patiently shocking the real

Scale: Erika Lincoln
February 1 – March 1, 2003

a response to the exhibition by Reva Stone

Perception = awareness, discernment, observations, reading (view, opinion, picture, slant, assessment, experience
(knowledge, occurrence, feel))

How do we represent this fundamentally participatory mode of experience?

We become aware of thinking only in those kinesthetic moments when we actively bind the sights, savors, sounds, tastes and textures swirling around us to our inmost, feeling flesh.1

In recent work, Erika Lincoln used her own body to investigate the territory where material bodies end and experience of the world begins. She defined this region as “the area where perception arises and informs us as sentient beings.”2 This work pointed to the boundaries or limits of the body at that specific point where what is known inside the body meets the body’s physical extension into space.

This interstitial, experiential space was first investigated by Lincoln in Sleeves (1999). In this work, Lincoln walked along the streets of Winnipeg dragging a toy video camera that recorded her travel. A garment consisting of long knitted sleeves trailed behind her. Each sleeve contained a microphone at the exact point where the sleeves touched the ground to record sounds of her passing through the world. She then used these elements — collected sound and video, as well as the knitted sleeves — as components in an installation.

This form of documentary performance led to the piece Cannery (2001). For this work, she constructed a form fitting plastic bodysuit. She then videotaped the performative act of pouring water into the space created between her body and the suit. The videotape became a document of the experience that was then exhibited as a video projection. Both Sleeves and Cannery investigated the corporeal experiences that affect the full spectrum of senses that are part of living in a human body. With these works she entered the debate surrounding the nature of consciousness.

“Where does the me start and where does it end?”

Perception = experience of the work *conceptual concerns

Walking into the exhibition space of her new work, scale (2003), I am aware of a large biomorphic form illuminated by a pool of light. Is it an insect?……… A human rib cage? ……… A water strider? ………. As I walk closer to it, I become conscious of movement and sound. Looking closer yet, I can see strings attached to what appear to be legs in constant movement. scale is obviously constructed yet seems somehow animate. Although it looks like a life form, the sound is not a breathing sound. What I hear is the scratching and scraping of constantly moving branches. The piece now reads as a stringed musical instrument. Extending beyond the body of the piece are tendrils of wire whose function serves to displace and disembody the sound into small speakers placed around the room. Because of the sound that surrounds me, I feel now as if I have entered into the inside of some creature.

scale is comprised of fishing line, twigs and logs, motors, sensors, amplifiers, speakers, software and basic stamp microcontrollers. All of the exposed electronics and mechanics are visible as part of the aesthetic. Photoresistor sensors at the front of the piece are activated by human presence to increase the rate at which branches scratch against piezo transducers that act as pick-up microphones.

In her installation work, Lincoln seeks to make the gap visible between the experiential and the material. In past work she sought to pinpoint that exact moment of contact between corporeality and the animate universe. In scale, however, Lincoln is also pointing to the intersection between natural and technological systems.
Perception = sentience + circuitry

Lincoln has moved away from the use of her own body to create an entity that combines organic material and circuitry into a hybrid creature that is familiar and yet somewhat alien. scale exists in this interesting middle state — embodied in matter, yet controlled by an artificial mind. Every age has its mythical narratives that transgress boundaries between the organic and the machine, between nature and culture and between now and the future. We have always used available technology to make images of real or imagined animals and people. This creature/cybernetic sculpture evokes a larger narrative about artificial life and the kinds of life that have emerged and will emerge on earth.

The interrelationships that Lincoln creates between the embedded cultural language of the ideas and materials that she uses in this work; the technological interface that she built; and the corporeal aspects of our response, are what make this installation both interesting and successful.

1. Barbara Maria Stafford, Visual Analogy: consciousness as the art of connecting, The MIT Press, 1999, p 58.
2. Erika Lincoln, scale, 2003, artist statement

Reva Stone is a Winnipeg artist who constructs computer assisted installations that explore issues surrounding technology’s augmentation and alteration of the human body. In this work, she investigates the ideologies underlying the drive to improve or enhance human experience through technological advancements and to remake ourselves as idealized experiences. Her work asks questions about how this impacts upon our definitions of what is human, what is sentience, and how we define life and death, while pondering how malleable the body has become with ever increasing technological interventions.