[ISEA2011] Panel: Heather Kap­plow – The Um­brage Pro­ject

Panel Statement

Panel: Emotion Studies in a Contemporary Art Debate

Frus­tra­tion is one of a small col­lec­tion of emo­tional states that is as eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble in in­ter­ac­tion with tech­nol­ogy as it is in in­ter­ac­tion with hu­mans. Pre­sented here is work-in-progress audio and video doc­u­men­ta­tion of sev­eral artis­tic ex­per­i­ments, col­lec­tively called “Um­brage”, that are being pro­duced be­tween 14 Jan­u­ary, 2011 and 14 Jan­u­ary, 2012. “Um­brage” is a cu­ra­to­r­ial pro­ject con­ceived by four Mass­a­chu­setts (US) based artist-cu­ra­tors in sub­tle re­sponse to the Amer­i­can media’s focus on bul­ly­ing in schools after a teenager from the re­gion com­mit­ted sui­cide (on 14 Jan­u­ary, 2010.) Its aim is cre­ative, crit­i­cal ex­plo­ration of the fa­mous frus­tra­tion-ag­gres­sion the­ory (Dol­lard et al, 1939,) fo­cus­ing in par­tic­u­lar on the type of dig­i­tal in­ter­faces that are in­tended as an in­ter­me­di­ary step to live cus­tomer ser­vice in com­mer­cial in­ter­ac­tions. The frus­tra­tion-ag­gres­sion hy­poth­e­sis’ main prin­ci­pal—that per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of frus­tra­tion are the di­rect cause of the kind of tar­geted ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior known as scape­goat­ing—is cre­atively tested and ob­served within ob­vi­ously con­structed, but still fa­mil­iar con­texts. These works were com­mis­sioned out of an im­pulse to talk about the dis­place­ment of col­lec­tive frus­tra­tion and the re­cy­cling of ag­gres­sion in the mun­dane ac­tiv­i­ties of cap­i­tal­ist cul­ture, but have begun, halfway through their du­ra­tion, to be­come an in­ter­est­ing com­men­tary on what the in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ence of frus­tra­tion can teach about hu­man-ma­chine re­la­tion­ships, and where feel­ing lies within them.

  • Heather Kap­plow is a media, per­for­mance and in­stal­la­tion artist, liv­ing in the United States. Her artis­tic focus is on the for­mal char­ac­ter­is­tics and tex­tures of dig­i­tal media, and on in­ves­ti­gat­ing very sim­ple philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions about the work­ings of daily life through per­for­mance. These in­ves­ti­ga­tions are gen­er­ally play­ful, re­quir­ing au­di­ences to be ac­tive agents in the ex­plo­ration and art-cre­ation process. Kap­plow’s video pro­jects are of low res­o­lu­tion and short. Her work has re­ceived gov­ern­ment and pri­vate grants, and has been in­cluded in film and per­for­mance fes­ti­vals in the US, Fin­land, and China. She also en­gages in cu­ra­to­r­ial work/runs an artist res­i­dency pro­gram with a col­lec­tive known as the Berwick Re­search In­sti­tute. Pro­fes­sion­ally, Kap­plow works full time in pub­lic tele­vi­sion as man­ag­ing ed­i­tor for a web­site that show­cases the work of emerg­ing doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ers.

Full text (PDF) p. 1316-1322