Plug-ins re­quired

An over­view of the Cur­rents In­ter­na­tional New Me­dia Fes­ti­val

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Michael Abatemarco

is some­thing soli­tary about the ex­pe­ri­ence of rid­ing public trans­porta­tion. Pas­sen­gers on a crowded sub­way train retreat into their own in­te­rior worlds, dis­ap­pear­ing into a book or news­pa­per, per­haps; or they pre­tend to sleep, maybe, eyes closed to avoid mak­ing con­tact. What might be go­ing through their minds? Are they think­ing of that brother they wronged and hop­ing for for­give­ness, or are they an­gry about not get­ting a raise or sim­ply ex­cited about that up­com­ing meal of fried chicken?

New York-based artist Alon Chi­tayat com­mutes from Brook­lyn to Man­hat­tan on the C train ev­ery­day, sketch­ing pas­sen­gers. Chi­tayat and col­lab­o­ra­tor Jeff Ong used the sketches as the ba­sis for an in­ter­ac­tive video that ex­plores the thoughts of rapid-tran­sit pas­sen­gers through fic­tional nar­ra­tives. Sub­way Sto­ries, an in­stal­la­tion at this year’s Cur­rents In­ter­na­tional New Me­dia Fes­ti­val, al­lows vis­i­tors to tap into the in­te­rior states of the train pas­sen­gers and hear their in­ner­most thoughts. “I saw the sketches and thought it would be an in­ter­est­ing sce­nario to hear what th­ese peo­ple are think­ing,” Ong told Pasatiempo. “It’s a com­mon thing we do in public places; we’ll project our own thoughts onto other peo­ple, imag­in­ing what they’re think­ing.”

Ma­nip­u­lat­ing the levers on a de­vice that re­sem­bles a con­duc­tor’s box, users can move a video pro­jec­tion of an an­i­mated train back and forth, zoom in on var­i­ous pas­sen­gers, and hear the mono­logues go­ing through their minds. The de­vice uses Ar­duino, an open­source, in­ter­ac­tive pro­gram­ming kit. The vi­su­als for the an­i­ma­tion were cre­ated us­ing a pro­gram­ming lan­guage called Pro­cess­ing. “We put the sketches into an an­i­mated en­vi­ron­ment,” said Ong, who met Chi­tayat in the In­ter­ac­tive Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Pro­gram of New York Uni­ver­sity’s Tisch School of the Arts. “At first there were no thoughts to hear. You could only con­trol the sub­way; zoom in, zoom out, and move the train for­ward and back­ward.” The sto­ries were added later. Ong and Chi­tayat asked friends to look at the pas­sen­ger sketches and nar­rate an in­ner mono­logue for each. The au­thors were asked to im­pro­vise the mono­logues on the spot in or­der to pro­vide a re­al­is­tic sense of stream-of-con­scious­ness thought pat­terns. “We recorded about 30 of th­ese sto­ries,” Ong said.

Sub­way Sto­ries takes the iso­lated, in­tro­verted ex­pe­ri­ence of the daily com­mute and trans­forms it into an in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the ob­server and the ob­served.

Sub­way Sto­ries is lo­cated in­side El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe where, as in past years, the bulk of the new me­dia in­stal­la­tions are on dis­play. Cur­rents opens Fri­day, June 12, with a se­ries of events at El Museo and in the Rai­l­yard plaza, in­clud­ing out­door in­stal­la­tions and pro­jec­tions and mul­ti­me­dia per­for­mances. Cur­rents con­tin­ues through June 28 with satel­lite ex­hibits and re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties hap­pen­ing around town.

For the sec­ond year in a row, Cur­rents cu­ra­tors Frank Ragano and Mar­i­an­nah Am­ster present the New Mex­ico New Me­dia project, an ini­tia­tive to pro­mote and high­light me­dia arts through­out the state. This year, new me­dia ex­hibits are fea­tured at part­ner sites Ware­house 1-10 in Mag­dalena, the Cen­ter for the Arts in Hobbs, the Roswell Mu­seum and Art Cen­ter, and the David An­thony Fine Art Gallery in Taos. Ex­hibit de­tails and a map for self­guided tours are avail­able on the Cur­rents web­site (www.cur­rentsnew­me­dia.org), where vis­i­tors can also see a list of artists in­cluded in this year’s fes­ti­val as well as all event de­tails.

For­mer Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute artistin-res­i­dence Tomoko Hayashi, who was here last year work­ing on her Tear Mir­ror project, re­turns with Mut­sug­oto, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s Me­dia Lab Europe. The project bridges the phys­i­cal dis­tance be­tween cou­ples in a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship through tech­nol­ogy: a ceil­ing­mounted cam­era con­nected to a com­puter in­ter­prets the move­ments of touch-sen­si­tive LED de­vices worn by the cou­ple. “Mut­sug­oto is a Ja­panese word mean­ing ‘whis­pered con­ver­sa­tion be­tween lovers,’ ” Hayashi told Pasatiempo last year. “Rather than us­ing a generic in­ter­face like mo­bile phones, I wanted to make a spe­cial ring with an infrared LED. It can be in­stalled any­where in the world if there’s in­ter­net, a bed, and a ceil­ing.”

Mut­sug­oto al­lows the wear­ers to trace their lover’s hand move­ments across their bod­ies when they’re not in the same room.

As part of the open­ing week­end fes­tiv­i­ties, cur­rent Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute artist-in-res­i­dence Hye Young Kim presents her In­ti­mate Dis­tance project. At­ten­dees can par­tic­i­pate in the on­go­ing project by agree­ing to be video­taped in close, in­ti­mate prox­im­ity with a loved one, whether it’s a friend, part­ner, or fam­ily mem­ber. Par­tic­i­pants are video­taped for three min­utes with their eyes closed while keep­ing their faces as close to­gether as pos­si­ble with­out touch­ing. The video is then added to one of two videos dis­played in­side El Museo. The other video shows the orig­i­nal project that Kim made in Korea with mem­bers of her fam­ily. “My in­ten­tion is to cap­ture psy­cho­log­i­cal, in­ti­mate mo­ments from the phys­i­cally clos­est dis­tance and to show fam­ily dy­nam­ics by ques­tion­ing what in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships are, how to de­fine roles of fam­ily, and how the in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships of fam­ily af­fect who I am,” Kim told Pasatiempo. “I will set up a video booth, kind of a tent. I ask the par­tic­i­pants, let’s say a mom and daugh­ter, to sit and close their eyes. Ev­ery night I will do the sim­ple edit­ing. But I’m not al­ter­ing it. I just make a mir­ror re­flec­tion that em­pha­sizes move­ment and trans­for­ma­tion.”

The project is also avail­able for view­ing on Kim’s web­site (www.hyekim­stu­dio.com).

In the video, dy­nam­ics play out sub­tly be­tween the two par­tic­i­pants. Us­ing a mir­ror ef­fect, a face ap­pears as though un­fold­ing from the cen­ter and sides of the screen. The minute phys­i­cal dis­tance be­tween the two is broached by scent and breath and the aware­ness of the prox­im­ity from one per­son to an­other. “I ask them to close their eyes be­cause when you close your eyes, you are los­ing that vis­ual dis­tance. Th­ese days we de­pend too much on our eyes. When you close them, other senses are height­ened.” Kim also noted dif­fer­ences in how ado­les­cents en­gage with their par­ents at dif­fer­ent age lev­els. “I no­tice when kids are young, let’s say five years old or ten years old, they’re still very phys­i­cally close to their par­ents. They don’t mind hug­ging their mom or touch­ing their mom. The teenage boys are not com­fort­able with it. They don’t want to grab their mom’s hand. They’re al­most scared. Some Amer­i­cans are not com­fort­able with it or they try to avoid the in­ter­ac­tion by talk­ing.”

Three min­utes, though not a long du­ra­tion, feels much longer when your eyes are closed and your and your part­ner’s faces are mere cen­time­ters apart. “Peo­ple tell me it feels like five or 10 min­utes,” Kim said. She be­gan In­ti­mate Dis­tance last sum­mer, then con­tin­ued the project dur­ing a res­i­dency in Hun­gary be­fore com­ing to the Art In­sti­tute this spring. “I’m more in­ter­ested in re­la­tion­ships like fa­ther and daugh­ter, mother and son. I’d love to ex­pand it to other hu­man re­la­tion­ships. I have lived in the U.S. for seven years, and I visit my fam­ily once in a year or once in two years. I have a strong Asian fam­ily bond­ing, but they’re phys­i­cally far away. Fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially in Asian cul­ture, they take care of ev­ery­thing for you but at the same time they value in­di­vid­ual pri­vacy. There’s my free­dom, there’s my choices, my pri­vacy. That was in my mind, and last sum­mer when I asked my fam­ily, ‘Can you do this? Just close your eyes for three min­utes?’, in the be­gin­ning they were not sure about it. But once they par­tic­i­pated they were in­ter­ested, es­pe­cially my mom; she’s very sup­port­ive.”

Kim be­gan to see a pat­tern in the fam­ily re­la­tion­ships she recorded that chal­lenge cul­tural roles. “Some­times a mom takes a pas­sive role in the fam­ily but in the video, mom will ac­tu­ally try to keep the in­ti­macy. In a way, in the re­la­tion­ship, mom has a more ac­tive role than her hus­band. It’s a whole hid­den dy­namic, ex­pressed in the body lan­guage. Maybe your mom is the one who bonds all the fam­ily or she’s more strong and per­sis­tent. Hope­fully this body per­for­mance re­flects that hid­den re­la­tion­ship.” Vis­i­tors can par­tic­i­pate be­gin­ning at 6:30 p.m. on Fri­day, June 12, or be­tween 1 and 5 p.m. on Satur­day and Sun­day. The video project will be on view at El Museo for the run of the fes­ti­val.

Brian Bow­man and Greg Wal­ters: A Thou­sand Rooms, 2015, new me­dia in­stal­la­tion; op­po­site page, above, Ha Na Lee and James Hughes: Two Women, 2015, mul­ti­chan­nel video in­stal­la­tion; be­low, Hye Young Kim: In­ti­mate Dis­tance, 2014-2015, video in­stal­la­tion Al

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