Glimpse, Collaboration with Derek Toomes, 2017
12X12 Artist Salon Series, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston Salem, NC
The 12x12 artist salon series was part of the year-long 12x12 exhibition at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. Each exhibiting artist shared the process of their creative practice in the midst of a new project with the public through a series of workshop interactions in conjunction with a solo exhibition. Each artist was asked to discuss their experience first-hand, inviting the public to ask questions and to engage in conversation.
For my salon series, I orchestrated a series of 4 workshops that shared my research on technological and framing devices as both aid and hindrance for experiencing reality. I explored an inversion of virtual reality (VR) goggles by creating a set of goggles that functioned without digital interface and only revealed reality.
3 “reality goggles” were created in collaboration with artist and maker Derek Toomes. When worn, the mechanically shuttered goggles completely obscured the participants’ vision. An experience facilitator remotely controlled the shutter of the goggles for the people wearing them, opening the goggle shutters for only 6 seconds. Like flipping a light switch in a dark room, the goggles revealed a temporary moment, book-ended before and after by pure darkness.
Prior to the shutters being lifted, the participants had an experience such as a guided walk or listening to a story for 10-minutes or more. This framing technique heightened awareness of the micro-moment, challenging participants to grapple with the visual complexities around them in a moment charged by their anticipation, adjustment to light, preconceptions, and memory. Before participants could register the scene before them, the goggles would close and plunge them back into darkness.
Summary of workshops are as follows:
Participants were walked for 15-minutes around the grounds of the museum. Activation of the goggles revealed a scene of over a dozen youthful people sitting and standing around cars smoking cigarettes and blasting a cacophony of music at full volume from their car speakers, all looking directly at the participants. Additionally, one of the smoking youth wore a bright blue Monster’s Inc. onesie.
Participants sat in an unfamiliar room and listened to a man with a deep voice tell a very personal story while typing loudly on a typewriter. After 10 minutes of listening, the goggles were activated to reveal not 1 but 2 men sitting side by side with a typewriter in front of them. The goggles closed again and the story continued. To this day, the participants will never know which of the two men was telling the story.
Participants were led to the lake on the grounds of the museum. Trailing behind them from intentionally varied distances was a saxophonist playing a repetitive melody. After 10 minutes of walking, the goggles were activated to reveal a person sitting alone at a bench wearing a Krispy Kreme hat and eating donuts. The goggles closed, and the repetitive melody began again. The saxophonist was never revealed to the participants.
Participants were walked to a public jazz concert and situated comfortably on the grass with the rest of the audience. A post on social media asked the virtual public to select a participant (1, 2 or 3) whose goggles would be remotely activated and opened. The participants caught short glimpses of the jazz concert and surroundings based on the will of people via social media, thus extending the power of the remote-control users to shape the experience of others.
Some of the influences on this project include Walter Benjamin’s inquiry about the loss of “Aura” from his essay Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction and John Dewey’s theoretical statements about formalizing “bookends” for aesthetic experiences as a method to create meaning and heighten consciousness.