Wednesday, June 19

A media wired to philosophy

To me, space is not the final frontier. Instead, space can be another place in which we communicate and understand our human experience.

Richard Clar, a southern California artist who works with technologies, gave a talk at UCLA last Wednesday. His most recent work is the New Butoh Space Dance ““ Interstellar Message Composition: sending dance and movement through radio waves into outer space. Working with Tetsuro Fukuhara of Tokyo Space Dance, Clar captures the movements of the dancer by taking MRIs of the skeleton with motion capture points.

His work sparked an idea for me of outer space as a medium in which we can explore human thought, emotion and communication.

Through his project, space becomes a place in which we can literally and figuratively bounce philosophical questions, making human experience plausibly a new final frontier. This is yet another way media can give us a closer look at ourselves ““ through giving us the ability to ask questions, and to provoke others to do the same.

Rather than telematic, it’s intergalactic and interdisciplinary too, meaning it deals with art and dance in exhibition form here on Earth and then uses technology to send it into outer space.

To this end, Clar said he specifically chose to send a representation of dance and music because of their ambiguity, which will require reflection and thought by any who encounter it.

“Computers are used, but the core of the project is the dance, the music,” Clar said. “(It’s about) how to capture that, how to capture the human being responding to the emotional stimulus. (It’s about) music and then how to try and convey that to another entity.”

He said he prefers the mystery of the Mona Lisa or the confusion created by inequalities in an equation.

“In this workshop that I did with mathematicians, the mathematicians said: “˜Why don’t we send a mathematical formula into space?’” Clar said. “There has to be something that peaks the interest or curiosity of the recipient.”

Clar is right: The questions and thoughts provoked are less concrete than 2 + 2 = 5.

The complexity of the message itself holds the audience captivated. It potentially can convey what it is that we experience as humans, if not to outer space, then to other humans here on Earth. In the same way watching a dance or hearing a song can affect the viewer, thinking about this interstellar communication through space can make us reevaluate our ideas about communication here on Earth.

“Maybe we have more influence on space than we think we do; we’re not just this isolated planet,” said Emily Osterstock, a fourth-year sociology student. “I think emotions can affect the energy of our planet, so (any messages we send out) would affect outer space.”

The galaxies these messages have been sent to are so far away that even if the response was instantaneous, we would not get it in our lifetime. His work brings up questions about time, space, feelings and consciousness.

“Everyone wants to believe they’re not alone, but sometimes waiting makes you feel alone,” said Ava Dobrzynska, a first-year psychology student.

This, to me, is the same as our use of media in our daily environment.

The way he deals with space is the way I want to deal with media: as a place for bouncing philosophical questions. In the same way we explore ideas in “staring off into (the more immediate type of) space,” he uses outer space as a bouncing plane for philosophical concepts.

E-mail Rood at [email protected]

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