Elevating the Human Experience


By Aisling Kelliher

31 January 2014

I have selected three works primarily created by teams of people: the EyeWriter, Absolute Quartet, and Open Air.  I picked them because they represent hybrid physical digital works that bring together the physical human experience with digital processing. They each occur at varying levels of scale - from something built for one person, to something with individual input and collectively experienced output, to a work that aggregates individual input over time into an event experienced at a city-wide scale. The EyeWriter was created ostensibly to help someone with a particular medical condition, while Absolute Quartet can be understood to deal with artistic expression and instrumentalism in a distributed framework. With Open Air, the work proposes a broad participatory model inspired by the democratic process, and so has a bit more of a political dimension to it. All three works allow participation in a variety of dimensions, where the expressiveness is very much up to the person participating, and can, but does not necessarily require particular expertise or artistic ability.

All of these pieces take the experience of ‘art’ out of the gallery to some extent. They bring it onto the street, into hospitals, or have it experienced online. They encourage us to think about the combination of art and technology in the same way as we think about technology as being part of our everyday experience. Through our cellphones and social media applications, now we have technologies as core components of the aesthetic experiences in everyday life.

Reflecting Transformative Potential

There is tremendous richness in what each of these projects have produced; you do not feel it's gee-whizz-bang from a technical point of view, but that each is quite transformative. They are transformative in the sense of the perceptible aliveness or awareness of a city, or in the visible impact they have had on the quality of life of an artist dealing with ASL. They are also not just aesthetic for aesthetic value, or simply interesting technical accomplishments. Rather these works all speak, to varying levels, about elevating the human spirit: what it means to overcome adversity or participate mindfully in your community in really different ways. It is not that you go to look at this art to appreciate it, it’s much more about discerning how the creators are trying to engage with everyday processes: making music, being heard, or engaging in artistic practice despite debilitating illness. They are each in their own way very grand in scope, but there is something quite leveling about the pieces featured in this set.

Ultimately you can have art/science works which are translational or perhaps even transactional, where one component is simply in service of the other. When it becomes transformative, it fits with the idea of elevating the human spirit or elevating the human experience - it stays with you. You see this work and you begin to think about how it might influence your own practice and also perhaps your daily life.

These works also reflect a different form of practice. Now more than ever, you’re able to see under the hood of what has been created. When you look at the documentation or videos tracing their development, you see teams of people working together tightly. Pieces are not created and handed off to someone else for additional polish. Deeply integrative collaboration is part of the overall process. That is something that I feel is also transformative; this way of working authentically across boundaries.

- Adapted from a conversation with Aisling Kelliher