Lost In Performance

Performative Processes to Save the Lost Bytes
by Adam Scher

A thesis submitted to the faculty of Parsons The New School for Design, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Design and Technology Faculty: Cynthia Lawson and Chris Prentice. Thesis Studio, Spring 2007 Katherine Moriwaki and Andrew Zornoza, Thesis Studio, Fall 2006 Thesis production website: http://www.adamscher.com/mfadt/thesis



Copyright 2011 Adam Scher All Rights Reserved


Lost in Performance is a series of critical art works that explores the relationship between human and computer performance. The main focus of the collection is to draw attention to the temporal aspect of our memories, questioning the process with which we save and store information. Performing and processing become interchangeable actions as each piece is continuously repeated using a variety of digital and analogue methods. Personal photographs and home videos are used as the core content in each work, suggesting the relationship between performance/process and memory. The visual aesthetics of the work expose the deteriorating effects of time and repetition, suggesting that memory, human and digital, is imperfect and does not last forever.

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We have arrived at a certain point in our cultureʼs history, where remembering certain pieces of information have become obsolete. This is not due to forgetfulness, but rather for the desire of maintaining a “perfect” memory. Our capability of saving, storing and retrieving an almost infinite amount of information is facilitated by our connectedness to a global network of information that never forgets. With the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger these “memories” become instantly available to us, allowing us reflect, recollect and reconstruct these pieces of information.

The ideas regarding memory in todayʼs digital world are filled with controversy. Many would argue that our ability to access any piece of information at any time has increased our capabilities and productivity immensely. Otherʼs feel that this advancement has begun to induce more harm that good, by exposing all sorts of information that shouldnʼt necessarily be accessible to the general population. Regardless of opinion, this future is inevitable, and we must understand the benefits and consequences of living in such a reality.

For almost ten years, Gordon Bell, a Microsoft researcher, has been attempting to maintain a “perfect” memory. In a research project entitled MyLifeBits, Bell has been actively recording almost every aspect of his day-to-day life. This massive undertaking has included the scanning of every piece of paper, including all his familyʼs health records. He saves every email, a snap shot of every website visited, and even records most conversations he has with people. He has even gone so far as to wear a camera around his neck that automatically snaps a picture every 30 seconds.

With the current state of technological development, this task has never been easier. Recording devices have never been more compact, and the functionality of uploading the content onto the web is built in to many of these products. Additionally, with the price of data storage becoming more affordable with time, we are able to save massive amounts of personal information. What is it that we do with all of this information? We store it, share it, and save it as a testament to what has happens in our lives.

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What I find particularly interesting is not how we collect the information, or what we do with it, but why we do it. Bell explains, “that biological memory is fallible…unlike, computers, brains arenʼt all that great at faithfully storing masses of detail. (Bell 2009, 54)

Through what Bell describes as “Total Recall”, one can circumnavigate the limitations of human memory by storing and annotating everything digitally. His book, “Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything”, glorifies how this method of constant personal documentation will enhance our work flow, our health, the way we learn, and even simple tasks in our every day lives. More importantly, Bell argues its importance in allowing us to search through our data and ultimately “find correlations and multidimensional patters in [our] life experience.” (Bell 2009, 23)

In his book “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age”, Viktor MayerSchönberger explores the consequences of this inevitable trend towards massive external personal memory. He begins his book with an anecdote about 25-year-old Stacy Snyder, a university student, finishing her coursework to become a teacher. University officials had come across a photograph of her on MySpace wearing a pirateʼs hat while drinking from a plastic cup. The photograph was captioned “drunken pirate”. Despite the arguments that the Snyder was over the legal drinking age and the content inside plastic cup was indiscernible, Snyder was denied her teaching certificate. The photograph has been deemed inappropriate behavior of a teacher; consequently all appeals were denied.

The lesson from this story is the crux of Mayerʼs argument, that “with the help of widespread technology, forgetting has become the exception and remembering the default.” (Mayer-Schönberger 2009, 2) It is impossible for Snyder to erase the effects of uploading her controversial photo. With the ease at which others can download material from the Internet and cached websites on search engines such as Google, it is even fair to say that it is impossible to delete the existence of the photograph. Essentially the Internet remembers every move of our digital footprint. It is with this “perfect memory we may lose a fundamental human capacity —to live and act firmly in the resent.” (MayerSchönberger 2009, 12)
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It is important to realize that these contentious ideas surrounding preservation of memory are not new. The notion of perfect memory was the central theme of Jorge Luis Borgesʼ 1942 short story “Funes the Memorious”. In a chapter from Alan Lightmanʼs “Einsteinʼs Dreams”, a society is depicted, that suffers from the inability to remember. I think it is important to look at these works of fiction as allegories for the future direction of our society in relation to both Bell and Mayerʼs texts. Perhaps they can offer some insight as we move closer and closer to becoming a culture that is incapable of forgetting.

A fictional Borges is introduced to the character of Ireneo Funes, a teenage boy with a prodigious memory, capable of recalling the minute details of every moment. While Funesʼ perfect memory enables him to learn new languages in a few days time and reconstruct a full dayʼs worth of events, it is questioned whether this “ability” is considered a curse or a gift. “To think,” Borges writes, “is to ignore (or forget) differences, to generalize, to abstract. Since his accident, Funes is condemned to see only the trees, and never the forest. In the teeming world of Ireno Funes there was nothing but particulars.” (Borges 1962, 154)

Has Gorgon Bell become a contemporary Ireneo Funes? To some degree, I believe he has. Similarly to Funes, everything Bell encounters is “new” relative to the time and perspective it was experienced in. His MyLifeBits has afforded him a near perfect memory. Although the methods of recalling and reconstructing are fundamentally different for the two, their results are the same, consequently endangering their human reasoning. With oneʼs past being constantly in the forefront, the ability to make clear decisions and remain in the present can be impeded. One may loose trust in their own remembering capabilities, and rely solely on those digital collections of stored information.

In contrast to Borgesʼ Funes, is Lightmanʼs vision of a world that is forever in the present. He imagines a place “without memory, [where] each night is the first night, each morning is the first morning each kiss and touch are the first (Lightman 1993, 63).” Due to the fleeting properties of this type of life, Lightman describes that people have two
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choices: to record every thing they do and spend their days reviewing their life, or to abandon memory all together and live in the present. There is no mention as to which choice is better than the other, but Lightman does suggest that those who forgo trying to obtain the past, live with a much more positive outlook on life.

Is this type of world obtainable? In a time where everything is documented, saved, and processed, is it possible to experience things from a fresh and untainted perspective? Perhaps if we took the time to find the new in the mundane and ordinary, we would be surprised and excited.

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What does saving our artifacts afford us? In a society where the majority of information is becoming digital, it is important to ask about the security of the information we save online. The ability to save and store content is becoming easier and cheaper, resulting in mass amounts of data. Yet, we never consider what we gain or what we loose as a result.

Can repetitive processes provide opportunity for reflection and evaluation? We undertake numerous daily tasks that require us to perform procedures over and over again rarely considering the actions taking place. The speed at which we digitally perform is so fast, that we barely have time to consider the consequences of our actions. I am interesting in looking at these repetitious processes as moments for reflection, taking the time to acknowledge what we do and how it effects us.

How does our perspective of the past change over time? The way relate to our personal data changes over time. Similarly, we are constantly reconstructing the past from this information. Our memories become malleable entities reconfiguring their shape as we constantly learn and process new information.

Through the mass collection of data, is it possible to discover the meaningful bits? A trend towards quantity has conditioned us to digitally store and save almost everything. These records document chronological narratives of our lives. Rarely does anyone have the time or patience to sift through all of this rapidly growing data. Its sheer quantity detracts from finding the quality content. When a commitment and investment of oneʼs time is made, the possibility of uncovering “quality memories” arises.

Can our memories be accurately replicated and reproduced? It is important to realize the limitations human performance. While we easily duplicate data digitally, it is almost impossible to produce similar results with human actions and data, considering the variables that effect the mind and body.

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In response to my design questions I created a series of critical art pieces to be experienced in the physical space. These works do not attempt to directly answer the questions, but rather an entry into a discourse about methods and processes undertaken to save and store memory. Each piece has been developed iteratively, developing and progressing through research and feedback. The final implementation of these works will result in a gallery installation and as part of a screening.

What does saving our artifacts afford us? In response to this question I created saveAs, a series of transparent prints encased in a light box. Each image has been saved 1,000 times, allowing the effects of compression to delete certain areas of the print. The lost data is thus highlighted, exposing the information that compression deemed “unimportant”.

Can repetitive processes provide opportunity for reflection and evaluation? To address this, I created resize_600, a series of 6 prints that have been resized 600 times in Photoshop. Based on the proportion with which it was enlarged, different algorithms are exposed. The patterns engulf the original images, raising questions about the effects our digital choices have on our information.

How does our perspective of the past change over time? For this question I developed upload_download_play_rewind, a video installation that deteriorates both digitally and physically through watching the video. The video is a compilation of 100 uploads and downloads to YouTube, cut together in 2-second intervals. Throughout the duration of the piece, one can watch both the audio and video distort. The video is then displayed on a VCR, which repetitively plays and rewinds, resulting in the destruction of the magnetic tape.

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Through the mass collection of data, is it possible to discover the meaningful bits? To look at this area of interest I developed a 7minute entitled cut_paste. The video is comprised of over 200 hours of home video footage strung in and out of one another. The effect creates an overwhelming assemblage of information, forcing the viewer to search for the important moments woven throughout.

Can our memories be accurately replicated and reproduced? This question led me to create copy, a short dance performance created from a home video. The performances take place in peopleʼs homes, and the “hosts” participate by video taping the experience. Although this process is an attempt to recreate the past, each individual creates a unique memory.

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Jim Campbell: Photo of My Mother, 1996

In Photo of My Mother, Jim Campbell explores the notion memory through inherent bodily rhythm and personal artifacts. The piece uses Campbellʼs breathing as the “memory” which alters the viewerʼs perception of a photograph. He previously records himself breathing for one hour. The duration of each recorded breath is then used to alter a piece of fogged glass in front of the photograph. With each breath, the glass becomes foggy and then transparent, simulating the act of breathing upon a glass surface. What Campbell has achieved is a dual commentary. In one sense, he reminds us that our memories of certain things become “foggy” over time. He also speaks to the inherent routines that our body completes. We never have to remember to breath, it simply happens naturally.

For me, this duality is powerful. In saveAs I too am commenting on the temporal qualities of memory, suggesting that memories become less clear over time. Instead of being blurred, the image of my mother has literally been deleted forcing the mind to reconstruct the missing parts.

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Christophe Behrens: Compression Series, 1999

Compression algorithms and exposing the visual aesthetics of flaws is at the center of Christophe Behrens Compression Series. The piece consists of a series of portraits from the FBIʼs most wanted list. These images are then manipulated by altering the ASCII code inside of a text editor, essentially re-rasterizing the image as many times as needed.

The piece was initially developed as a response to newfound popularity of the World Wide Web in the late 90s. Due to slow bandwidth and the need for small file size, designers were forced to compress all images to ensure a fast viewing speed. Behrens chooses to highlight the artifacts caused by compression rather than fix them, creating a painterly quality as the pixels bleed into one another.

While my methods and intentions differ greatly from this work, the visual motifs are very much related. It is important to note that while saveAs comments on the instinctual behavior to constantly save files, it is not looking at compression as a method to reduce file size. The loss of quality is simply a result of the action of saving.

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Takeshi Murata: Untitled (Silver), 2006

Takeshi Murata uses the relatively new technique of digital manipulation called “Data Bending” in the majority of his work. The technique, which takes the pixel information from one frame of video and applies it to another, creates psychedelic and visually exciting moving images that morph into one another. Murata, who has used the digital glitch as an aesthetic and metaphorical choice in previous works, raises awareness to the imperfections of digital content.

Untitled (Silver) is one of his darker works, where the horror classic Mask of the Demon, by director Mario Bava, is digitally corroded until all that is left of the film is ghostly images on the screen. The technology bleeds through, exposing itself and its structure onto the original content. What is left, are the visual remains of information that has been process, a hybrid formed of deteriorated content and digital processing.

resize_600 has attempted to achieve similar visual results in a non time based medium. Where in Murataʼs work one can continuously see the passing of each pixel throughout the duration of work, resize_600 leaves the viewer with a snapshot off all the processing that has occurred. The exposed algorithm exists almost as a scar.
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Patrick Lidell: I Am Sitting in a Room, 2009

Musician Patrick Lidell decided to partake on an experiment. He recorded a video using his computerʼs webcam, uploaded it to YouTube, and then downloaded it. He repeated this process 1,000 times, achieving some very interesting results. YouTube uses a certain an mp4 codec when uploading content, and this compresses both the video and audio components of the file. With each download, the file becomes compresses, loosing pieces of its information. By the 1,000th download all definition is lost. The video is a blur of colored shapes where all of the pixels blend into one another. The audio is also completely distorted, creating a cacophony of muffled tones and noise.

The piece itself speaks to massive amount of content that our society is sharing online. We choose to post content so that it can be immortalized and preserved. We believe that what we upload is being presented in the form that we intended, but in fact the act of sharing it destroys it. What Lidell fails to include is a comment on how he feels about the digital degradation. The uploaded video appears arbitrary and detached. By using home footage, I was able to attain a certain level of value to the content. This creates an emotional investment to the work from both me, as the artist, and the viewer.

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Cynthia Lawson: Voicemail Diaries, 2009

Cynthia Lawson creates present day commentary on saved voicemails in her video series, Voicemail Diaries. Each video consists of several voicemails that are accompanied by black screen with text. Throughout the duration of each voice message, the text reveals present day commentary that Lawson has while revisiting the audio.

As viewers we catch a glimpse of Lawsonʼs personal life as we learn small bits of information about the people who call her, and the stories that she associates with them. The pieces are nostalgic and at times funny, reminding us of the nonlinear sequence of thoughts that occur in our minds when remembering certain people in our lives.

It was this work, along with Lawsonʼs personal suggestion, that led me to include my present day “voice” into upload_download_play_rewind. While Lawsonʼs text descriptions appear to be more informative and narrative in conjunction with the audio, I wanted to retain a certain level of restraint with my commentary as it was paired with both audio and visual components.

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Jason Salavon: Late Night Triad, 2003

64 episodes of 3 of Americaʼs most popular late night television programs have been averaged and overlaid ontop of one another in this mesmerizing work by Salavon. The piece is shown as a video tryptic, lasting just under 4 minutes, consisting of the opening standup acts of Conan OʼBrian, Jay Leno, and David Letterman. Using C++, Salavon is able to show to just how similar these nightly routines are. The variants are minimal, creating an unsettling image that is both familiar yet not. The images become almost fluid like, creating waves and trails of that can be both seen and heard. While the video are two dimensional, Salavonʼs compositing offers a beautiful depth to the images.

While Salavonʼs technique of overlaying opaque video footage was processed by a customize piece of software, the layers in cut_paste were done manually. In addition, it was his visual compositions that inspired some of my aesthetic choices, and not his intentions behind the work. I was not interested in showing the similarity of footage, but rather exploring the complexity created by combining lots of different footage.

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Anthony Goicelea: Self Portrait Series, 2010

I looked into the visual work of Anthony Goicolea. His work explores similar themes of childhood, family genealogy, reflection, repetition and performance. In most of his work, Goicolea dresses up like a young boy, and creates photographed scenarios reenacting moments of childhood. The photographs usually contain multiple versions of him, creating an illusion that defies space and time. The work itself it dark, commenting on what was perhaps was a difficult adolescence. The images however hold a certain level of humor in their composition, mostly due to the absurdity of their staging. Once the viewer remembers that Goicolea is a grown man, the lightness of the portraits come forward.

It is this type of humor that is embedded in the performances that comprise copy. However different the content between Goicolea and my work, the concept remains undeniably related. By recreating specific moments of childhood fantasy, we are able to draw the viewer into that specific space. They no longer see an adult replicating an experience, but rather believe it as the original and see only the child.

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Laurel Nakadate: Happy Birthday, 2000

Laurel Nakadate is a performance based visual/video artist who regularly incorporates strangers into her work. In her video triptych Happy Birthday, Nakadate celebrates her birthday with random men whom she sought out on craigslist.com. In each video the scenario is the same. A cake is placed onto a table and a itʼs candles are lit, followed by the man singing happy birthday to Nakadate. The both of them then eat a slice of cake. The camera is set up so that it documents the entire scene. Each video piece in the work differs greatly: the man, the room, the camera angle, and the timing of the events. However, the constant of Nakadate and the familiar ritual of celebrating a birthday, make this work extremely eerie as the three play in tandem.

I am interested in the variables that occur in replication. This piece, along with copy, clearly demonstrates the imperfective nature of duplicating human experiences. Our desire to exactly recreate experiences and moments is instinctual, but impossible. I feel the incorporation of the stranger into the artistʼs work is an important variable when looking at the replication process. It was this element that added to the success of both Nakadate and my work.

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My memories are sacred. My memories are amorphous. My memories are mysterious. My memories are unique to me and me alone.

It was the summer of 1996, and I sat in the television room of my motherʼs new house in upstate New York. Her and my stepfather had recently moved across the country, and this was my first visit to their new home. The heat of the summer was different than what I was used to in California, thick humidity paired with a constant stickiness. Afternoon sunlight filled the room, as my mother and I sat watching the Summer Olympics. Although I normally would have protested the programming, I sat quietly and watched. It was her company that I was invested in, not the gymnastics.

She rested in her dark leather recliner chair, as I sat on the couch. Between us, was a small square coffee table that had traveled with her from Los Angeles to New York. I remember how strange it was to see the piece of furniture out of its original context. There was little conversation between us that afternoon, just the sound of the television and the comfort of each otherʼs presence.

That is my last memory of my mother.

I replay this scene over and over in my head, trying to grasp on to any other detail that my mind can afford to give up. What was it that happened right before this moment, or right after? I canʼt remember. I am left distressed, accepting the loss of those moments. Perhaps the acceptance that precious memories of my childhood have faded over time has driven my current research and design practice.

I am afraid that my memories will be lost over time if I do not carefully file and store them away. I believe their organization must be meticulous. But memories are not tangible and cannot be handled like the artifacts I associate with them. In fact, they operate on their own terms, leaving me powerless to their comings and goings. At times I struggle to remember the sound of my motherʼs voice, but can recall what was on tv the day I last

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saw her. These inconsistencies and unpredictable behaviors appear to be out of my control, and perhaps is what fascinates me about them.

As Iʼve gotten older Iʼve begun to compensate for my inability to preserve these memories through documenting and saving the present moment. The brief act of snapping a photograph or saving a file reassures me that the moment will not be lost in my mind, and will be available for reflection at any point. How often do I go back and filter through these growing bins of digital memories? Hardly ever. How often do I think about that single afternoon in the summer of 1996? Almost daily.

What I feel it comes down to is significance. We donʼt remember static moments of our lives. The memories build upon one another to create magical scenes that we are able to recreate in our minds. A photograph might ignite such a stream of thoughts, but it is incapable of transcending time and space. Artifacts inform, rather than assist, our memories. If I had never seen a photograph of my mother since her death, would I still remember what she looked like? Am I remembering the memory or the artifact?

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We have become dependant on software and hardware to digitally save our most precious moments. saveAs questions the effectiveness of modern technology in the preservation of personal memories, by displaying the results of images that have each been saved 1,000 times. Similarly to the way in which our minds process information, digital artifacts loose fidelity through processing.

I initially started this piece by manually generating photocopies of a photocopied photograph. Physical duplication is a common method to insure that information is never lost. While the copies are never exactly like the original, the results generally are generally very similar. However, once the duplicate is used as the initial template, the level of accuracy is compromised. Through each subsequent copy, the image looses form until any trace of the original picture is lost, leaving a blank white paper. It took 57 analog copies to completely remove the image. I found these results to be poetic, commenting on how our mind slowly forgets what it once remembered.

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I decided that I wanted to explore this type of replication using digital techniques. Using a digital image of mother, I manually saved the picture 300 times. Photoshop compresses the image in such a way that it only retains the most important data, thus reducing its file size by a very minimal amount. After being processed so many times it is obvious that certain pieces of information are being removed from the JPG.

How does Photoshop choose which information is important it compression process? I have no answer to this, as my research in image compression and file size has not been in depth. What interests me are two fold. First, is the metaphorical similarity between the way that Photoshop and our mindʼs process information in repetition. Certain details are lost and distorted, while the “important” information remains in tact. Second, is the reality that processing the image repetitively deteriorates the data.

I wrote a script that would automatically reproduce the action of saving an image repetitively. I then processed 5 different images of my mother each 1,000 times. The results were fascinating. After a certain point, no more information is extracted from the JPG during the compression. What is left is are scattered black and white pixels that have been completely striped of any image. This information that Photoshop compression algorithm deemed “unimportant” is deleted.

I felt that it was important to highlight this “unimportant” information. I created 24” x 30” transparent photographs, printed on duraclears, of the 5 processed images. The prints were then mounted to ¼” thick pieces of clear acrylic. Each sheet is overlaid on top of one another create a three-dimension composition of the deleted pixels. I built a light box to house the acrylic and prints. This allows me to produce a large amount of light from behind to emphasize the depth of the piece. I also made the decision to manipulate the colors of each image. While this does compromise the conceptual ideas around replication, I felt it added an addition beauty and elevated the overall work.

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resize_600 was developed at during the same initial explorations as saveAs. In addition to looking at saving as a method of digitally degrading an image, I experimented with other types of automated manipulation. I developed a script in Photoshop that would scale an image by a specified amount, and then scale the image back to its original size. This process was then repeated 600 times.

The algorithm that Photoshop uses to resize an image begins to appear as the photograph gets re-processed. Depending on the scaled interval, different patterns emerge. Initially, the images were at a resolution of 72 dpi, creating wide maze like patterns that traversed the image. Some intervals created a spotted grid, while others appeared more randomly. For print purposes, I remade the images at a higher resolution of 300 dpi. This time the emerged patterns were tightly woven together and had a higher level of detail.

The piece is displayed as 6 prints mounted onto foam core. Each photograph is stacked vertically on top of one another, in descending order of the amount resized: 1000, 500, 100, 50, 10, 1.

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I was interested in replicating a similar deteriorated effect, that I had achieved in saveAs and resize_600, except this time with time based media. Through uploading, downloading, and re-uploading the video to YouTube, I was able to successfully compress the footage so that eventually the lost data became very apparent.

During the summer of 2010 I begin digitizing all of my home videos in an effort to preserve the footage. These tapes are the perfect examples of artifacts that carry very specific memories for me. The majority of the videos are from the early 1980ʼs, so I have almost no recollection of these events happening. For this piece I was interested in trying to capture the essence of the footage on the tape. Sometimes memories slowly fade over time, no longer existing as specific moments in time, but rather as an overall feeling. The memories become a wash of emotional landmarks.

This footage, after being uploaded 100 times to YouTube, becomes amorphous, resembling human figures and objects completely void of detail. The audio also becomes distorted, developing a cacophonous assemblage of familiar laughing and singing. This footage was then edited together, splicing in the successive uploads every 2-seconds. This technique allows the digital deterioration to be visible through the duration of the 2-

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minute video. This cut was then paired with personal commentary as text bellow the footage. This personal touch allows me to insert my current reflections about that period in time.

The digital video file was recorded back onto a VHS tape, returning it its original medium. upload_download_play_rewind will be displayed on CRT television/VCR. The VCR automatically plays and rewinds the tape, so that it will be seen on an infinite loop. The stress from non-stop performance will slowly strip away the information on the VHSʼs magnetic tape. Thus the piece degrades in 2 different methods: the digital content edited together and the physical destruction from watching the tape.

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With a desire to uncover moments of my past, cut_paste, is as much about the methodology with which I made it, as it is about its final form. Comprised of short excerpts from over 200 hours of home video footage, the piece explores themes of remembering and forgetting in relationship to our technology. We have developed a dependency to digital artifacts to assist us in recalling the past, and despite the mass amount of content we acquire, I personally believe we rarely go back to it. The VHS cassettes that I have saved over the years sit in a drawer and are never played. In making this video, I was afforded the opportunity for reflection on these artifacts through my process of watching all the footage and extracting the specific moments that I wanted to highlight.

In order to choose the content for the video I began watching all of the footage. Quickly I became lost in the endless hours of mundane shots, hoping to find the meaningful moments hidden inside the cassettes. I was amazed at the amount of unless video, but was able to separate the important moments and begin to edit them together.

The video takes on a painterly quality as hundreds of transparent video layers are overlaid on top of one another. A collage of vaguely familiar forms, weave in an out of an

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amorphous background of muddled imagery. Through the duration of the piece, certain moments are revealed and recessed, symbolizing how our memory works. A loosely knitted assemblage of thoughts and ideas that weave in and out of each other is created; developing a visual wash of imagery was essential to the success of the piece.

A narrative is developed around footage from a Rainbow Brite film that was found on one of my tapes. She emerges as a central character, which has been dubbed to an audio track of my mother discussing her experience with breast cancer. The subverted performance of this iconic reference of my generation, relates to my personal experience of childhood innocence. Despite the harsh realities I was facing as a child, I associate that time with the fantastical cartoons that I constantly watched.

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I came across a series of VHS tapes of me as a child, dancing for my family in our living room to the soundtrack from Walt Disneyʼs The Little Mermaid. I had no recollection of these impromptu performances, and was amazed at the commitment and sincerity in my delivery. Watching these videos, it was clear that I born to dance. Although I had yet to receive any formal training, at five years old I was able to express myself through my movement.

These tapes have inspired a physical perfomative avenue of my thesis work, granting me the opportunity to question their relationship to my dance work. In an effort to capture the essence of those moments, I learned the improvised dances that had been performed over 20 years ago. Integrating this methodology into my practice changes the way I make dance and think about movement. I retrained my body to move without “technique”; to dance intuitively, not considering alignment and placement. How closely could I replicate my childhood physicality? What is lost within this process? What is gained? What can be learned?

copy is a short dance performances created from a home video, performed in 18 other peopleʼs living rooms. All 18 people were either friends or acquaintances, and they were provided with minimal information before I arrived at their apartments. As part of the

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performance, each “host” was asked to read from a script and videotape me dance. They were encouraged to film however they wanted. It is important to mention that the dances were performed to the original soundtrack from the home video.

All 18 videos were synchronized to the original tape in Final Cut Pro. The video piece is shown as a 3-channel installation on CRT television monitors. One monitor has the original video playing and the other two screens each display 9 of the 18 new “living room dances”. The result a chorus of 19 duplications of myself each performing a dance created in 1990.

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The beauty of this piece comes from its magnitude and brightness. The light box transforms into a beacon of light, emitting enigmatic colored pixels that somehow seem to fit together. The visual language is a wonderful juxtaposition to the message of the piece, which questions the safety of the information we digitally save. The dark realization that data has been lost, contrasted with the glowing imagery pulls you in.

People have been mesmerizing by the complex images that emerge. The depth of the piece allows for the picture to shift based on where you stand in the space. The distance between the viewer and the box also plays a roll in how much of the overall image one can take in. When standing far away, one can catch a glimpse of the outline of a face. Up close the details of an eyelash surrounding a missing eye are found.


The piece was accepted into 2 different gallery shows in December 2010, the ISPC Gallery in Brooklyn, New York and the CLP Gallery in Downtown Manhattan. Having the work on display for in a public setting was excited and also allowed me an opportunity to talk with people about their thoughts on the work.

I have found that people are intrigued with the results of the resize_600 prints. The algorithmic mazes have a visually satisfying quality to them, drawing excitement around their visual aesthetic. Even when reading the piece description people are still unsure about how they were made, which is understandable considering the obscuring methodology.

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An earlier iteration of this video was also shown in the ISPC Gallery. The version on display was being played on a loop with several other short video pieces. Even without the physical degradation of the magnetic tape, the video raises questions of integrity of uploading compressed content onto the Internet.

It is impossible to tell the effects that the analog destruction will have on the work. I have previously attempted to test the efficacy of the tapes through repetitively running dummy content through the VCR, however I am still unsure how long and how severe the damage will be. Regardless, the slowness of it might only be visible to those who view the piece at both the beginning and end of the run.


I was initially concerned with how people would read into this piece, considering its subject matter and experimental nature. I had two separate screenings where I was able to get feedback from both my peers and professors. The reaction was similar in both accounts. It was clear that the video was intended to suggest the feeling of swimming inside a sea of memories. People enjoyed getting lost within the visuals of the piece and always felt that there was enough change and stimulation to keep them interested.

People also felt that even though the content of the video was unique to me, it felt universal. The Rainbow Brite figure offered a sense of familiarity to the work, and also served as an anchor point. Her reoccurring monologues allowed the viewers to rest their eyes from looking through the layers of video.


The are two different results that can be taken from this piece. The first comes from each “host” while they participated with me in the recreation of the home video. The other is that of the viewer who experiences the 3-channel installation.

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People within my community were eager to participate and help me make the videos. I was surprised by how many people were excited about the prospect of me coming to their home to perform, even if they knew little about the project. I found that every single person who “hosted” me was thoroughly engaged in the process, feeling a sense of responsibility for the work. It was interesting to find that some were afraid to interact with me, by making noise or moving around with the camera. When I asked one of my friends, why she didnʼt laugh during the piece, she told me that she was nervous she would ruin the video. Regardless, across the board, the “hosts” had emotional responses to me performing in their homes. They were moved by the dance and felt that we had both shared a very meaningful and intimate experience.

Those experiencing the installation version have also shared very emotional reactions to the work. Despite the imperfections in the synchronization of the 19 videos and the variants within each recreation, the piece holds strong. The work effortlessly transports people back to their youth, reminding them of when they would sing The Little Mermaid. I have found that mostly everyone stays for the entire 06:45 duration of the piece.

I have intentions to continue developing this project and performing in more living rooms. There were many people who wanted me to participate, but due to time restrictions and scheduling conflicts I could not get to everyoneʼs apartment.

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Open (rotterdam, netherlands); open. 2004. Open. (-). Autobiographical memory and the valildity of retrospective reports1994. , ed. Norbert Schwarz Dr.phil. New York: New York : Springer-Verlag. Vanish: Self destructing data. in University of Washington [database online]. Seattle, Washington, Available from http://vanish.cs.washington.edu/. Araki, Takahisa, Norbert Arnsteiner, Martial Barrault, Kurt Branstetter, Bob Elfstrom, Mead Hunt, Nancy Schreiber, Joel Shapiro, and Dyanna Taylor. 2005. Memory, eds. Mike Kelley, Josiah McElheny, Susan Rothenberg and Hiroshi Sugimoto, ed. Charles Atlas. Vol. Online WebisodeArt 21. Auslander, Phillip. 2008. Liveness: Performance in a mediatized culture. London, England: Routledge. Behrens, Christophe. 1999. Compression series. Bell, C. G. 2009. Total recall : How the E-memory revolution will change everything. How the E-memory revolution will change everything., ed. Jim Gemmell. New York, N.Y.: New York, N.Y. : Dutton. Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899-1986. 1962. Ficciones, ed. Limited Editions Club. New York: New York : Published by The Limited Editions Club. Campbell, Jim. 2006. Home movie 608. ———. 2000. Illuminated average #1: Hitchcock's psycho. ———. 1996. Photo of my mother. ———. Jim campbell. [cited October 15 2010]. Available from http://www.jimcampbell.tv/. Conway, Martin A., 1952-. 1990. Autobiographical memory : An introduction. Milton Keynes ; Philadelphia: Milton Keynes ; Philadelphia : Open University Press. Dixon, Steve. 2007. Digital performance: A history of new media in theater, dance, performance art, and installation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Goicolea, Anthony. The Self Portrait Series. [cited October 20 2010]. Available from http://www.anthonygoicolea.com/.

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Kesler, Stan, and Charlie Feathers. 1955. I forgot to remember to forget, ed. Elvis Presley. Vol. Audio Recording. Keyes, Doug. 1997. History of modern art. ———. Doug keyes. [cited October 26 2010]. Available from http://dougkeyes.net/home.html. Kirk, David S., and Abigail Sellen. 2010. On human remains: Values and practice in the home archiving of cherished objects. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 17 (3) (July 2010). Kirk, David, and Richard Banks. 2008. On the design of tecnology heirlooms. Lawson, Cynthia. 2009. Voicemail diaries . Liddell, Patrick. 2009. I am sitting in a room. Lightman, Alan P., 1948-. 1993. Einstein's dreams. New York: New York : Pantheon Books. Lozano-Hemmer, Rafael. 2005. Under scan. ———. Rafael lozano-hemmer. [cited October 15 2010]. Available from http://www.lozano-hemmer.com/index.php. Marker, Chris. 1963. La jetee. Vol. FilmArgos Films. Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. 2009. Delete : The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. Princeton: Princeton : Princeton University Press. Mori, Joji. 2010. Jojimo. ———. 2010. Technology which supports forgetting personal information online. Murata, Takeshi. 2006. Untitled (silver). Odom, William, Richard Harper, Abigail Sellen, David Kirk, and Richard Banks. 2010. Passing on & putting to rest: Understanding bereavement in the context of interactive technologies. CHI (April 2010). Rosen, Jeffery. 2010. The end of forgetting. New York Times Magazine: 30. Read, Max. What does a video look like after 1000 YouTube uploads? in Gawker.com [database online]. [cited October 15 2010]. Available from http://gawker.com/5554154/what-does-a-video-look-like-after-1000-youtubeuploads.
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Salavon, Jason. 2003. The late night triad. ———. 1998. The class of 1967 & the class of 1988. ———. Jason salavon. [cited October 15 2010]. Available from http://salavon.com/. Sellen, Abigail. 2010. Beyond total capture: A constructive critique of lifelogging. Communications of the ACM 53 (5): 70-7. ———. 2009. Reflecting human values in the digital age. Communications of the ACM 52 (3): 58-66. Timoner, Ondi. 2010. We live in public. Vol. FilmInterloper Films. Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2010. Our digitally undying memories. The Chronicle of Higher Education 56 (21): B11-2.

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saveAs 1 – “unimportant"

saveAs 1 – “important"

saveAs 2 – “unimportant"

saveAs 2 – “important"

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saveAs 3 – “unimportant"

saveAs 3 – “important"

saveAs 4 – “unimportant"

saveAs 4 – “important"

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saveAs 5 – “unimportant"

saveAs 5 – “important"

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Resize_600 1 – 1 px

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Resize_600 2 – 10 px

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Resize_600 3 – 50 px

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Resize_600 4 – 100 px

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Resize_600 5 – 500 px

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Resize_600 6 – 1,000 px

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The date today is (date), and this will be a (morning, afternoon, evening) of song and dance with Adam Joshua Scher. He will be singing and dancing from The Little Mermaid.
copy script for hosts

copy production calendar

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