This spring I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei to view The Innovationists, a show focused on new media art. The spectrum of technological works ranged from Ryota Kuwakubo‘s whimsical The Tenth Sentiment, which utilized a toy train’s LED headlight to project crisp then melting shadowscapes in a darkened room, and Samson Young‘s Dimension+, a floating spine-like structure of polypropylene paper, to Chris Honhim Cheung and the XEX GRP collective’s more dissonant and possibly migraine inducing Anadelta or Resonance Seed, an inverted triangle and hand wheel equipped with sensors that translated touch into flashes of light and sound.
The museum’s second floor was dedicated to the works of Gregory Chatonsky, where his triptych, Telefossiles I, presented a post-apocalyptic earth after human extinction.
Chatonsky created the archaeological excavation on site to display eerie fossils from our time: laptop, gas tank, tub, fragments of machinery. Overhead, lamps illuminated sections of the gray, grainy blocks accompanied by footage of earth’s dead surface, ashen and cold, despairingly lunar. Telefossiles I relies on viewers to remember the present as past, and conjure a future where technological artifacts serve as the last testaments of life on earth.
Gregory Chatonsky’s Dislocation VI, at the end of the collection, turned out to be a viewer favorite. On a weekday afternoon, every viewer on the second floor interacted with the EEG headgear and chair projection. The installation operated in two ways: concentration raised the chair image on the screen and mental relaxation or inattention caused it to fall. The installation guide suggested that I think of something like an apple. I tried thinking of a banana, but realized immediately that thinking “banana, banana, banana” and switching to a visualization of the fruit broke concentration; in short, these were two different thoughts. And because I was merely thinking of a banana and not a specific banana, concentration waned. The chair rose a little, and then fell. But when I visualized the furred ears of my dog, opaquely red in the sun, the chair shot up and exploded. In all, it took me about three or four minutes to learn how the technology and brain would work together.
From Paris, Gregory Chatonsky wrote to me: “Beyond fantasies of reading the brain, the idea that we can correlate mental states and brain states, what interests me is how these helmets are changing our way of thinking. Technology does not describe reality, technology produces it.” He went on to explain that he has been intrigued with the conflicting states of attention and inattention, which the installation makes visual.
With Moore’s law, the exponentially accelerated rise of newer, smaller, and more powerful technologies every two years, Dislocation VI is an important reminder, perhaps, of the eventual integration of technology and the body. Chatonsky added, “It isn’t really the headset that reads the brain, but the brain that reads the headset.” This is also quite true, though, let’s hope that the outcome isn’t anything close to Telefossiles I.