Shift

1997
Metal, plastic, custom electronics
Dimensions variable

Shift explores how the familiarity of a simple body movement is altered by the intervention of an electronic system. Rejecting commercial models that posit technology simply as a slave to a user's desire, Shift asks instead that the user consider his or her intentionality as a participant in such an electronically mediated experience.

Shift gives no indication of the electronic system it conceals-- at first glance it appears to be only a small platform and a large steel bowl located several feet apart. By standing and turning on the platform, the viewer is able to transmit his or her movement across the room to the bowl, which is connected via radio to the platform. The viewer's movements are then reproduced by a motor-driven system within the bowl that amplifies, displaces and distorts the viewer's true movement. The digitized movements of the viewer's body are reproduced not with digital precision, but in a decidedly analogue fashion. The result for the user is an ineffective, inaccurate and distorted sense of control.

 


The agency that Shift offers its users is illusory. When a viewer tries to control the sculpture by interacting, they are at the same time a witness to a distorted reflection of their attempt reproduced across the room by the bowl. In contrast with most electronic technologies --which are for the most part perceived visually or aurally through cognitively-based sensing-- Shift demands the full physical participation of the viewer. The result is that the experience of control and displacement presented is perceived in a primarily kinaesthetic way. As such, Shift question, in a bodily way, the nature of the control we gain by extending our bodies in space through electronic systems.