MOLDING THE SIGNIFIER

MOLDING THE SIGNIFIER

"It is one of the new media art pieces par excellence, because its impact and whole existence stands and falls on the technologies and notions which could not be found in arts before digital media came." (Curatorial text of Ondřej Cakl)

"Molding” is a time-based, hybrid, bio-cybernetic installation. It deploys an external biological agent to infiltrate and disrupt the body-mind-ecosystems of virtual humans, resulting in states that we regular humans can perceive as mental illness. A well known game character has been chosen to be deconstructed as a virtual human actor, as this is how most people today are introduced to and come to know virtual entities. This is in effect intended as a social commentary on a culture that is hungry for simulated experiences, yet is stuck on its own evolutionary conditioning - the problem described as the “uncanny valley”.

A contaminated biologic culture (an assortment of growing mold species) is continuously
monitored and measured for data with a digital microscope and a set of bioelectric sensors. This real-time input is gradually interspersed into the neuronal logic that governs facial recognition (of exhibition visitors), and the virtual human visualization/simulation, combined with procedural emotion expression and speech synthesis.

The virtual humans’ apparent manifestation comprises a hybrid bio-cybernetic system - three virtual eco-entities invaded by a biological agent. The system evolves in time - at the beginning, the virtual humans have a reasonably high level of mimetic semblance to humans as we know them - they act as convincing conscious persons, engaging visitors in eye contact and speaking to them. Different emotions appear on the virtual faces, depending on the degree to which the facial recognition likes or dislikes the situation in the room.

These processes are over time slowly disrupted by the growing contamination, resulting in increasing
levels of perceived digital madness. The virtual humans’ facial features start to twitch and contort with
increasing intensity, and glossolalia (speaking in tongues) gradually phases out comprehensible speech.

The libretto that has been chosen for the piece is symbolically from *the* seminal book on linguistic
theory - “Cours de Linguistique Generale” by Ferdinand de Saussure. All virtual entities currently living amongst us, in our computers, phones and systems, are a signifier for what’s about to come - and we need new paradigms in understanding ourselves to keep up.

AWARDS + DISTINCTIONS
"molding” has won the CyNETART International Award (2014, DE) by CynetArt Festival Dresden and Stiftung Kunst & Kultur Ostsächsischen Sparkasse, an Artistic Production Incentive endowed by Fundación Telefónica VIDA Art and Artificial Life Awards (2011, ES), was amongst the Jury Selections at Japan Media Arts Festival (2012, JPN), reviewed on Leonardo/OLATS (2015) and covered in two Leonardo articles (TBA 2017).

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