Driftless Body in the Virtual World

Kat Rumas, I feel like i am.. DIS IN TE GRA TING, 2020

Driftless Body in the Virtual World
Airing May 8-14, 2020

A video program created from Sara Condo‘s UIC class Physical Body: Virtual Worlds

Now, more than ever, is a time to reflect on the place of our bodies, and the complicated ways in which they relate to the space around them. Before Covid-19, it was already increasingly obvious how virtualized the spaces (and the bodies inside them) were becoming. Now, with so many of us confined to narrow physical parameters on a daily basis, the act of moving through digital spaces, both as replacement for and supplement to the displaced physical realm we cannot access, requires a level of attention we’re only just beginning to embody.

Unsurprisingly, making art is one of the best ways to think through these uncertainties. Even if a work of art doesn’t have an answer to the many questions raised by confusing circumstances, it can still orient our emotions, begin to solidify the incoherence of first contact with the unknown. It’s a process that’s reflected in the works on display in this program, all created in a course at the University of Illinois at Chicago called Physical Body: Virtual Worlds. Throughout the semester, we’ve already begun to investigate the fracturing of physicality and embodiment as it drifts from physical to virtual and back again. Only in the last two months have those explorations gained full purchase on the moment, accelerating trends already happening to a degree that these issues have become inescapable.

In one of our last IRL classes, we discussed the opening chapter to Arthur Kroker’s Body Drift: Butler, Hayes, Haraway. Kroker suggests that we already live through a multiplicity of bodies, that it “is how we circulate so effortlessly from one medium of communication to another.” In the moment, as the physical extent of our bodies has rapidly diminished, the other bodies we experience become even more apparent, a feeling reflected in a number of works playing in this program. For example, in Angelica Mendoza’s Virtual Nexus Mix 2020, we can see the ways in which the virtualization of the club that’s emerged in the last few months was already underway in recent years, as cell phone videos changed what it meant to see and be seen in public. As a requiem to a club that’s already seen its doors close before, it also serves as a preemptive mourning for the further loss of physical space we’ll likely see as different third spaces fail to make rent payments in the months and years ahead. All the same, to mourn the physical club through dance, and to see and be seen in the eye of a Zoom call, reminds us that something of our physical world still lives in each networked connection, even as we continue an ambivalent dance across our dispersed physical forms.

Jeffery Stahl, Lonely Raver, 2020

The same impulse is present in numerous other works. In Jeffrey Stahl’s Lonely Raver, we see a similar lament for the missing club. Dancing alone in the woods, masked but otherwise prepared for a party that will never arrive (or will it?), the video asks: if a raver dances in the woods, but we can only watch on YouTube, did the rave really happen? Elsewhere, in Kat Rumas’s I feel like I am… DIS IN TE GRA TING, we see the horror of the glitched-out video call, taken to the point of existential dread: what happens when social distancing tears us apart from our core instincts, to live independently and to rebel against authority? The piece offers no easy answers, but viewers will likely see their own despair reflected in Rumas’s pained, glitched expression, the prospect of another Zoom happy hour enough to make one long for even the shittiest dive bar, now unavailable for the foreseeable future. 

Today, the virtual experience and the physical experience are one and the same, demanding correspondingly conscious interpretations. The way one experiences the physical world is processed and interpreted through a virtual-like system which is your consciousness. To determine a distinction between the pair is like trying to make a distinction between space and time. It all depends on your perspective.

Experiences, virtual or embodied, are processed through prisms of one’s perspective. Our minds process physical moments we observe and absorb, within seconds, becoming unique memories. Like a file amidst data in a computer program. As we process information, experiences, and memories throughout time, and defragment. Files condensed. Keeping the meaningful, most important moments. A sibling’s laugh, a mother’s embrace. As well as deleting files,  so the system operations remain stable. In addition, our files of memory and experiences can be reconstructed, filed in certain folders and revised, altered, or relocated as time passes. The most present versions are one’s perceived reality, subject to change.

– Curatorial Text Written by : Ramsey Hoey + Annie Howard


Ramsey Hoey
Tunnel, 2020, 2:20 min

Experiencing isolation feels like an endless tunnel. Beauty and terror. What will be the ripple effect? The endless tunnel extends into our coping mechanisms. We are told to start making everyday routines so that the time spent alone does not seem too long. Repeat until ….

Angelica Mendoza
Virtual Nexus Mix 2020, 2020, 1:50 min

This piece is a short video that encompasses experiences of Neo nightclub before and after the club closed in 2015, as well as the spin the 2020 quarantines have imposed on the nightlife scene. I used appropriated video footage to show contrasting moments in time of Neo patrons. Virtual Nexus Mix 2020 (1:49) is a mashup of an event that used to take place at Neo that is currently running virtually, and my participation in it. The video grapples with loss, memory, and an attempt to relive a bodily experience that was once taken for granted.

Jeffery Stahl
Lonely Raver, 2020, 2:44 min

My latest song is titled Lonely Raver inspired by isolation from my loved ones and friends. As much as I hate to complain, coronavirus quarantine has been really lonely and depressing for me. I’m sort of shut off from the world asides from the internet. Physically and socially I’m away from the community of people who inspire me the most and frequently collaborate with. This has been difficult for me and I think Lonely Raver is my ballad that expresses that. It’s all about loneliness and isolation.

Lisette Bustamante
Heart Beat Purse, 2020, 40 sec

For my final project I created a purse that is able to detect your pulse. The purse is made from reusable material. The heart beat sensor is created with an Arduino Uno board, a pulse sensor, and an LCD screen. The project aims to bring practical functions to an experimental wearable platform. Grouping formal aesthetics and technical forms

Anastasia Sitnikova
Coordinated Sabotage, 2020, 4:54 min

In this project, I’m stitching together different facets of my current reality actual, imaginary, and constructed. All these three realms coexist in the same moment of time, history and situation. The park is the only recreational facility nearby that remains open. It became our new family ritual to go there every evening for a 4-mile hike, the same route every day. Buffalo Creek used to be a farmland. Since 1980s, it has been being slowly restored to its original state of tallgrass prairie and wetlands. The park has a dual function. Besides being a forest preserve, it is also used for flood control. During the last two years it went through the reservoir expansion project. The land still looks very disturbed, somewhere in between being beautiful and ugly, natural and artificial.

The dialogues were recorded during those evening hikes. Spending most time now in the virtual space with virtual teachers, virtual friends, and virtual games, the children usually discuss what has the most urgency in their reality. Long hikes give them an opportunity to turn from the screen and spend some face-to-face time together. The boys were aware that I was recording them, but I didn’t direct or moderate their conversation in any way. Hours of recording went through a distillation process, when I listen carefully and many times before I got to the core, which strangely mirrors the adult world.

The white room is an interim transitional space. It did exist, because I built it. It didn’t exist, because I’m the only person who has ever been there. This space is blank, it can be anything or nothing. The sound makes it a continuation of the park, or a rest area, a place of temporary relief. I expected a room wrapped in plastic would evoke suffocation and remind a body bag. In fact, it happened to be much calmer. Maxim compared this space with paradise.

Kat Rumas
I feel like i am.. DIS IN TE GRA TING, 2020, 4:15 min

I feel like I am… DIS IN TE GRA TING is a personal response to the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is meant to communicate how I have been feeling lately due to social isolation and inability to live life how I usually would. Through this piece I wanted to communicate my emotional state, which I feel has been worsening overtime, hence the word, “disintegrating”. I feel like lots of freedoms have been restricted or taken away completely, which is damaging to my rebellious spirit. There is absolutely nothing one can do but stay at home and follow whatever orders political heads and health officials communicate to the public during this time. Because of this, I, as I’m sure everyone else to an extent, feels stuck, depressed, unmotivated, and wishing for life to return back to normal. There is also fear in considering adaptation of a “new normal”, as this draws in existential thought. I feel disconnected in various ways, conceptually connecting various distortions in the piece.

Annie Howard
Rats as Subjectvity: An Inquiry, 2020, 6:40 min

Rats as Subjectivity: An Inquiry is a video essay, exploring a journey to understand subjectivity as experienced in urban space. It’s a years-long project, an adaptation of an essay first written in late 2017 or early 2018, extended with new writing and footage both filmed and collected from the internet. As the title suggests, the central hypothesis guiding the narrative is tentative, uncertain, a reflection of accumulated experience that’s nonetheless still unfolding. As an outlook on existence, it suggests plurality, inner conflict, and a sense of perpetual becoming that’s been essential to my understanding of identity formation. Despite that, the act of returning to this essay and connecting the various clips to each word revealed the enduring sense of meaning that this perspective has granted me over the last few years. It does about as good of a job explaining a sense of self-understanding as anything else I could possibly offer; what others choose to do with that information, and how it changes their perception of my being, is out of my hands.

Riis Freivogel
SLEEP REDUX: The Spaces in Between All Look the Same, 2020, 21:30 min
For this project, I took my midterm and redid it under conditions I liked more, and edited it differently. I wanted to find a way to exemplify and dramatize what it’s like to dissociate. People liken dissociation to the feeling of driving for a while and forgetting how you get where you are. Knowing you drove, but not remembering the drive itself. I think it’s a good analogy, so I chose that theme as central to my project. I used static to represent the parts of the drive that were more monotonous. The parts one might forget. I also had the camera mounted where a passenger would sit, instead of mounting it above my head or to my body. I wanted to show what it’s like to feel like you’re out of your body, as if you were an observer of the person in your body. That’s how I feel when I’m driving or doing something else boring, challenging, or tedious. To capture this, I made the camera my own point of view when not driving.

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