Karl Jirgens: Digital Mediations: Janet Cardiff and George Büres Miller’s Schizo-Phenomenologies

img from http://www.cardiffmiller.com

img from http://www.cardiffmiller.com

Over the past 20 years, Janet Cardiff and George Büres Miller’s digitally enhanced installation works and walking-tours have re-contextualized the relationship between artist and audience. Their installations juxtapose the detritus of the past, re-contextualizing life-altering moments. Their walking-tours revisit historically significant sites investigating subjects that oscillate between Eros and Thanatos. The frame of reference or mise en scene in their works demands the inter-active presence of the audience as essential “figure” set against a ground embedded with desire, absence, and anxiety. Their installation works recall the artistic tradition of the “tableau-vivant” in which a scene is set in order to tell a story. Often, the story line in these tableaux-like settings is disjunctive, and elliptic, leaving audiences to fill in the gaps. The walking-tours are kinetic and performative, requiring audience participants to use audio head-gear and/or portable-I phones as they are directed by a virtual pre-recorded “`tour-guide” that tells them where to travel, what to watch for, and indirectly, what to think. The walking-tours take on what Espen Aarseth calls “ergodic” qualities as defined in his study Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, where he explains that ergodic art demands inter-active  “extranoematic responsibilities,” demanding high degrees of physical engagement, unlike turning the pages to a book, or regarding a sculpture at a gallery (Aarseth, Cybertext, 1-2). While Cardiff and Miller’s installation works require some audience engagement, their scripted, ergodic walking-tours demand direct audience participation.

Cardiff and Miller’s installation works recently appeared in their exhibition, Lost in the Memory Palace which showed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (April 6 – August 18, 2013), then, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (September 21, 2013 – January 12, 2014), and finally, the Vancouver Art Gallery for a final exhibition (June 21- September 21, 2014). This show featured seven different installation pieces representing over two decades of work, dating back to the mid-1990s including “Dark Pool,” (1995); “The Muriel Lake Incident,” (1999); “Road Trip,” (2004);  “Opera for a Small Room,” (2005); “The Killing Machine,” (2007); “Storm Room,” (2009); and “Experiment in F Minor,” (2013). The exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto also featured their well-known “40 Part Motet” (2001), a reworking of the choral piece, “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis (1573). This piece features a room with 40 loud speakers mounted on stands, placed in an oval, with amplifiers, and recorded voices channeled through a playback computer (Duration: 14 minute loop, with 11 minutes of singing, and 3 minute intermission). “40 Part Motet,” features forty digitally recorded choristers, channeled through forty small speakers. Walking through the space, one gets the uncanny audio-illusion of moving through a live but invisible chorus that performs Tallis’ piece, then takes a break and chit-chats, and is followed by a loop back to song. Like most of Cardiff and Miller’s works, the piece is documented online: http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/inst/motet_video.html.

A schizophrenic phenomenology is evident in Cardiff and Miller’s installations and walking-tours, combined with recurring gothic and noir tendencies, notably, in tour  pieces such as “Wanås” (1998), “Missing Voice” (1999),” and “Alter Bahnhof” (2012), among others. Technology as prosthetic opens a psychic dimension that manipulates the audience’s senses. Art as digital prosthesis functions in two different ways through the installations and the walking tours. The installations serve as representations and extensions of the artist’s “memories” blending actual with virtual, and sometimes, reality with fiction. Conversely, the walking-tours extend virtual memory and time, allowing the artists to direct and virtually accompany audiences over landscapes, while simultaneously providing multi-layered historical facts, back-stories, sub-plots, and specific tour directions. The walking-tours re-shape techniques of writing, theatre, and performance-art into new configurations. One might think of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion of “desiring machines” from their studies on topics such as schizo-culture as advanced in Anti-Oedipus, however, Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis focuses on psychological connections between the libido and capitalism, whereas Cardiff and Miller’s walking tours shift the focus to technologically mediated phenomenological experiences that emulate conditions of schizophrenia itself.

Cardiff and Miller’s walking-tours move individual audience members through actual cityscapes or woodland areas while providing them with a binaural pre-recorded overlapping audio-scape. Their binaural recordings are state-of-the-art and emulate exactly human hearing, thereby creating startling and uncanny audio-illusions. At times, there are surreal correspondences between the virtual audio recording, and the actual experience in the environment. A sense of de-familiarization results from this blurring of actual and virtual experiences. While crossing a street one might hear the virtual tour-guide’s warning about a car, and dodge out of the way of a roaring automobile, only to realize that it is an auditory illusion. Virtual and actual layers of experience become indistinguishable. The audio-gear as digital prosthesis turns the audience into a kind of cyborg. In Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer, Steve Mann, discusses his development of portable bio-technological “cyborg” gear as prosthesis permitting him to integrate cyber-space with street-level actuality through a wearable wireless webcam and integrated tele-metrics. Commenting on 21st Century conditions, Mann observes: “We are entering the post-human age. In this age, biology is no longer limited by the genetic codes of evolution. Today, we can rebuild ourselves, transcend the supposed limitations of the human form – both physical and mental” (Mann, Cyborg, 2). Steve Mann’s web-page documents his nomadic bio-technologies:  http://wearcam.org/steve.html.

McLuhan’s maxim, that all human technologies are extensions of the physical capabilities of the body, is useful here. Eyeglasses extend vision, Cell-phones, I-phones, Androids, and similar devices function as extensions of the sight, hearing, and the central nervous system, as well as the brain’s memory functions. Mann notes that his wearable computer systems, dubbed “WearComp,” have become almost invisible due to advances in digital technology: “Today the WearComp outfit is no longer a cumbersome weight. The latest version is, in fact, quite sleek, the only visible hardware being an ordinary-looking pair of bifocal eyeglasses” (Mann, Cyborg, 6). Mann’s WearComp wireless system permits him to connect audio and video formats to a computer data-base that can record what he hears and sees and replay it back to him in real-time, slow motion, or freeze-frame. He can tap into the internet instantly, tele-communicate, send and retrieve information from his database and from the internet. As both inventor and user of the WearComp system, Mann can instantly stream digital information as part of a mediated experience which extends his experiential grid to include the cyberspace community. Mann notes that, similar to learning a new language, the brain must learn to interact in new ways as it interfaces with cyber-worlds and the realm of actual human physical interaction. The result is a kind of psychic liberation through “mediated reality.” Mann comments: “Mediated Reality is a grid you impose on yourself, permitting a true cybernetic totality between environment and subject. It is the individual’s entry point and guard post, a portal into a growing cyborgspace community that, at times, seems to subsume and overtake physical experience.” (Mann, Cyborg, 211). Mann suggests that cyborgian freedom challenges us to assert “individual and community realities” that integrate the body with technology (Mann, Cyborg, 211).

Cardiff and Miller’s walking tours adopt the cyborg condition as an aesthetic redefining individual and community realities, while offering intimate perspectives onto uneasy historical events. Their wearable but lightweight and unobtrusive audio-gear and I-phones blend with the user’s environment and are relatively unnoticeable. Unlike Mann’s “WearComp” Cardiff and Miller’s walking-tour gear requires the user to surrender a degree of agency to the artists themselves. Cardiff and Miller deploy audience as “Other,” in the sense that Lacan’s  adopts, as site onto which one projects one’s anxieties and desires. In his 9th Seminar, Lacan explained that the relationship between self and Other is akin to a Mobius strip which appears to have two surfaces, but in fact has only one (Lacan, L’Identification, 178). Similarly, the walking-tour gear intimately unites artist and audience. Self and Other, become one. Cardiff and Miller extend the experiential grid of the audience into a mediated reality that enters into a cyborg-space offering alternate views of important historical events from perspectives that investigate Thanatonic undercurrents of global human psychology, including patterns of human aggression. The resulting phenomenology of Cardiff and Miller’s walking-tours is an unprecedented inter-connectivity of artist’s consciousness with audience’s mind. The walking-tours situate the audience as extension of the artist’s desire. Conversely, the tours position the artists as extensions of the desire of the audience. Artist and audience become mutually interdependent. The walking-tours as artistic expressions cannot happen without the ergodic engagement of audience. Nor can the walking-tours happen without the artists’ research and technological preparations in anticipation of the audience. The tours demand a symbiosis between self and Other through technological mediations, wherein one fulfills the jouissance (joy/desire) of the Other.

In their article, “On Naturally Embodied Cyborgs: Identities, Metaphors, and Models,” Evan Selinger and Timothy Engstrӧm, note that there may be a “guiding desire” that gives shape to the phenomenological experience of anyone who uses a technological prosthesis whether it is as simple as a walking-stick, or as advanced as a direct interface with the internet. A phenomenological impact arises from the mere availability of the technology itself. Selinger and  Engstrӧm concur with Don Ihde who advises that the mere presence of such technologies can affect the human decision-making processes (Selinger & Engstrӧm, “Embodied Cyborgs,” 575). They continue by contending that any agency that is technologically mediated “can compromise autonomous decision-making” (Selinger & Engstrӧm, “Embodied Cyborgs,” 576). The mere existence/presence of Cardiff and Miller’s walking-tour technology affects the audience’s decision-making capabilities and demands that the user surrender a substantial degree of autonomy to the tour “director.”

Selinger and Engstrӧm’s perspective matches Steve Mann’s observation that the user of mediated-reality equipment undergoes a phenomenological and experiential shift. I find Mann’s accounts of the phenomenology of digital mediations particularly salient because he combines theory and practice in his accounts. Mann expands: “Using my reality mediator; I repeated classic experiments like those of Stratton and Antsis (living in a upside down or negated world), as well as some new experiments such as learning to live in a world rotated ninety degrees and changing my ability to perceive detail” (Mann, Cyborg, 209). Mann uses technology to investigate how technologically mediated reality provides alternate perceptual possibilities. His pursuit of such possibilities involves surrendering some agency to the technology itself. Similarly, the perceptual and phenomenological shifts that arise through Cardiff and Miller’s electronic prosthesis, involve two aspects. As in Mann’s experiments, Cardiff and Miller’s walking tours generate a double-breakthrough. First, they directly engage the audience in mediated realities that expand experiential fields well outside the phenomenology of quotidian actuality. Second, they require an ergodic engagement that demands a substantial surrender of personal agency. Cardiff and Miller provide two types of liberty for the audience, while simultaneously introducing an unprecedented freedom of expression for themselves as artists. For audiences, the following two types of freedom are evident: “freedom from,” and “freedom to.” Once audience members as “tourists” have decided to use the available equipment, they have the “freedom to” take part in a technologically mediated reality that expands their experiential grid well beyond quotidian experience. In addition, once the walking tour is underway, the audience as cyborg experiences “freedom from” autonomous decision-making processes by surrendering to the virtual “tour guide’s” directions. For the artists, the walking-tour technology grants direct access, as well as partial control over the audience’s mind, allowing Cardiff and Miller to affect the audience’s consciousness, while intruding upon the audience’s first-person perspective. Cyborg-space opens up a post-human dimension, overlaid atop conventional human “actuality.”

In, “Disturbance of Intentionality: A Phenomenological Study of Body-Affecting First-Rank Symptoms in Schizophrenia,” Dusan Hirjak and Thiemo Breyer identify specific schizophrenic symptoms including: 1) a sense of disembodiment, as though someone else was inside your head,

2) a gap between self-will and bodily activities, and, 3) an experience of self as robot, human machine, or cyborg. These three conditions indicate a Cartesian separation of body and mind, generating a sense of alterity, where the maxim, “I think therefore I am,” no longer applies (Hirjak & Breyer, “Disturbance,” n.p.). With Cardiff and Miller’s walking tours, one gets the sense that someone is trying to infiltrate one’s mind and inner world. To take part in these tours, one must partly surrender one’s agency to an external disembodied force that seems to be inside one’s head. Self-will no longer generates bodily activities, and, one assumes a cyborg identity.

Don Ihde in earlier works such as Technology and the Lifeworld speak of time itself as a technological development: “The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age” (Ihde, Lifeworld, 59). One may pursue Ihde’s perception further to observe how technology affects time. Steve Mann’s cyborgian WearComp permits instant access to the global ethernet, while recording and replaying multiple layers of time. Cardiff and Miller manipulate chronologies further, by inserting audiences into “time-pockets” that overlap historical events with the actual present. Their digital technology can record and replay uncannily realistic site-specific sounds mixed with manifold disjoined story-lines and narratives featuring temporal leaps, re-iterations of historical moments, and juxtapositions of distant past, recent past, and present, to create audio montages that expand the audience’s temporal and experiential grid. Whether time is a human construct or actual, it can be manipulated to create illusions.

Ihde’s comments on optical illusions such as the Necker cube are instructive. In his recent study Postphenomenology and Technoscience: The Peking University Lectures, he states:

At this point I want to make a large leap to an example set now related to technologies.

While the use of visual “illusions” has the advantage of initial clarity and ease to demonstrate multistability as a phenomenological result of variational analyses, these illustrations also have the disadvantage of being all too simple and all too abstract. (Ihde, Technoscience, 16)

I have spoken and written on multi-stable perception in a range of conference presentations and articles, where I comment on interactions between right and left lobe brain functions when encountering polysemic/multi-stable stimuli, as in the works of writers or artists such as Samuel Beckett, Nicole Brossard, Stelarc, or Robert Lepage, among others (Jirgens, “Neo-Baroque,” 69). Multi-stable perception oscillates between possibilities. When considering virtual realities layered atop quotidian actualities in Cardiff and Miller’s walking tours, multi-stability in perception enhances the phenomenology of simulated schizophrenia. When one is situated in a state where one cannot distinguish between the actual and the virtual, and when that lack of distinction extends into shifting  temporal field including the distant past, and the recent past, layered atop the present, then, it causes multi-stable shifts in perception, and cognition which can inspire alternate perceptions on human experience. In Postphenomenology: Essays in the Postmodern Context, Don Ihde argues that technology can and perhaps should affect our perceptions of the present with reference to what we think constitutes our past. Ihde recommends that we move beyond a demythologization of nostalgic and Romantic views of previous times towards a perspective based on a broader experiential and cultural field:

Instead we need to develop a postmodern critique which, at this early juncture is still in a bricolage stage. But out of our growing experience of cross-culturality we have begun to recognize that there is a plurality of cultures out there which threaten to decenter our past assumptions, and alongside which – but only alongside – we must re-evaluate our past assumptions. (Ihde, Postphenomenology, 114)

Cardiff and Miller position audience as tourist into historical sites where alternate cultural perspectives become evident, inspiring their technologically mediated “tourists” to re-evaluate assumptions about the past. Audiences experience a disembodied sense that transcends time, including a feeling of existing within several temporal loci simultaneously. The hermeneutics of manifold layers of virtual audio-tracks atop of the actual experience of these walking-tours add to their fugue-like neo- Baroque structures. The multiple, repeating layers of audio-tracks establish the audience as a figure moving through overlapping virtual and actual grounds. One feels disembodied, as if one is an actor in a movie. The walking-tours engage the sublime, often featuring ghosts, torture, murder, or war, while re-visiting hidden, site-specific time-pockets in history.  You might tour through a quiet woodland setting, as in “Wanås,” only to be re-situated in an earlier military battle that happened on the same site, or, you might find yourself walking through the Spitalfields district of London, England, while virtual “footsteps” follow you through the neighbourhood where Jack the Ripper hunted victims, as in the “Missing Voice” tour.

Cardiff and Miller’s walking-tours implicitly question paradoxes of presence and absence resulting from the overlap of the virtual grid, atop quotidian actuality. Yet, even this paradox is illusory; the virtual and actual both constitute one’s “reality.” For example, while taking a tour within a city environment, one might experience one’s own “inner voice” or stream of consciousness, and the actual city-scape sounds, overlaid with virtual (pre-recorded) city-scape sounds, as well as audio tracks including the tour-guide’s voice, and one or more pre-recorded narratives. The overlap of virtual and actual can confuse audiences and result in multi-stable perceptions of auditory space. The virtual might seem to be actual, or vice-versa.

“Wanås” or “Into the Woods” (1998) is an early example of dozens of Cardiff and Miller’s walking-tours. Situated at the Wanås Foundation in Knislinge, Sweden, this tour is set in the wooded Swedish countryside near a Medieval castle. The tour is fourteen minutes long and includes directions by Cardiff as “tour guide” on where to go. The recorded performance includes an ever-expanding audio-scape that is eerily matched to the physical environment. There is a strange female voice singing as if within the forest while a male voice responds to the female. As the walk continues, other voices narrate stories of war, oppression, and taking refuge in underground tunnels. Inter-mixed are sounds of nature, birds’ wings, and animals rustling through the leaves, thereby adding a pre-recorded layer of virtual natural sounds atop of the actual natural sounds that one normally hears. The pre-recorded virtual sounds of “nature” are easy to confuse with actual nature sounds, and the result is a peculiar intensification of the acoustic environment, that creates a sense of hyper-reality. Other voices come and go, while Cardiff’s voice slips beyond its tour-guide function by asking the disembodied voices about their dreams. A male voice recounts attacks by soldiers and his escape into the forest. Cardiff’s voice then conveys dream-like memories that shift to nightmarish recollections of death, and corpses being clawed by ravens and rats. The death imagery is synchronized with the tour’s passage through a small graveyard. The mixture of Eros and Thanatos, the sharing of life and near-death experiences in the midst of a graveyard, establish a gothic tension that enhances the symbiotic, phenomenological conjunction between audience and artists. Hidden passageways into near-forgotten histories are briefly opened and revealed. The tour situates audience as living observer within an historically-based non-fictional account. One gets the sense of being a disembodied figure set within a Thanatonic and cinematic ground, except that the only “camera” lens is within one’s own eyes. The tour eventually winds back to its starting point. The “Wanås” on-line site provides a short essay, an excerpt from the audio-track, and an excerpt from the audio-script: http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/wanas.html

Cardiff and Miller’s 45 minute walking tour, “The Missing Voice” (1999), is one of their longest and most sustained pieces. For “The Missing Voice,” Cardiff and Miller prepared a tour through London with a pre-recorded audio track fed through headphones starting at Whitechapel Library, past Liverpool Street train station. The piece then abandons the user at a subway station in downtown London. The audio track features pre-recorded street-sounds overlaid with the tour-guide’s comments on landmarks, and the guide’s assurances concerning anticipated anxieties audiences might have concerning where they are being led, thereby, giving the effect that the “guide’s” voice is actually “inside” the user’s head. The audio-track features the narrator’s virtual footsteps, and other footsteps that seem to follow. Atop these audio-layers is a “stream of consciousness” interior monologue narrated by a female voice, expressing a desire to “get lost.” Evident in this piece is Cardiff and Miller’s awareness of the phenomenology that emerges when the audience surrenders autonomy to the technologically mediated reality of the tour. The narrator-protagonist wishes to lose agency, to be lost, to wander aimlessly, by deliberately getting “lost.” Later on in the tour, Cardiff and Miller ensure that the narrator’s desire to lose autonomy is granted to the audience, when they abruptly end the tour in the underground subway system, without providing further directions. With “Missing Voice,” the symbiotic relationship between audience and artist as “Other” is ruptured, and the audience is abandoned, thereby experiencing the female narrator’s stated desire to be “lost.” The audience’s surrender of autonomy at the start of the tour is rendered paradoxical by the fact that upon being abandoned later in the tour, the audience must assume an unexpected agency by finding its way back to the starting point, after being left for lost. Throughout the tour, one also experiences actual sounds of people and automobiles on the street which are difficult to distinguish from pre-recorded virtual street sounds. Multi-stable auditory perceptions established through a digital hyper-reality generate a sense of disembodiment, combined with a loss of agency, and multiple voices within one’s head. Together, these aspects join to emulate a schizophrenic condition. The on-line site for “Missing Voice,” includes an essay, audio-tracks, as well as script from the piece: http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/missing_voice.html

More recently, “The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk” (2012) was part of dOCUMENTA (13), and is set within the old train station in Kassel, Germany. Audiences borrow an iPod and headphones from a check-out booth and then are guided through the station. This tour differs from previous ones by including visual technology along with the audio. As with earlier walking tours, virtual and actual realities overlap. In this bio-nomadic piece, the iPod combines with the audio aspect by providing a visual guide enhancing the virtual tour-guide’s voice. The path that the audience is advised to take, parallels exactly the pre-recorded video path on the iPod. It is almost as if the audience member is recording the events in the station, while simultaneously being the subject of a video recording. A sense of infinite regression contributes to a feeling of alienation and disembodiment. Temporal anomalies occur. Virtual events happen on the iPod that are not present at the same moment in the train station. The digital portion of the tour includes pre-recorded sounds and visual recordings of musicians at the station, again, generating a hyper-reality. The tourist is directed to “follow” the virtual musicians who move through the station on the I-Pod. Meantime, a line spoken by the virtual guide compares memory to baggage one tows behind oneself. Just as the line is spoken, it is augmented by a virtual image on the iPod of a young female traveller towing a wheeled travel bag through the station, just ahead of the observer. The guide’s comment on baggage serves as a reminder that digital culture extends memory function, as well as expands the phenomenology of the experiential grid. As users proceed through the station, they must avoid actual people who do not appear on the iPod video. Conversely, there is a young “virtual” ballerina who appears on the iPod video, who is not actually present in the station. Wearing a white tutu, the ballerina pirouettes in the midst of the station plaza. Meanwhile, we overhear the voice of an older German man recalling mass destruction and broken bodies on streets following bombings during World War Two. The tour moves to a monument for Jewish people who were forced to board trains on Platform 13, only to be deported to death camps. We hear that their life stories were written on paper and then wrapped around stones, now on display inside a glass case within the station. The narrative is interjected by Cardiff’s voice recalling an old black and white movie on TV from the night before. She raises the question of memories people don’t want. Passageways to hidden time-closets are briefly opened. There are some memories we’d rather forget, but if we do, it is at our peril. Disturbing histories of human aggression are important to recall if we wish to avoid them in future. A voice at the beginning of this walking tour refers to Plato’s cave reminding us of things outside of our realm of perception. Plato’s cave provides a worthy analogue for the potential expansion of the experiential grid through technological mediations. Time and history, leave only traces on the walls of the present, but the “tour” provides an extension to human memory, mixed with a site-specific investigation into events during World War Two. In a sense, Cardiff and Miller’s technological mediations provide a glimpse outside the mouth of Plato’s cave. Books listing war victims, stones wrapped with life-stories, cemeteries, monuments, landmarks, and the ergodic “tourist” are all positioned within a narrative speaking of a troubled past. “The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk” is documented on-line, including a summary of the piece, a list of credits, and an 8.5 minute excerpt from this 26 minute tour: http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/alterbahnhof_video.html

Thanatonic undercurrents colour memory, and are retrieved in Cardiff and Miller’s walking tours. The cemetery in “Wanås,” Jack the Ripper’s killing grounds in “Missing Voice,” war victims in “The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk,” find affinities with similar subjects in walking-tours such as “Ghost Machine” (2005), a noir thriller at the Hebbel-Theater in Berlin where the “tourist” is situated as an actor in a stage play (http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/ghostmachine.html); or, “Jena Walk” (2006), set in Jena, Germany, which traverses territory where Prussian and Napoleonic forces clashed, and where Russian tanks conducted military exercises, intercut with battle sounds, and excerpts from the diary of Louise Seidler, the artist who painted a portrait of Goethe  (http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/jena.html); or, “Drogan’s Nightmare” (1998), which anticipates the “Paradise Institute” and “The Killing Machine” installation pieces, while featuring a noir science-fiction plot involving a character named Drogan, and a woman who  discovers him in a warehouse strapped to a bed controlled by a malevolent machine (http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/drogans_nightmare.html).

Through the virtual environments they create, the walking-tours enfold the audience’s physicality within layers of simulacra built upon pre-recorded audioscapes. These audioscapes then guide the audience’s physical body through both virtual and actual environments. The fugue-like overlaps of actual and virtual events within these neo-Baroque, digital trompe l oreille pieces inspire multi-stable perceptions, and a phenomenological response to the intersections of bios and techne, body and technology. The artists’ digital extensions of mind and memory, integrated with the audience’s mind and body generate a nomadic “cyborg” experience, wherein the virtual and the actual become so integrated that they sometimes seem indistinguishable. While Miller and Cardiff enter the audience’s mind, they also open previously hidden passageways to their own minds. It’s a two-way, digital roadway between self and Other. Audience and artists become symbiotically “jacked-into” each other’s minds. Through the surrender of autonomous agency, the sense of disembodiment, and the virtual “voices” generated inside audiences’ heads, Cardiff and Miller’s digitally enhanced walking tours simulate a schizophrenic phenomenology. Secret doorways to unnerving past events are temporarily revealed, while disjunctive narratives, and elliptic plots invite participants to become further engaged by filling in the story-line gaps themselves. The digital paradox that informs Cardiff and Miller’s bio-technological works blurs the “virtual” and “actual” through its technologically mediated cyborg experience and raises questions about how techne and bios combine to constitute “reality.” We find ourselves situated as figures in a digital ground, intimately linked to an ephemeral past that invites re-evaluation. It is their conscious re-situation of artist/audience inter-actions that distinguishes Cardiff and Miller as artistic pioneers.

 

References

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Cardiff, Janet and George Büres Miller. Lost in the Memory Palace (2014). WEB: Accessed Dec. 5, 2014. <http://projects.vanartgallery.bc.ca/cardiff_miller_lost/index.html>

_______. “The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk” (2012). WEB: Accessed, Dec. 5, 2014. <http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/alterbahnhof_video.html>

_______. “The Killing Machine” (2007). WEB: Accessed, Dec. 5, 2014. <http://projects.vanartgallery.bc.ca/cardiff_miller_lost/killingmachine/video.html>

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_______. “The Missing Voice” (1999). WEB: Accessed, Dec. 5, 2014. <http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/missing_voice.html>

_______.“Wanås – Into the Woods” (1998). WEB: Accessed, Dec. 5, 2014. <http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/wanas.html>

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Selinger, Evan and Timothy Engstrӧm . “On Naturally Embodied Cyborgs: Identities, Metaphors, and Models” <http://www.janushead.org/9-2/selingerengstrom.pdf> WEB: Accessed Dec. 5, 2014.

 

Karl Jirgens is the author of four books from Coach House, ECW and Mercury Presses. He has over one hundred scholarly and creative articles in print, internationally. Since 1979, he has served as the Editor of Rampike, an international journal of Art, Writing and Critical commentary.
He currently serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Windsor, Canada.

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