You are on page 1of 4

Research Proposal - Final

Taehee Kim
December 9, 2009

Research Question

How can Mediated Tension be defined in space?

Project title: Aesthetics in Mediated Tension and Extended Self

It is suggested that aesthetics in interaction should substantially

emerge by tension in the context of phenomenal sensation. What is
believed as liveliness and emotion from artificial objects especially of
those kinetic and robotic is thought to be a function of this
phenomenal tension. Tension in this sense needs to be further studied
and defined. Moreover, phenomenal tension is virtual sensation and
virtual sensation is sensation in the virtual world. How can virtual
sensation take place in the real world with physical sensation? I believe
that all human sensation is virtual as have been suggested in many
literatures such as in Buddhism. What are sensed are the reflection of
the reality on the mirror of our sensing and perception. I would like to
build some object and environment where mediated tension could take
place. This mediated tension can only emerge when there is effective
mediation. I would like to introduce human audience as the mediator. I
would then like to discuss about the virtuality in the context of this
kind of tension.


A number of robotic sculptures will be built. Every one of them looks at

an audience respectively and maintains a tension using a proximity
sensor and motion. When more than two robots are engaged, their
motions would look to have been mediated by the audience with no
explicit functional relationship programmed. I will discuss the sensation
of the audience in this situation in terms of sensation of tension and
liveliness. Sound will be introduced in order to add more narrative to
the space.

Historical Context

Marcel Duchamp stated “infrathin” as a concept and used it

expensively in his works1. Infrathin is found in relationships, contrasts
and many transitional moments. According to Duchamp, for instance,
objects from a same mould have infrathin. Between the sameness and
difference, there is subtle tension. We look at something and that
something sometimes turns in to be looked differently from time to
time which are different ontological moments. Between different
ontological moments, there is very good chance for infrathin to take
place. And there is tension between those moments and this is I
suppose a kind of infrathin.

Difference creates space thus tension. One thing could differ from
another as long as they are in the same space or dimension, meaning
that they are comparable. Tension of this kind does not necessarily
correspond to the degree of the difference. A small difference can
create a huge capacity where a lot of tension can take place. This
capacity for tension is related to audience perception. Objects from the
same mould are almost the same. They are supposed to be the same.
But, they are different in many ways: different time of birth; slightly
different in shape and materiality; and different identities so as to be
given different names which can cause a huge difference. Although
they are supposed to be the same, since there are also differences,
there is a large capacity for much tension to be created. The amount of
tension would largely depend on audience perception, i.e., which way
to look at the object. There could be tension or infrathin between a
symbol and the object that is being signified by this symbol, because
they are different: “The sign … is deferred presence” – Derrida2.

Theoretical Context

1 Marcel Duchamp, notes on inframince from Duchamp Notes, 1980.

2 Jaques De4rrida, “Difference,” from Margins of Philosophy, 1982

In Buddhism, especially in ‘Diamond Sutra’, it is much emphasized that
what you all see are copies and the mind of a subject plays a main role
in what is seen. Identity of an object is determined by concepts. There
could be no definite isolation of an object regardless of the relation
with the rest of the world. This concept is stated in Iching and was
accommodated by Gertrude Stein, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and
others forming a foundation of modernism in its varieties as
‘indifference’, ‘commonality’, and oneness. Quantum mechanics in
physics also suggested ‘law of uncertainty’. The world is composed of
molecules and those molecules are uncertain and un-deterministic.
How can a super set of uncertain be physically certain? This is only
possible by a phenomenological standpoint

As in Kalina’s work3 mentioned above, visual snapshot of a self at a

certain time is limited in defining the identity. Rather the identity
should include the change of self on a timeline. The same is true in the
space with time as a constant. One would not be able to be completely
identified and described without the reference to the world. One could
be identified in terms of relationships and transitions in space and the
concept of self should be extended along the transitions and
relationships with the world. One is not only identified as an object but
also described in terms of moments of transitions and relationships to
the surroundings. The one and the rest of the world are interconnected
as one piece. This could be referred to as ontological indifference.
Oneness mentioned by John Cage4 could be considered to be of this
kind and ‘Paramita’, a Buddhist’s bible, has the same lesson.

However, strictly speaking, indifference is not ‘nothing’ or nil. There

is always something in the real world but it may not be considered to
be meaningful or might not be referenced. I would like to suppose that
there is tension in indifference. Adopting indifference as a sensation
would make one to look the world and maintain a light tension. I would
suggest that it should be a kind of infrathin and can have a lot of
playfulness, i.e., space for drama.

Material Choices

Wires, woods, rubber, and sponge are tested for robot body. Various
motors and sensors will be used. Robot hung in a wooden frame will be


4 John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings, 1973.

tested. Interaction with human audience will also be tested. Installation
in an interior space will be considered in conjunction with robotic

In addition, air is thought to be very interesting material. Confined

air could have physical tension. Ejected air could create extruded
tension. Air is in a sense thought to be empty but is a form. This multi
face of air could be a good source to create infrathin.

Strings can be used as instrumental elements. They maintain

tensions and produce many different kinds of different sounds.
Localized thus spatial manipulation results in difference in sound,
which is very interesting.