors. Both use a combination of live and pre-recorded video images. Additionally, Silicon Remembers Carbon constitutes an interplay between projected image and audience that can also be experienced in the work of Studio Azzurro, like La Camera Astratta.

In an Oxford Journal review of the Silicon Remembers Carbon exhibition, Rokeby is praised by the author Maryleen Deegan of London’s King’s College for converging digital humanity and art. (2.) In his important essay, «Transforming Mirrors:
Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media, Rokeby describes interactive art as a medium through which we can communicate with ourselves; in other words, it reflects like a mirror. When this is applied in conjunction with Marshall McLuhan’s ‘The medium is the message’, then the mirror would be the message. Reflection makes us evaluate and affirm ourselves, feel engaged and disembodied at the same time. But above all it raises our consciousness. (AEM 223).

Version 2: The shadow of the person walking by is smearing in a second image, in which a recorded shadow appears.

1. Source: http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/src.html

2. Source: http://llc.oxfordjournals.org

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