Tactile Light: Installation with Plants and Data

In the installation Tactile Light, I constructed an indoor environment using a combination of organic and digital materials: a projector beamed my data system onto a living wheatgrass screen, and through a lattice made of living wheatgrass tubes. Over approximately six weeks, I grew and hung a two metre square screen of wheatgrass, using this as the projection screen for the hand avatars. Inflected via code to a data system, my physical hand was visible at scale. As the Leap Motion hand tracking software captured an infra-red data stream from my physical hand’s micro-gestures, the Unity SDK with Vuforia AR extension attached hand models to that data. However, it was not a singular hand occurring as an exact replica or resemblance of the corporeal data. Instead, the hand avatars emerged on the grass screen at scales that were either much larger or much smaller than the data they were sent by Leap Motion’s hardware sensor. With scale manipulated and the angles of the hand models canted and skewed, each hand was then displayed across the wheatgrass screen, conjoined in a visceral architecture with the next. In this way, the data from a singular hand was tuned into a multitude, where the visible results shown in the projected were often not visibly a hand form. Light, as it passed over the wheatgrass screen, formed diffraction patterns that caused my physical movements and the digitally generated hand avatars, to visibly blend with the organic matter. Because of the texture of the wheatgrass itself, it was difficult to pick out the individual hand models. Rather, what was apprehended was a field of moving hands on a surface that was also quite field-like. The human hand models, brought to relation in the apparatus through intra-action, were now only partially recognisable as physical hands. Using a projection to wheatgrass shifts issues of digital fidelity or graphic accuracy to the background, and prioritises the movements of intra-active phenomena.

Micro-gestures of the physical hand were layered at varying scales, so that the hand actually looked very little like a hand. As the light from the projection coalesces across the wheatgrass screen, forms modulate in transient outlines across the surface of the wheatgrass. Phenomena were liminal in the luminous glow of projection, in a scramble of layers that blurred and muddled in recursive threshold moments. For the performer, relational apprehensions were happening all around, in the flow of the event, with the screen only catching a small portion of the affective vitality of the system. A habitual familiarity with the physical hand was invaded by the emergence of unusual material-discursive structures. What emerged was an experience of the body in the act of temporarily re-configuring itself with a recursive relay of semblances. Observed on the grass screen from visually obtuse perspectives, the hand as a discrete and singular entity is problematized.

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