Presence was the final Hybrid Sculptural Object, conceived for a series entitled ‘The Limits of Control’ (2009). The three previous objects created for the series were; ‘Untitled (aka Leonard’), ‘Untitled (aka Marta’), and ‘Holy Cow Television’.
In 2010, two more Objects were later added, ‘record RECORD’ and ‘The Chimera’ to complete a site-specific installation for my MFA exhibit called ‘The Obscure Objects of Desire and the Rise of the Technological Chimera’ at AXENÉO7.
The construction of Presence is similar to the previous three works in this series in terms of using a wood-based skeleton-like structure which braces and contains the skinned TV sets and DVD player. However, unlike the other three works, Presence is divided into two parts and there exists an inferred possibility that a staged and interactive event has or may happen.
As a visitor approaches the work, they will notice that the top TV screen seems to be generating a live video feed of the chair and wooden stretcher directly behind. The visitor may then consider seating him or herself in the chair with the assumption that their image would then appear on the TV screen.
Thoughts of Presence
A paradoxical and frustrating aspect of this work is that if the visitor comes alone, they can never really know if they appear on the TV screen – since they cannot be in two places at one time.
In order to acknowledge their own presence on the screen, they require the assistance of another participant to confirm that their presence at the chair is also being registered on the TV screen. Of course, since the image on the screen is a pre-recorded video loop, the visitor’s presence at the chair will never occur.
The visitor(s) may at this point figure that the camera must be broken and decide to leave or in some cases try to understand why their presence is not being registered on the screen. Since the DVD player, in this case, is completely hidden, the visitor/participant cannot make any definitive conclusion, except speculate on the reasons why.
Also, when the visitor/participants seat themselves down at the chair, they are confronted by another skinned TV set, one which emits a single white electronic beam across the screen, similar to a flat-line signal found on an electrocardiogram (no heartbeat) or an electroencephalogram (no brain activity).
This encounter with this skinned TV set can be somewhat disconcerting to the participant in terms of not being able to access or reference any information or clues from the system as to its intended purpose. Also in combination with the skinned objects, the bare wood skeleton, the lack of any discernible human presence and a single white beam staring back and merging with the reflection of the participant due to the mirrored surface of the screen can further add to the work’s ominous presence.
On the surface, Presence plays off the seemingly simplistic way in which technological systems and objects are configured and made to interact within a society with minimal effort or confusion on the part of the consumer. However, the underlying implications of what Presence is suggesting in terms of notions of presence, death and the technological mediation of identity are extremely complex.
I recently came across an interesting description regarding the notion of presence at the Stanford University’s interdisciplinary media website, Metamedia which struck a chord with me in terms of what my work signifies. The definition read:
Presence is a contested aspect of social and cultural experience. Notions of presence hinge on the relationship between the live and mediated, on notions of immediacy, authenticity and originality. Presence prompts questions of the character of self-awareness, of the presentation of self. Interaction is implicated — presence implies being in someone’s presence. And agency – one’s ability to effect such representation and relationship. Location too — to be present is to be somewhere. Hence presence also directs us outside the self into the social and spatial. And also, of course, presence directs us into temporality — a fulcrum is tense and the relationship between past and present (n. par).
John Naccarato, Presence, The Obscure Objects of Desire and the Rise of the Technological Chimera: Towards Death and the Other Exhibit, video clip, AXENEO7 and DAIMON, Gatineau, QC, August 29th to September 4th, 2010.
Text and ideas originally created and published as part of my MFA Thesis, 2010. Specific segments have been revised and updated for this post. John Naccarato, 2018
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