The “Divided We Speak” PHSCologram tryptich is a unique collaborative study in sculpture, photography, sound and poetry, based on an audience interactive media symphony in six movements, by Miroslaw Rogola. The work was commissioned and shown by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in the Fall of 1997.
Divided We Speak has been designed to mimic life in the information age. The viewer activates or encounters seemingly random shards of information (sound, computer, and video images) and through experimentation, movement, and mental engagement, creates a unique experience. Another essential consideration for the artist is that each viewer’s experience of the artwork is different. Thus while in the public space of the museum, each viewer creates a private space.
This exhibition, was mounted to coincide with the annual meeting of the Inter-Society for Electronic Arts (ISEA) in Chicago during the third week of September, explores the edge of technology in a form known as electronic art – artwork realized through computers, video, recorded sound, and other electronic media. Miroslaw Rogala, backed by a team of media innovators and other artists – all major figures in their various fields – has created an interactive multimedia laboratory titled Divided We Speak. This laboratory features the newest in electronic and virtual reality innovations that will be utilized and displayed for the first time in a museum setting. The artist and his team will fine-tune, change, process, and add to the exhibition as it progresses.
When confronted with cutting-edge technologies, both artists and viewers often react with an overriding fascination with the technology itself: how it works, what it can do. Since 1975, however, when he created his first interactive artwork as an art student in Poland, Rogala has aggressively experimented with new technologies and tools to realize his vision. As such, he is well aware of the general fascination with technologies, and a major theme of his work, is that while technologies do bring people together, they can simultaneously separate or divide. The Internet, for example, allows for development of a global community that can communicate virtually instantaneously, yet it also threatens traditional social interaction: most Internet users sit alone, staring into a glowing screen. Divided We SpeakdevelopersAlan Cruz, Miroslaw Rogala, Stephan Meyer, Ellen Sandor, Janine Fron start date: 01/01/1997end date: 11/01/1997This artist is interested in people, and in moral and social issues. For him, technology is merely a tool to explore these issues. In the artist’s words: “Can or should a moral or social metaphor be constructed on the fact that far more energy is released by coming together than coming apart? We are confronted with a transitory landscape, where new destructions are continuously stacked. Geographies of minds are transcended – among these ‘rocks’ we look for ourselves.” And in a haunting phrase that is featured in the video portion of the work, the artist states: “Our experience is no longer a continuity.” The barrage of information brought on by the advances in technology leaves us reeling, and making a meaningful whole out of this onslaught seems an overwhelming challenge.
The main tool Rogala uses to allow viewers to construct these spaces is the GAMS system invented by Will Bauer, and adapted for this fine arts application by Rogala, Mac Rutan, and Steve Boyer. ‘GAMS’ is an acronym for ‘Gesture And Media System.’ Four ultrasonic speakers provide dynamic ‘mapping’ of the MCA’s Video Gallery with an invisible three-dimensional grid of ultrasonic waves. These waves are controlled by a computer, and activated by special hand-held wands that the visitor can move about the space. Although the eye can see nothing but empty space, the wand receives the ultrasonic waves and triggers the program the artist has designed. Various audio samplings are heard as the wand moves through the space. Sound poet and National Public Radio personality Ken Nordine reads well-known phrases including selections from the book of Genesis (such as ‘And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech; Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech”) that can be selected as the participant moves around the space. Jennifer Guo, trained as a Chinese opera singer, can be heard singing in her native language, and sometimes in a duet with innovative vocalist Urszula Dudziak, who pioneered electronic scat singing. Another position on the grid might activate The Lira Ensemble singing a Polish song or performance artist Werner Herterich reading his original poetry. All of these sounds have been carefully selected to “orchestrate” the space – to use the artist’s expression. A goal of the artist during this laboratory is to create a behavioral space which “evolves” as it “learns” how viewers activate the space. So while prolonged activation of the space’s program reveals structure and thus meaning for the viewer. In the end the viewer can decide how he or she wants interpret the piece of art.