Areas of Interest and Research Possibilities

A good deal of my work as of late has been related to my overall interest in neuroscience. I’m really fascinated by how the brain works and processes information, and how that information processing can be effected by different internal and external variables.

One set of ideas that I’m particularly interested in exploring through this course has to do specifically with the sensory system and was initially inspired by the phenomenon known as synesthesia. In synesthesia, the stimulation of one kind of sensory input automatically and involuntarily triggers another sensory input. Synesthesia particularly intrigues me because I feel like it allows synesthetes (those individuals who have these kinds of experiences) to understand aspects of the world in new, in-depth ways that are unavailable to most people, and I believe that allowing someone to experience the world in ways they would not normally have been able to otherwise is one of the primary and fundamental purposes of making art.

As such, I’ve developed the idea of what I call “synthetic synesthesia”, which is the creation of works that take somewhat abstract input data that is normally translated through one kind of sensory input, and reinterpret andsmithmorse_kate_heartbeat_1 present it in a form that is understood through a different kind of sensory experience. An example of this is a recording of a heartbeat that I took and translated into a touchable 3D surface, which I did through the use of a stethophone (a recordable stethoscope), Rhino, and a CNC mill.  I’m particularly interested in using “personal” types of input data (for instance, the sound of someone’s heartbeat is a deeply personal and intimate thing that only a handful of people would normally ever get to experience) as a starting point in this work, because it allows/forces the viewer to have an incredibly intimate interaction with another individual whom they have never even met and to connect with something deeply personal about that person that they likely never would have been able to otherwise. In today’s world where the technology available to us is so often used to create further separation from interacting directly with one another, using it as a way to create concrete connections between people instead is an incredibly important thing to try and do.

I feel like digital fabrication is the perfect medium through which to explore this topic, as it easily allows for the reinterpretation and representation of abstract data into concrete forms and objects. It also translates well into interactive and experiential forms of artwork, which I have always been particularly fond of working in; I tend to believe that the most effective way to communicate an idea to your audience is for them to be able to interact with and experience those ideas as directly as possible.

In terms of the research I’m interested in doing in this class, I’m honestly not really sure right at the moment. I know I’m going to be continuing my research on the sensory system in general, as the more information that I learn about it, the more ideas I’m able to generate for potential works I want to do. However, a lot of times I won’t know I want to research a certain kind of fabrication technique or type of technology until either a) I come up with an idea that directly applies to it and I discover that it does the thing that I need to do to make my idea happen, or b) until I learn that it even exists and am able to connect its use to a previous idea I already had.

A couple things I know I’m interested in learning about and researching more are smart textiles/wearable technologies, and what kinds of capabilities Arduinos have. I’m also just generally interested in interactive technologies, for obvious reasons, as well as real-time data visualization. I think I just really need to do more research into what kinds of technologies, as well as creation/fabrication methods, are out there in general so I can even know what kinds of possibilities I have at my disposal.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Kate!

    If you’re interested in smart textiles, you should talk to Olivia Robinson. She extremely informed in this topic. I imagine if you reach out to her, you could possibly join our Smart Textiles class on Tuesday evening from 4-10 P.M. Someone we reference for information on smart textiles is Hannah Perner-Wilson, whose has made her exercises in smart textiles open source so that others can access it. Here’s a talk about her personal philosophy that you may like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxQOKAKeNWM. Here’s also a link to our class website, which has tutorials and information on it: http://postmodernhousecleaning.com/olivia/teaching/smart-textiles/welcome-to-smart-textiles-week-1/. You can go through the various weeks and imitate our lessons or find what interests you. Good luck!

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  2. Check out Olivia’s Smart Textile’s website for ideas and exercises to do: http://postmodernhousecleaning.com/olivia/teaching/smart-textiles/welcome-to-smart-textiles-week-1/. She has a lot of good resources on her website. I have class with her on Tuesday evenings; If you email her ahead of time, you may be able to join our class or meet her for questions. Have you also read about phenomenology in art history? I think your sentiments in this post echo a lot of phenomenology’s philosophies.

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