[-empyre-] Merleau-Ponty weighs in on Nicholas Claus' "Nocturne"
I am not going to channel Merleau-Ponty, so anyone reading this can rest
easy. But I would like to try putting your work and a phenomenological
perspective in dialogue.
For reference to my comments, I spent extra time looking at one of your
works that you produced last year, titled "Nocturne"
Thanks, Nicholas, for your previous comments that elaborated on the
connection of your media work to your painting practice.
One of your comments described the influence of painting this way:
"how the eye will start from on particular point to travel on the canvas
from one element to another and to finally 'read' the work"
You do not state it explicitly, but experiencing the work "Nocturne" makes
me conscious of the hand of the viewer whose interactive gesture "reads"
the work. The hand that holds the mouse becomes an extension of the
"eye". The imagery becomes a kind of Braille that the hand reads to assist
Is there a hierarchy in this way of understanding "Nocturne", i.e., the
hand of the interactor is the "hand-maiden" of vision (of your
vision)? Then would that be true in painting too, where the composition
leads the eye as a function of the painter's vision?
I am not against hierarchy. Obviously certain contexts make them
necessary. I am interested in your response, though, in relation to the
interview that you did with Jim Andrews.
In your interview you discussed translating interactivity to a physical
installation. Here is what you said to Jim about your new installation
project based on the shockwave movie, "De l'art si je veux":
"we will use four modules of the online project that will be done in real
space without mouse but with
the movement of the spectators like a chair that makes the work move while
you sit on it, or a sensitive floor in which the works are projected and
even a wooden bridge on which you walk and which interact on the
In this re-working of "De l'art si je veux", you will eliminate the gesture
of the hand, in order to allow more expansive and varied gestures on the
part of the viewer. Interestingly, you use the term "viewer" when you
describe the audience for your shockwave applets, but transform the viewer
into a "spectator" in relation to the large-scale installations.
Aside from that shift in language, I am interested in what might be changed
or gained in the immediate experience of the work once it is translated
from hand-interactivity to full-body, quasi-immersive experience.
This morning, by chance, I found on the web a scientific study of
conversational gesture in a person who had lost the sensory awareness of
his body from the neck down. He could speak and gesture, but he had no
tactile awareness of what his gestures were.
One unexpected observation was that if the person was blind-folded, that
his hand gestures became more precisely correlated with the content of his
spoken words. This seems like a contradiction, since he cannot feel his
hands and arms. There is no feedback! Wouldn't he need to see his
gestures in order for his gestures to be expressive and accurate?!
I am interested in the study's theoretical conclusions based on that
Gestures used in conversation are not analogs of instrumental
action. Gestures used in conversation are not "virtual action" re-enacting
or reproducing a functional action to mimic "what we mean". Instead of
gestures performing as a supplement or intermediary for communication, the
research hypothesis is that gestures are used in order to "map semantic
space onto concrete space." Gestures are direct communicative actions that
create a space for dialogue.
"gesture is an action that helps to create the narrative space that is
shared in the communicative situation"
(-- quoted from the text of the above url.)
Okay, here are 2 questions:
When the viewer of "Nocturne" uses the hand-gesture with the mouse (an
otherwise useless gesture, linguistically-speaking), isn't this an integral
creation of narrative space?
When the interactive applet "De l'art si je veux" is dependent on the
instrumental actions of sitting in a chair or walking across a bridge, how
do those gestures push further a dialog with the images on the screen
(i.e., further than was already available in the shockwave movie)?
Based on your experimentation in preparing for the installation, is it
possible that the fully spatial experience of the work will minimize the
intensity of the viewer's dialog with the screen image? What do you see
emerging in place of that previous form of interactive dialog?
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