an interactive video installation about technology and visual literacy
Cleanse is an interactive video installation addressing issues of
technological and visual literacy. Literacy is fundamental to the
shape and form of human communication, as our ability to construct,
organize, and understand symbols determines our existence and
successful participation in a community. Being able to decode the
messages, rules, and laws of a society is necessary for inclusion in
its social life. In today's age of digital communication, the most
essential form of literacy for membership in or exclusion from a
community is technological literacy. The technological tools are the
users voice and language; without the current materials one cannot be
easily heard nor understood.
Within this new form of literacy the technological and the visual
intercept, as technology is constructing a new culture of literacy that
is predominantly visual. Language expression is rapidly moving away
from the written text and narrative and into the realm of the image
-even the text as image. Knowledge,
meaning, emotion, value, and custom, traditionally expressed textually,
are now conveyed through images; a culture of iconolatry shapes our
social literacy in the electronic age.
Cleanse attempts to provide a critical view on the iconolatry of
modern visual and technological literacy, through the metaphorical
cleansing, or purification, of an eye. The focal point of the project
proposes that we examine critically the advents of technology and how
it alters the way we see, think and communicate.
description of the physical installation
a cylindrical structure made of cement with a metal lid, 30 1/2" height x 26" diameter
a smaller cylindrical structure made of cement, 22 1/2" height x 18" diameter
a porcelain mortar
a glass eye-dropper
Both cylindrical structures were property of the University of Illinois and used all over the campus
as a garbage bin and a cigarette bud bin respectively. They were borrowed by permission
from the University for the duration of the exhibition.
The two cement cylindrical structures were placed in a dark corner of
the gallery. The larger one of the two structures resembled a well.
Bending over to look inside it, one sees that the bottom of the well
consists of a video screen (7 1/8" x 9 3/8") displaying imagery of an
eye in extreme close-up. In the image, the eye looks tired and
overwhelmed by visual overload. An eye dropper appears periodically to
cleanse the eye by dropping liquid into it. The sound of a drop
falling in a puddle is then heard. This imagery covers the bottom
surface of the well and repeats itself constantly. Above the screen
(between the viewer and the bottom of the well), a cylindrical
transparent glass container holds water, whose level reaches the tip of
the well and contributes to the reflection, distortion, and diffusion of
the image below.
The viewer of the installation is able to observe the eye through the
water and may participate in the cleansing process by using the long
glass eye dropper, which is placed on the mortar nearby. The white
porcelain mortar is filled with water and sits on a bed of shiny black
pebbles on the second cylindrical structure. A pin spotlight shines a
dramatic circle of light to the center of the mortar, drawing attention
to the minimal yet slick and somewhat sterile setting.
The water is also sensitive to movement in the surrounding environment,
The cylindrical glass container holding the water is sensitive to movement as it is
flexibly attached to the structure, thus provoking light movement to the water.
The drops also create ripples in the water, contributing to further distortion of the image,
in addition to adding to the water volume of the "well".
One would expect the video imagery to be responsive to the actions of
the viewer who bends over to drop water in the eye with the
eye-dropper. Contrary to this expectation, the viewer does not affect
the world of the eye. The eye continues to blink and to become flooded by
the liquid poured into it, regardless of the viewer's attempts to
Umberto Eco, Apocalypse Postponed, Indiana University Press & The British Film Institute, 1994.
Lectures and Writings by John Cage, Silence, Wesleyan University Press, 1961.
Maria Roussos, Modern Utopias, unpublished essay, 1997.
thank you ...