Titchener’s Cage (2017) [IN PROGRESS]

Titchener’s Cage is a site specific, traveling archive of embodied actions, monologues, memories and messages left by the local community of the place it is installed in, as well as previously visited communities. Visitors to the installation are inserted into a bare virtual space, with their own body rendered in real-time in a manner identical to that of the previously captured participants, using a 3D “point cloud”. They are given a single button that allows them to “leave their body”, switching between their own point of view and a floating, disembodied one, in which, similarly to real “out of body experiences”, they still see their own body from the outside.

The project is named after Edward B. Titchener, the early 20th century British psychologist who coined the English word “empathy” in a translation from the German “einfühlung”. At that time the word had less to do with purporting to “feel what’s it’s like to be another person”, and more to do with “feeling into” another person – examining our subjective, embodied sensory and aesthetic experience of other people, and even of objects such as works of art. This distinction is increasingly important as the current trend in documentary immersive media is to claim that it can serve as an “empathy machine” that allows the viewer to magically understand the “other” simply by seeing the world from their point of view for a few moments. This piece, in contrast, provides a virtual experience that is centered in awareness of your own place, and thus responsibility rather than depriving the viewer of a body altogether, or presuming to put them in another’s shoes, is anchored in the viewer’s sense of their own body, which is presented on equal footing as those of previously recorded participants.

Where the project is / where it is going
The project has been traveling for the past year, accumulating messages and performances at each site. The archive is open ended, and will keep becoming richer with each future installation of the work. on the technical side of things, the same system is used for both capture and playback, and is already capable of almost immediate playback of any captured material. There are various possible upgrades I’m looking at to the capture and interactive system based on available time and resources.

Support:

  • Sedona Summer Colony artist residency
  • AS220, Providence, RI
  • Connecticut College
  • Further facilitation by each of the host venues listed below.

Venues + Communities visited and recorded so far:

  • AS220, Providence RI  (Sep 2016) R
  • Video Vortex XI, a collateral project of the Kochi-Muziris Biennial, Kochi, India (Feb 2017)R
  • Choreo Tech, Brown University, Providence, RI (March 2017)R
  • Codes & Modes, Hunter College, New York City, NY (March 2017)
  • Hyphen Hub, New York City, NY (May 2017)
  • Currents New Media Festival, Santa Fe, NM (June 2017)R

R = Recordings were made on location and added to the project archive

Titchener's Cage
Installation
About 10 minutes per participant
Titchener’s Cage (2017) [IN PROGRESS] | 2016 | Installations, Projects