Rhythms of Presence

Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec, Research Fellow, Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Department of Fine Art

Living in a mediated and virtually networked society, notions of temporality, the ephemeral nature of existence, and remote presence are increasingly in the foreground. Simultaneously, it appears that the significance of direct lived experience, in all its multisensory complexity, is in decline.

My proposed artistic research project aims to explore this current situation by focusing on invisible manifestations of presence, in particular the rhythms of bodily movement and mental activity. These will form the basis for developing tests aimed at exposing the gap between remote and felt presence, and how related temporalities can act as material for artistic work.

Can reality be understood and researched as an invisible “flow of events”? How does experiencing reality from this perspective effect relations between the self, the other and place? How can these ideas be applied and experienced through an artistic work? And how might such experiences inform our view onto networked society?

Following such questions I intend to develop research into how energies of human movements and mental activities can be remotely sensed using digital systems, their rhythms discerned and re-enacted by mechanical actions in a space. This will lead to developing custom-made software, as well as hardware devices, that can be applied to various settings and situations, public and private. My interest is to develop the means for exploring the re-enactment of bodily expressions, and the conditions of presence, creating what I would like to call shadow events. These events follow existing flows and rhythms of human presence, capturing their temporal dimension, while re-enacting them so as to open up a critical view onto our mediated surroundings.

By bringing forward these often “invisible” rhythms of lived reality, manifesting them as concrete experiences, I intend to discover the possibilities for their artistic re-articulations. Such work ultimately intends toward questioning in what way presence can be felt beyond the directness of visuality and vicinity, and further, what kind of new poetics these re-articulations can form.

Research themes and issues:
Asking the question: How does reality manifest as a “flow of events” my main areas of concern are: temporality as a dimension, remote presence as a phenomenon, and extended listening as a method. These form a research constellation aimed at challenging the presumed separation between presence and absence, the material and the immaterial. In addition, my project brings forward an understanding that artistic research and articulations can contribute important experiences to contemporary life.

Research process and methods of working:
Material artistic production and knowledge production for me are deeply connected, and my ambition to undertake the fellowship is tied to my desire to develop a greater relation between these two aspects.

In this regard, my research will be conducted on two intertwining levels: firstly, I intend to develop several real-time responsive systems, working with mobile sensor technology, software development and mechanical devices. The second level of my research will consist of using these systems for conducting artistic experiments, involving participation, theoretical dialogue and reflection on the basis of which I will be advancing the systems and the questions of my research.

The research will take shape by focusing on fundamental modalities of physical and mental “bodily presence”, specifically, walking and reading. Walking and reading will be used as platforms for re-examining the relations between bodily and mediated presence at the center of our networked reality, as well as to explore the hidden temporalities of everyday life. Discerning the inherent rhythms of these activities, they will be brought forward to provide a platform for in-depth analysis and poetic re-articulation.