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Digital Body-Automata
Jill Scott

Housed in a white, clinical environment, Digital Body- Automata (1997-2000) is divided into three parts. These installations are called: A Figurative History (past mechanical transformation); Interskin (present digital transformation) and Immortal Duality (future molecular transformation). They are all designed to encourage intimate and contemplative interactive participation. on the part of the viewers and center around a similar theme; the exploration of the desire to transform the human body by technology, and, the effect technology may have on the design of the human body in the future.  More  

Inside an elevated hut, “A Figurative History” consists of five interactive terminals with smart objects and corresponding screens. By touching metal points on the objects, the viewers can see animated characters on the screens. These represent five different types of fantasies about the mechanical transformation of the body by technology. Frankenstein’s monster (1890) relates to the interest in medical manipulation; Lady Miso (1750) is a metaphor for robotics simulation; Pandora (BC), represents the fascination of object to human transformation; The Cyborg (1250) illustrates the desire to combine organic and mechanic parts and The Data Body(1950) explores the history of artificial intelligence and the notion of a downloaded mind onto a computer. In this environment, the viewer can experience a strong sense of time travel and creative desire. The effects of these desires on transformation are extended by the novelty of touching other viewers in the space, as well as mechanically connecting to the sculptural interfaces. More internal and ephemeral desires for transformations of the body are effected by the digitization of medical imaging and computer mapping of the interior of the human body. Such is the experience of “Interskin”, a virtual reality game between two players and a moderator. The moderator can only observe and interrupt the players, while the players can “go inside” separate body parts, behind the human skin, guided by selected “avatars” or “agents”. Together these body parts form a spiral around the “T’an Tien” or center of the human body. In the game one can explore the gender and identity of a second self or other body which may reside deep inside the viewer’s personality. As the aim is to find this second personality. The reactions the participant makes to the various choices or belief systems effects the type of inner body the viewer may find. These choices are made from Western, Eastern or alternative medical presentations. In Interskin, I suggest that alternative ways of seeing and associating through the technologies of cyberspace and digital multimedia, can also play an important role in the concept of transformation of the human body. “Immortal Duality” is about molecular transformation. It consists of an interactive automata, in the spirit of Marie Curie and surrounding her, is an electronic freeze, built into the architecture. As the viewers move in the space, Curie comments on the role of Science in molecular transformation, from the early discovers of molecular phenomena like radium, to the latest developments in DNA manipulation and Human Genome mapping. Around the walls of this environment, I further depict ethical issues on topics of anti-aging, cloning and reproduction and the viewer can interact with these to compose sculptural stories. These suggest that a shift in our notions of “matter” and of “nature” and they may change the way artists think about the representation of the human body. As micro-biologists have cloned a sheep and predict human cloning in the near future, I wonder, both from the perspective of a woman and an artist what will happen to human reproduction as well as the concepts of art and representation. Here the viewer is sure to end up with pertinent questions of their own, about the desires of the general public; of artists, of scientists and of women within the molecular attempt to re-design the future human body. These three works constitute two and one half years of planning, a great deal of research and lots of team work, but more importantly they show that without a transformation of our desires on a very basic level, my art will continue to question the applications and implications of technological “progress”.

Source: WRO2000@kultura catalogue

Place and date of recording: WRO2000@kultura, 17th Meridian exhibition, Museum of Wrocław University, 20.11-10.12.2000


artist's bio
Jill Scott (AU), b. 1952, works with video, performance and interactive environment. She discovered video post production techniques, such as the Quantel PaintBox, and experiment with computers leading to 3D Animation and Interactive Art. In her work she interrest at environmental sustainability, neural science, artificial intelligence and the study of somato-sensory perception to develop more ergonomic mobile Human Computer Interfaces. In 1986 organised the first Australian Video Festival.
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