Artist Statement - Images - Articles

Curiosity Cabinet at the End of the Millennium

In the cyberspace of contemporary new technologies the theme of self-determination is being replayed in the image of the autonomous cyborg.

Much of this attempt to reconstruct self-determination in new media environments focuses on the meeting of body and machine: a cyborg state of half metal and half flesh. In the mainstream technological, scientific and pop narratives the cyborg simply appropriates more machine power for the autonomous self.

In contrast I see these electronic computer environments as irrevocably blurring the boundaries between body and machine and multiples of bodies and machines, thereby profoundly shifting any notion of the autonomous self. There are immense implications for our material bodies and our virtual, psychic selves in these ambiguous environments. Not only do these states undermine our construction of autonomy but we have not developed any other notion of subjectivity to take its place.

Other works of mine explored this permeable boundary in new technological environments. These pieces used interactive computer technologies to hold up this slippage of the self as we have known it.

This work deals with the same issues from a different perspective. It holds up the autonomous complete self as a kind of endangered species, a rare collectable on display for a moment. It is time when such a self is in fact under siege from our own media environments.

Demonstrations of the autonomous individual can be seem in the early collections of curiosities by Europeans as they explored the world and literally collected symbolic fragments as an illustration of their power. These were often displayed in cabinets, early premonitions of museums, owned by the wealthy and powerful: such as the King of Sweden's intriguing cabinet which is now in Uppsala. Thus, in a sense, the conception of the self, as autonomously determined, appeared to readily function in the world. Such a self would put the world in a box, at least, symbolically, to be enjoyed at one's pleasure.

In the context of our media environment or world, this piece is about how this condition can now only exist - inside out, as it were. In the media world we are constantly bathed in human generated electrical magnetic spectrum. We are permeable to this invisible spectrum as well as its technological displays. In what way can we be separate and autonomous from the media world? Rather than the world in the cabinet it will be ourselves inside the cabinet.

This is what Curiosity Cabinet does. The spectator/participant climbs inside the cabinet. The cabinet is now a 'safe' house, an impermeable skin from the electronic and magnetic sea.

Copyright © Catherine Richards. All Rights Reserved.