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Artist Statement (PDF)

Combining balance and interaction is how everything shares space. This is an important concept in many aspects of our lives. I incorporate this idea in some way in every work.

Balance is found in the concept of translation. In most of my work over the past two years, translation occurs when the viewer interacts with the camera. In an instant, the lens records the viewer and digitises the signal, the computer interprets the data, converts it, and then translates it for the video card to display back to the viewer. During that same instant, the viewer is interpreting what is onscreen, deciding how to act in front of the camera, and anticipating the computer’s response. Both the computer and the viewer are thinking and sharing input. For every bit the viewer provides the computer returns the data. I often reinforce balance in these interactions by using elements such as reflection or transparency.

Physical space and movement provide the context of the interaction. What needs to be underscored is the viewer and the piece share the same space. The qualities of the physical space affect the nature of how they move through it. When seeking a balanced, give-and-take relationship between viewer and machine, movement should be complimentary. Often this means one side adapts to the other. “Blueprints Delay” is an example of a work that does not physically move and thus it presents a chair to the viewer. Alternately, “Urban Drawing Version 1” (Udv1) finds itself on crowded streets; so it walks. How the work and the viewer move and share their space affect how much input is needed from both sides to find balance.

What is enticing about working with these fundamentals is that I can tip the scales in a myriad of ways to create tension. The work can enter or present unexpected or priviledged spaces; it can get in peoples' personal spaces or disrupt their movement. The translation it presents can be a challenge, a compliment, an insult, or can be hidden at first, waiting to be discovered.

I mentioned “personal space”. All the elements I have discussed, the give-and-take relationship, the movements, the input, and the tension, combine not just into a conversation but a space in and of itself. And when I create that, record it and present it in a gallery, I invert the space and make it recursive1. For example, with UDv1, the presentation of that space does not occupy the wall exclusively: incorporating the UDv1 device with its camera and screen directed at the viewer, the work creates a new space, an interactive space that runs an interactive space inside itself. Therefore, this becomes a unified experience, one thing the viewer enters. In the gallery, the viewer is interacting with UDv1, but this viewer is also walking on the street because the work is also on the street and they are in the work.

Robert Watson
March 6, 2006

1 Recursion is defined on as “a programming technique where a routine performs its task by delegating part of it to another instance of itself.” It is helpful to think of recursion in terms of Russian nesting dolls where inside each doll is a smaller version of itself. Recursion repeats itself, going deeper until meaning is found, and then it returns to the original layer.