[ISEA2019] Artist Statement: Tomás Laurenzo – Memoirs of the Blind

Artist Statement

Apple iPad, custom software, laser-cut acrylic box, interactive installation

Memoirs of the Blind is an interactive installation, consisting of an acrylic box containing a screen showing a desaturated photography of a face with its eyes closed. When the interactor blinks, the installation detects it and takes a photo at the exact time of the blinking. Once the new face is obtained, it is processed and the installation substitutes the displayed face with the new one.
The artwork becomes a fleeting testimony of its visitors, interacting with it, but not seeing it. The piece captures a moment where the visitor becomes at the same time subject and object of the artwork.
Memoirs of the Blind reflects on the power asymmetries that technology crystallizes, providing a contemplative reflection on the aesthetics of our relationship with it, while simultaneously showcasing the advancements in computer vision that allow for supra-human abilities. In effect, the piece highlights the differences between what Paul Virilio called “metabolic speed”– the speed of the living being–and “technological speed”, the artificial speed of machines.
Emile Devereaux commented that Nam June Paik’s work, like Derrida’s “extend the framework of the symbolic and destabilize spatial locations through demonstrating the postal principle” (how a letter may not arrive at its destination). This piece, whose title is inspired on Derrida’s book “Memoirs of the blind: the self-portrait and other ruins”, artistically appropriate this principle, proposing a poetic dimension of the power choreography in human interaction.
In addition, the installation explores our relationship with automated surveillance, subverting the subject-object relationship between itself and its visitors, while exploring the aesthetics of such subversion.

  • Tomás Laurenzo, PhD. is an artist, computer scientist, and academic working with physical and digital media, interested in data representation, music, interaction, and politics. With a hybrid background, his research spans across different practices and interests, including artificial intelligence, HCI, physical computing, and virtual reality. His artistic production is also diverse, including installation, interactive art, music, live cinema, and digital lutherie. His artworks and performances have been shown internationally with exhibitions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Since 2014, he is an Assistant Professor at the School of Creative Media of the City University of Hong Kong. Laurenzo has also performed artistic and academic activities in several institutions including The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Microsoft Research, Carnegie Mellon University (USA), Brunel University (UK), INRIA (France), and the University of the Republic (Uruguay), among others.