THERE IS ALWAYS A SHADOW
Given the themes of this exhibition, I wanted to make something which brought together my interests in post-humanism and theology. The main process used to create this work is called photogrammetry, a technique I became familiar with due to my work with iDigBio. In my role as a researcher, I attempt to create highly accurate 3d models of live plant specimen. Throughout this iterative process of digital capture for empirical analysis, I have been hung up on a few things. The flatness of the model, the implications of capturing life for digital archival, and the strangenesses of the material properties of this process.
The process for making this piece involves me slowly walking in circular patterns in a swamp while I wave a small jet black silicon shard around at arm's length from my body. These medias are captured by machines designed as an extension of my own sense-abilities then algorithmically reconstructed and represented as contrasting pixels. The phone captures as much data as it can of the space, later to be stitched together, rendered, and opened to the digital realm of manipulation and representation. It isn't hard to equate this to a type of demonic power, and for sure, much has been said about the relationship of technology to demonic forces, the occult, and religion. Taking this psuedo-theological perspective seriously alongside a more materialist/post-humanistic approach opened the lines of thinking being explored in this piece.
In the Old Testament, demons have little to no power over the earth, and are rarely even mentioned. Introduced more fully in The New Testament, demons are typically framed as fallen angels. Angels no longer in heaven but with contact to the earthly and the divine. The presence of demons seems to correspond with the advent of technical abstractions, or early social technologies. Turning back to the old testament, angels are referred to as “watchers” or in greek “egrḗgoroi” a term used in occult circles to mean a “non-physical entity”. This abstracted form of non-secular angel/demon are thought of as socially constructed entities, which can be actualized through ritual or techniques to enact a non-human power, or to engage with the realm of divinity so to speak. There is a resonance here with the mechanics of “abstract technical entities”, or technology itself. In Roden’s seminar talk, he mentioned that encounters with technical abstractions or hyper agents happen as “encounters in the dark”. Interactions that occur beyond human perception and with forces we cannot conceptualize or represent.
Massimo Cicciari takes an interesting materialist perspective on the semiotics of the angel in a book called “The Necessary Angel”, where he links the appearance of angels to moments of great crisis, specifically crises of representation. Following Benjamin, he says, “The problem consists in the representational giving of itself of the idea, and not of the forms with which a “civilization of vision” represents the idea to itself. “Truth is the death of intention” (Benjamin in The Origin of German Tragic Drama); any theory that wants to reduce the truth to the circuit of the intentional relation is destined to miss “the peculiar giving of itself of truth from which any kind of intention remains withdrawn”. The forms of the analytic-conceptual connection presume to represent truth, just as names presume to possess in themselves the thing itself. In reality, this conception betrays only ignorance to the problem of representation. If representation stands for the identical image of the thing … we would then have to say that forms of connection are truth itself. If we were to produce the forms, truth would be the product of our intention. … A philosophy that corresponds to this problem does not find itself in the condition of mere “research” to which a “current conception” reduces it. The researcher moves in a sphere of the simple “extinction of the empirical”. This art of confutation shows only the imperfect nature of knowledge (obtained through representation). The researcher is an ironist whose art “extinguishes” the empirical by showing the constitutive instability of (representation).”
These environments are focused on moments of representational collapse where this kind of “encounter in the dark could take place”. No matter how much information about a space is captured, it is always rendered in flattened images, reduced to contrasting pixels, bitmaps. I wanted to push in to the moments where the digital apparatus of capture is unable to adequately grasp on to an earthly subject. Moments in the render where the traces of this absence are present.
These swamp scenes (in the form of .glb files) feature large amounts of ‘algorithmically useless’ information, for instance photographs of the sunlight rippling on water or shimmering through Spanish moss, while these photographs might add a few data points to the mesh, the majority of them are tossed out due to ‘bad fit. Traces of this lost information, however, tend to remain in the texture of the 3d surface. Where there is loss in the capture, there is also an uncanny addition. Together, these three scans work as a kind of triptych entitled “the soul confronted with ever-increasing science”. The captures are taken at locations around a swamp in the north Florida panhandle.
The first space, “there is always a shadow” is a scan of a small pet cemetery near the high watermark of the swamp. The graves are marked by stacks of seashells and cinder blocks. A makeshift monument is emblazoned with a woodcarved Kawasaki logo. Municipal drainage infrastructure looms in .mp4 format.
The second space, “where you stand” is a scan of a section of the swamp which flows into the municipal drainage system. In the center of this area is an enlarged render of a burst cicada exoskeleton wrapped in spider webs.
The third space, “no matter how radiant the light” is a scan of a burnt out structure along the shoreline of the swamp. Digital videos of sunlight reflecting on water form a cathedral like structure amongst the ruins.