Flickering Signifiers


Flickering Signifiers is an ambient light installation concerned with the rhythmic nature of television light and how it is used to seduce and compel the viewer into a kind of hypnotic and passive inaction-while watching. Detection of movement has been at the core of our survival and ironically it creates an embalmed behavior, which allows easy seduction by rapid flashing movement. Indeed, the edge of the human retina is mostly sensitive to movement.

These works de-emphasize the images by which media producers effect our behavior and focus on rapid-fire cuts, frenetic dark/light patterning and sequences of rhythmic-complementary colors, which seduce the eye. They seem to become especially frenetic on 15-minute intervals when commercials are being aired. These works reference Marshall Mcluhans’s notion that the "medium is the message". It is not what we see, but how we see that determines the power of the medium. Here one element of the medium is removed and distilled from its "content" to point to the mediums ability to manipulate the body and its perceptual systems.

The works are a formal synthesis of the human eye and retina but incorporate rewired color televisions encased in blown glass forms. The eyeballs (glass forms) replace the TV tube and the TV's glow is projected onto large silver and white parabolic lenses, which are emblematic of the retina. This accentuates the fluttering TV glow, while removing the TV images.

Five of these sculptures surround and illuminate 100s of toys and consumer products hanging from the ceiling with knifes, forks and spoons attached and serve to underline TV watching as fundamentally tied to the consumer consumption and waist cycles of our addictive culture.

Recent research by Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentktmhalyi in Scientific American has identified television watching as an addictive behavior and they estimate that on average people spend 9 years of their lives watching television.

The result of all this watching is profound, as TV is the driving engine of our consumerist culture and the effects not just the degradation of our natural environment because of our insatiable appetites, human suffering on a massive scale.

In a recent article in the Hightower Lowdown “Toys of Misery” Jim Hightower sites that toys alone are a 30 billion a year industry. Corporate giants like Mattel, Hasbro, and Wal-Mart spends nearly a billion dollars a year on advertising toys. The problem is that these toys are most often produced in "sweatshops” in China. These companies use thousands of Asian toy factories where the National Labor Committee found shocking conditions. They reported that one of Hong Kong's top producers employs 20,000 workers alone consisting of teenage girls and young woman. A common workday is 8 am to 9 pm, seven days a week. While the Chinese minimum wage of 31 cents an hour is not enough to meet basic human needs, these workers are paid 13 cents an hour. These abused workers are pushed together in company dormitories, 12 to a room where they are literally sick of work because of all the dust from paint, the toxic glues, the curing plastics, thinners, and other petroleum based solvents in which they're immersed each day.


Acknowledgements:
Special thanks to: Simon Maberley, Keikichi Honna, and Professor Ruth King and the Ohio State Glass Program for their glass blowing expertise in the realization of the glass for these pieces. Amy Youngs for her assistance in constructing and installation of these works. The Egg Gallery in Chicago who hosted this show. The Ohio State Glass Program URL: http://www.arts.ohiostate.edu/Art/department_pages/glass/glass.html



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