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Wetware Exceptions



David d'Heilly,


Light inSight flyer

This essay was written in January 2009 on the occasion of the installation of the Thought Projector at the exhibition Light inSight, curated by Shikata Yukiko at the NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC] Tokyo;

with works by alien productions, Joseph BEUYS, Evelina DOMNITCH and Dmitry GELFAND, Nina FISCHER and Maroan EL SANI, FUJIMOTO Yukio, Ingo GÜNTHER, Bengt SJÖLÉN and Adam SOMLAI-FISCHER with Usman HAQUE, Jochem HENDRICKS, Mischa KUBALL, Anthony McCALL, Nam June PAIK and TAKATANI Shiro

In "the inconceivable nature of nature" Dr. Richard Feynman described the mystery of sight from the perspective of a bug in the corner of a swimming pool, and somehow being clever enough, just by observing the perturbations in the waves, to determine who and what has jumped in, and all what is going on in the pool. Of course the light that enters the small 1/8 inch holes in our eyes that would be this bug, is in three dimensions (we have more information to correlate than the bug simply reading the surface waves) but his story is provided to illustrate how incredible that any place we are, in any pool, we are awash with these shaky vibrating light waves, bouncing around off of everything within the confines of that pool, and that an unlimited number of observes can exist in this same space, yet observe only one subset of this great complexity, according to the plane that they have set this 1/8 inch aperture in their heads to observe, and the presence of all of these other waves in no way hinder their observation. If we were pit vipers we could notive a longer wave spectrum, and could see the heat of animals in the room or under the floorboards, but would be blind to other aspects of human vision. And furthermore, with inventions such as radio receievers we might as well extrude radio Moscow from another field of that same perturbation. And this is our contemporary view of vision within a world of irregular vibrating electric motion, all of which is equally there, regardless of whether we perceive it or not.

Discoveries are not made in the order that we wish them to be, and with each understanding our eyes open and we cease to see what we "knew" before. As we move "forward", and our inventions' further articulate and refine what has been discovered, and evolve towards what is achievable, the thread of our hopes for a given technology in a given time are lost. In another era, the eyes were said to be the portals to the soul, and we still so often wish that it were so.

Doesn’t it seem natural that a lover's smiling eyes should seem etched eternally into our own? Why should it seem "unnatural" to be told that both of our brains were simply processing information and that those eyes which I have looked into so long and so often are only apertures for the electromagnetic spectrum, and themselves devoid of meaning? How is it that such attachment is so fundamental a digression from reality? And why can we not confirm this? Surely a thousand horror stories warn me that a heart transplanted will still carry something recognizable in that same heartbeat, and an eye taken from one person and put into another must surely still recognize that which “mattered” to the donor. Even today’s robotic science tells me that that the consciousness emerges from physicality. And so our romantic notions make us try to see: what other vibrations, what other waves are in that pool. How delusional is that which I consider such an essential part of my humanity?

In Thought Projector 2007, art unit alien productions proposes a set of tools for reinvigorating the meta(phor), if not the physics of such a metaphysical inquiry mentioned by Nikola Tesla in 1933. Tesla had imagined inventing a machine which could read out from the eye that which it had observed. To experience the Thought Projector the visitor enters a "white cube" room, with a technician behind a machine, very much like one used by ophthalmologists. The dramaturgy is medical, pseudo-scientific. The machine uses an advanced optical technology to photograph the rear of the subject’s eyeball, and projects this image on the walls of the cube, and links in some manner with a database of "poetic" phrases, together with "random" input culled from the Internet, to superimpose the images of the inside of your eye with texts, as though there was some manner of connection.

This is not a work of serious occult, or any attempt to validate some manner of romantic alchemy, but rather a clever observation that all media art pretends to be somehow rooted in the scientific “now” (by virtue of being technological, how can it help but be?), but here, in choosing to recreate the technological expectations of another era, it instead highlights the temporality of our grand conclusions.

Because technology is seductive we are provided a moment in which we look to see (and disprove) a correspondence between the inside of our eyeball and the texts on the wall. Here in the technological dreams of another time we stare at the gap between our unchanging metaphysical longings, and the continuum of technologies which happen to have been invented. The knowledge we’ve acquired, but not yet realized is unblinking. Or maybe there are other ontological waves in the pool?


David d'Heilly is a Tokyo-based facilitator of print, film and art-related projects. www.2dk.net

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