Saturday, November 14, 2009

Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv

Text Rain is an interactive installation where participants use their own body to lift letters on a screen "that do not really exist." The participant stands and moves in front of a projection screen. The screen depicts a mirrored black and white video projection of the participant, "combined with a color animation of falling letters. Like rain or snow, the letters appears to land on participants' heads and arms. The letters respond to the participants' motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again. The falling text will 'land' on anything darker than a certain threshold, and 'fall' whenever that obstacle is removed. If a participant accumulates enough letters along their outstretched arms, or along the silhouette of any dark object, they can sometimes catch an entire word, or even a phrase" (Utterback, Achituv 1999).

"The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language. 'Reading' the phrases in the Text Rain installation becomes a physical as well as a cerebral hinges the behavior of falling text to the physical movements of human bodies (Utterback, Achituv 1999).On Camille Utterback's website, she provides a statement on her artwork in that she explores the "tension between the abstract realm of ideas and the corporeality in which we live and interact with these attempt to bridge the conceptual and the corporeal" (Utterback). It seems that there is somewhat of a separation between viewer and machine when we think of the digital and virtual realm. I think the artist is trying to find a connection with something that seems abstract from what we physically know in concrete terms. For example, we have a direct connection to something we might paint, since we hold a brush in our hand and physically provide brush strokes on a canvas. There is a direct connection with the artist and the painting. Utterback provides an interesting way to connect us with her artwork in that our physical movement of our body provides a relationship with the falling text and letters to create a poetic illustration in motion. Also, the fact that a participant sees their own body projected on a screen brings the body into the digital realm. It is like an actor seeing their own image on screen digitally since their physical body was recorded by a camera. Utterback provides an example of connecting the physical to digital: "Physical-digital interfaces - ranging from the familiar mouse and keyboard to more unusual sensing systems - provide the connective tissue between our bodies and the codes represented in our machines."

I think the artwork has an elegant, graceful quality that is calming and almost seems natural. I like that a virtual realm can provide a similar atmosphere to that of nature and what we witness in nature. The text resembles snow or rain and we often pull out our hand to catch snowflakes or raindrops. With the letters resembling the movement of rain or snow, there becomes a relationship with letters, poetry, body, and movement. When I look at the pictures of the project, I get a sense that the letters move slowly because I think of a slow snowfall, even if I haven't seen the piece in a video or in person. I wish provided information on the speed of the falling letters and what kind of software she might have used for the project.


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