Art, design, technology and culture are rapidly converging,
mixing and generating new hybrids. How have you been a part of this scene
and what are your new projects?
Carlos J. Gomez de Llarena:
Convergence suggests things coming together
into one. I tend to see this differently: I see disciplines are overlapping
but not merging, spawning a more complex sense of meaning from a previous
state of perception.
Convergence could denote simplification of significance and I believe
quite the opposite is happening: production is being influenced by more
ideas and points-of-view now, creating multiplicity of intention. Perhaps
this practice produces ambiguity too, but then this is a positive effect
Many of our traditional precepts are old, analytical and rigid. Ambiguity
is a paradigm that challenges this, forcing us to see how things are related.
The work I create is informed by this perspective. Through the use of
a diverse palette of media I have been exploring the possibilities of
juxtaposed contents. A central concern of this exploration is focused
on space and the vast networks of relationships we sustain with it. My
architecture background and experience with media has made me question
the role of space in shaping social structure and behavior. I find equalizing
architectural and urban space to language gives a structure for flexible
association of ideas.
From this starting point, I came to the concept of Parallel Spaces, which
is what some of my recent work has tried to materialize. I can briefly
define this notion as places where interactions between physical and electronic
information are juxtaposed to such an extent that they add new dimensions
to our perception.
In this framework, I've made a few installations where space has been
constructed or reconfigured by sound, image and body interaction. The
last project I worked on in collaboration with NYCwireless and Eyebeam
Atelier in New York, was part of a workshop they had on urban mapping.
It's a game played with the wireless networks of the city. The idea behind
it was to expose participants to New York's emerging electronic geography
by rendering the city into a playing field, and then representing it in
online. The project, Node Runner, can be seen at: www.noderunner.com
How is ambiguity a positive effect for culture? Hasn't
culture historically, since roughly the renaissance, been charcterized
by the ethic of distinction; that "previous state of perception"
that you mention before? Culture as a notion is intrinsically tied to
the practice of analysis. Post-modernism itself, from which it could be
argued you inherit this idea of ambiguity, is the product of textual analysis.
While that analysis was breaking with a paradigm of the autonomy of the
object in the phenomenon of analysis, it was not a break from analysis
itself. I think this is the most misunderstood and poorly appropriated
aspect of this recent paradigm.
But what it seems you mean is that creativity, not culture,
benefits from ambiguity. Ambiguity, while rich with possibilties for the
artist, has nothing to do with allowing the viewer/participant to extract
Creativity often embelishes the one to one transfer of
intent to meaning. Otherwise, it is just an acting out of banal ideas.
It sounds like ambiguity plays an important part in the art/cultural objects/events
that you create. Is this acurate?
I agree with some ideas you mention. However, my critique of analysis
is concerned with the effects specialized culture has had on shaping social
and individual perception. These observations are best described by Edward
De Bono's ideas on lateral thinking, where he exposes the many constraints
western school of thought has when it comes to creative exploration of
ideas. The main issue is that our logical and deterministic outlook is
like a periscope through which we as individuals experience life. For
example, the way an engineer appreciates a tall, gravity-defying structure
is probably quite different from the way a musician does: the former will
see a complex set of structural stress in perfect balance, the latter,
will see and perhaps listen its rhythm and dramatic crescendo.
Ambiguity inspires artists and their work but we must also acknowledge
this creativity is fueled by culture. By creating and inserting work with
ambiguous intentions back into society, perhaps the artist promotes a
leakage of perceptions form different aspects of a temporal, spatial and
social reality. This in turn can even, in the long run, help shape the
way society thinks. A more sensible audience is already getting some of
Regarding the viewer experience, my work is aimed to captivate perception
and thought; and that in order to do so, aesthetics play a crucial role.
I regard aesthetics as a powerful communication tool, this is why this
process goes through a considerable amount of design. However, the real
intention behind all this operation is the establishment of new relationships
with space. Yes, I do expect people to connect the dots from the aesthetic
phenomena to the concept. I am not sure if everyone is able to though.
Perhaps younger crowds can appreciate this better since they were raised
with more electronic interactions surrounding them.
One of my first installations in the Parallel Space framework was called
Vectorial Soundscape. It was a peculiar kinetic sculpture: an arrangement
of 3 luminous neon wires stretched out in a dark, enclosed space in which
you also had a microphone on a stand. Whenever the viewer talked into
the microphone, the cables moved, leaving short trails of light which
created ephemeral volumes (by persistence of vision). When it was silent,
the cables would go back into their original positions and stand still.
This experiment was creating a paradigm in which sound acted as the generator
of space. This was intended to expose how underestimated the aural dimension
is in traditional apprehension of place.
I would argue that specialized culture is what you are
engaged in. Maybe hegemonic or consensus culture is what mean to critique,
which only seems to exist as "consumption culture", whether
it is consumption of media fodder or products or cultural production.
The consumption of cultural production is what I am concerned with describing,
because it is specialized. That's it's claim.
True enough, the engineer and musician may make the same
choices of media from which they prefer to consume information and from
which store they like to shop but will likely have radically different
views on the consumption of cultural production. This "leakage of
perceptions" are what the artist/designer bring to society as cultural
production and are what require decoding through critique and analysis.
While the aesthetic dimension of your work creates "impressions"
which are valuable on their own, how does the familiarity with various
electronic applications and their expected effect allow viewer/participants
greater access to the meaning of your work and what you are trying express
There is a number of reasons why I think generations raised in
the digital era can embrace ambiguous media expressions better. The one
aspect of electronic media I find crucial however, is the introduction
of Norbert Weiner's feedback loop principle. This process forces us to
engage in processes that contrast significantly from our previous forms
of interaction. Our cause and effect chains have been compressed into
real-time speeds and are coded into our digital habitat. Zeros and ones,
yes and no's everywhere: ubiquitous and portable determinism are embedded
in our daily surroundings.
It could be argued that we still handle electric media as the extensions
of more classical forms when using metaphorical nomenclature and interfaces
like e-mail or the computer desktop. But interface is like philosophy,
a point-of-view, and these cases do not necessarily establish such fixed
links. Consider that the implications of a book are quite different from
an e-book; a book is one book, one e-book can be any book. If we substitute
all types of media with this ambiguous paradigm we are in the presence
of an almost organic flow of information through electronic and physical
dimensions: Interchangeability. This aggregated effect leads to networked
scenarios where overlaps are possible, common and even desired. Generations
used to these situations from an early stage in life are more open to
these possibilities. At least this is how I perceive it.
What I am trying to express about space is nothing truly new, but a fact
that many times is overlooked: space is interface. The term 'Information
Architecture' has more to it than a name; a library is more than a building
with books. The juxtapositions of architecture and information are very
old and are currently undergoing through some of the most exciting transformations
Cause and effect chains being compressed into real-time,
the nearly instantaneous execution of logic in digital media, seems to
be your metaphor for the absent need for choice. The computer's choices
are masked by instantaneousness, interface metaphor and efficacy. Questions
of style seems to be what we're left with.
I agree that digital media makes interfaces overlap and merge
and diverge in what seems to be a viscous fluidity. And that architecture/buildings/spaces
can now be thought of in the same way that product/device design is developed.
While this fluidity continues to flow, and we are all seduced
by the ability to do things in new ways (read style)... and information
can be inserted, used to build upon and verge on a dimension of consciousness
itself... is it anything more than a scene?
Determinism, portable or not, in whatever form, is cast
along side it's seeming opposite (ambiguity), but also cast as liberating
through it's hypnotic repitition within feedback loops!? Is it determinism
or ambiguity? I don't see either as appealing results of an idle, mediated
But I would argue that both determinism and ambiguity are
the reality and the paradox of our situation.
Strange but true; the paradox is there an it could lead us to
some dramatic consequences. I remember Jaron Lanier speaking about interface
as a peculiar form of cultural colonization. By designing interfaces,
coders were not just making tools but defining visions of what function
should be and the way we should understand the work. For example, by using
Photoshop we are working with digital imagery in a limited way, as determined
by the software engineers at Adobe, the beta testers, the happy users,
etc. However, by using this interface we surrender our understanding of
the art process to the options we are given. If I wanted to create images
from sounds because this is the way I conceive images, how could I do
that with the tools I'm given in the software? My idea of interface would
differ with Adobe's: in the ambiguous digital space there is no reason
why I should not be able to create this type of work.
As for a fantastic consequence, an idea that comes to my mind is related
to Borges' Aleph: a point in space where all the spaces of the universe
can be experienced at the same time. If we generated the "feedback
loop" of all feedback loops, in which an input in one form generated
output in all other conceivable forms and media, how could we distinguish
the deterministic from the ambiguous? Let's imagine this "Aleph Loop"
as a an incredible networked event that is a website, a physical space,
a political system, a musical composition, a living organism, a mathematical
paradox, a specific smell, etc. By interacting with one of its forms of
expression, you would create a chain reaction of events in all of these
other expressions of the same thing. How absurd but possible could this
be? And what would these effects be like?
What a great reference. Yeah because my feeling is that
alot of what I call a scene is like Carlos Argentino Daneri's epic poem.
The aleph is the canned software you mention above offering limitless
possibility for association, relation of idea and effect, resulting in
things amazing to behold or experience but of questionable substance or
meaning. I think that Borges ends with a thankfulness in his return to
oblivion and the fault and morphing of his memory. Maybe this is because
of the need for art to relate to our own fragility and inefficiency; our
I think the "effect" of the "chain reaction
of events" (another reference to linearity in the midst of a mystical
limitless idealism) is the question. Is the "Aleph Loop" Daneri's
poem or Borge's story?
The "Aleph Loop" is the story. Daneri and Borges are
parts of it as much as all other stories. This is a very existentialist
metaphor we arrived to: when this event becomes the infinite representation
of the representation, how can we distinguish the source of it all? We
can only recognize the system as the origin of the experience. The experience
is the output of our gaze (or our input), and this is the essence the
What I was trying to suggest with this example is that the ubiquity of
technology allows the ubiquity of representation and that possibilities
of reconfiguration of reality and its communication are limited more by
our imagination and less by technology. It‚s a stimulating scenario
for the arts to now have the tools for these transformations.