Re: [-empyre-] intro from tamiko thiel

tamiko hi..

i unfortunately only know this  work  in documentation on the web, but i was
wondering about it as a political work .. one that intersects with, at the
meoment, very emotive states of people  involved in , or for or  against
current US military actions  as well as i would think hightened tensions in
the community between  different ethnicities stirred up by the constant
media barrage of war and terror.

do you know if there have there  been any different or unsusual reactions to
Beyond Manzanar from museum audiences, or authorities ..  as this sort of
Virtual enviroment has the ability to place the user in the position of the
detainees..a position i guess which most viewers wouldnt be familiar.  and i
remember last time  we spoke about this work one of your main thrusts with
the work was making the viewer expeirence a different perspective than their
usual one and very related to their sense of physical space and freedom..
eg. forcing them to go though doors, making them be contained in a yard,
hearing the crunch of gravel as they moved through the camp.. etc.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Tamiko Thiel" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2003 6:51 PM
Subject: [-empyre-] intro from tamiko thiel

Hi Y'all -

here's a brief statement of my artistic interests in using VR, and an
abstract of the Beyond Manzanar virtual reality installation which is
being shown in the Lab3D exhibit at Cornerhouse. The full piece is not
available online for various technical and legal reasons, but there are
screenshots and some small VRML excerpts (which give you an idea of the
stage set, but not the play.)

Yours, Tamiko Thiel

Artistic Statement:

I am interested in social and cultural uses of virtual reality, and in
developing VR as a powerful (hyper)narrative medium. With VR we have the
capability to visualize metaphors in a 21st century form of Surrealism
that expands the dreamscape from an image into an environment. We can
build extraordinarily rich, sensitive environments wherein the structure
of the virtual space itself and of the user's interations with that
space create an intimate dramatic tension between the user and the
virtual environment.

Beyond Manzanar abstract:

Beyond Manzanar is an interactive 3D virtual reality environment, a
metaphorical landscape that explores media scapegoating of ethnic
populations in times of crisis and invokes the human spirit that creates
beauty under adverse conditions.

The work is a collaboration between Tamiko Thiel, a Japanese American
media artist, and Zara Houshmand, an Iranian American poet and theater
director. The mechanisms of scapegoating are universal and can occur in
any country, but to focus the universal into the personal the authors
have created a visual dialog based on the experiences of their own two
ethnic groups. The historic experiences of Japanese Americans in World
War II and the more contemporary experiences of Iranian Americans form
the basis for a surreal and poetic work contrasting immigrant attempts
to achieve the American Dream with mass media demonization of entire
groups as the “face of the enemy.”

The genius loci of Manzanar Internment Camp in Eastern California is
used to focus the stories of these two diverse groups into a single
dialog. Manzanar was the first of over 10 internment camps erected to
incarcerate Japanese Americans families during World War II under a
false charge of military necessity. In the 1980s the American courts
declared this internment to have been “not justified,” but the principle
of mass internment of an entire ethnic group on the grounds of military
necessity still stands. During the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 –1980
and with every subsequent fear of middle-eastern terrorism there are
verbal, physical and legal attacks on Iranian Americans and calls to
intern them “like we interned the Japanese.”

Ironically, Manzanar’s high desert oasis strongly resembles the austere
landscapes of Iran. Even the grid-like traces of the army camp evoke the
geometric order of Iranian gardens, representations of the cosmic order
of paradise. Irony indeed, because the Japanese American internees did
in fact build gardens within Manzanar”s barbed wire fence – depictions
of the sacred islands and ponds of the Buddhist Western Paradise.

Beyond Manzanar uses the unique spacial characteristics of navigable 3D
virtual reality to kinesthetically locate you inside the Manzanar
Internment Camp. As you explore the camp your kinesthetic sense is
engaged to underscore the emotional impact of confinement. Your eyes see
the passes that lead out of the valley, but you stand at the fence and
can go no further. Confined within the camp, you have nowhere to go but
inwards, into the refuge of memory and fantasy. At the heart of the
piece lies a vision of the garden as an ancient form of virtual reality,
an image of paradise created as a refuge from the outside world.

An edition of Beyond Manzanar is in the permanent collection of the San
Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, USA.

  Tamiko Thiel       Media Artist


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