In looking more into anthropomorphism, and personification throughout history, I became more infatuated with the idea of mimicry.
In particular the patch I am creating basically mimics a human voice. However, there are tons of factories that build machines that aim to mimic human mechanisms…. ultimately replacing jobs that humans used to do.
And all newer digital technologies are more advanced versions of older, mechanistic technologies…. which begs the question of whether or not we are actually progressing as a society or just ruminating in our own thoughts; mimicking the ideas of our grandfathers and slapping a corporate symbol on it.
In some ways, I wonder if our obsession with technological advancements in HCI and robotics steams from an egotistic inclination to make the world around us serve as a reflection of ourselves.
Anyhow, enough of that jibber jabber. I’ll get to the idea of soul catching…. which is the name of my patch.
So, this idea of mimicry and repetition lead me to the idea of technology being able to capture a person’s soul by personifying them.
If you look through texts about new media (mostly written in the 1960′s) this idea of technology being able to capture a person’s soul runs rampant.
A book that I find most interesting is called The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Casares. If you have a moment, it’s a good, short read.
This book is a great text in many ways, but I’ll just highlight the main theme of the story. Basically, a man becomes obsessed with a woman. He is on an island that seems to be deserted, but he comes to observe this woman everyday. He then sees the woman with her husband. He becomes so obsessed that he films the couple, and then crops out the husband and overlays a video of himself and watches this video repeatedly so that he can live with her eternally.
However, the act of him mediating his body onto film results in the slow decay of his body, leading to his death.
The idea of technology being able to capture one’s soul and kill you is very strongly associated with photography. Partially because it was first used to take pictures of the dead in order to immortalize them and keep them in the family home.
This idea was also associated with voice recordings as well. Antonin Artaud had very interesting ideas about sound recordings and their ability to immortalize the body, or even act as a means of invading another person’s body. He did this by recording himself inflicting self-harm, making guttural noises, and repeating incantations. He is a very important theatrical figure who created Theater of Cruelty, however, I find his recordings and ideas on technology most interesting. It’s the idea that technologies create multiple versions of our body…. and that these versions are more important our actual selves. A terrifying thought, but an interesting one.
I would post a recording of his here, but ubuweb servers (ubu.com) are currently down! GASP!!! So check it out if you have time. I suppose what this is getting into is the ability for technology to embody us… and vice versa.
However, I think mimicry has a very interesting place in artistic practice today.
A common sense that mimicry takes is comedians doing impressions of people, and audiences tend to find this very amusing. But there is constant debate in the art world about mimicry vs. appropriation in artistic practice. For example, some of the artworks criticized are those of street artists which may copy a painting, like the Mona Lisa, and add a wig, or moustache, etc.
This serves as fuel for conversations about intellectual property and the existence of genius, I think.
As a good artist once said, “Good artists steal. Bad artists borrow.”
This has been the fuel for my patch which I’ve titled, “More of the Same.”
Which literally mimics the pitches that it hears real-time by the spectator.
I hope that it sparks some dialouge about what art is and what it’s role in society is.
Here is a quote from Aristotle’s Poesis that may summarize my meaning:
“inherent in man from his earliest days; he differs from other animals in that he is the most imitative of all creatures, and he learns his earliest lessons by imitation. Also inborn in all of us is the instinct to enjoy works of imitation”
some great links:
Great history of mimicry:
Interesting thoughts on mimicry and art: