Dial detail from Allegory of pulse by Jessica Field

Jessica Field

Monoliths, 2013

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Monoliths from Jessica Field on Vimeo.

The moving characters in each monolith use irony to reveal the complex interplay that determinism and freedom of choice have on a person’s life. These characters perform on three theatrical stages in each monolith. The sculptures each perform a basic musical element: rhythm, harmony and melody.

The combined audio components create a musical composition that is similar to the musical structure of hip hop. The audio source is generated mechanically from three stages where the viewer sees found objects performing. Each stage creates a social commentary about objectification, stereotyping and discrimination. Two of the stages can be viewed through either a viewing window or a peephole. The third stage can only be accessed through a peephole. The stages are arranged so that the viewer of the third stage becomes the spectacle for the audience of the other two stages.

The stages represent hierarchical dualisms of sexual identity and gender. The peephole, normally used to enable the privilege of the male gaze, is used here to undermine the hierarchies of whole scenes by blurring the dichotomy of this original relationship. The peephole becomes the eye of the Cyborg that deconstructs the binary representation of the original scene into a reflexive cybernetic organism. Thus, the melody monolith shows performances that are based on the hierarchical dualism of freedom of choice; the harmony monolith explores the notion of symbiotic identity; and the rhythm monolith plays with ideas of gender that are tied to biology. The work references the theories of Laura Mulvey and Donna Haraway.

Monolithic Evolution: A Cyborg Solution

Monolithic Evolution Blackboard drawing by Jessica Field

This is a lecture developed from researching Donna Haraway's Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature and using her ideas about the cyborg and situated knowledge as a dialogue to frame the deeper meaning of the Monolith project.

Still from Monolithic Evolution Lecture by Jessica Field

Allegory of Pulse, 2011

Allegory of Pulse from Jessica Field on Vimeo.

This project was my contribution to the Common Pulse Residency in Durham, Ontario that was then exhibited in CrissCross for five weeks at the Durham Art Gallery. Five artists were invited to create works that all had to respond to a common single pulse.

The work I presented developed into an allegory that displays the diversity of what the term pulse can mean. The pulse signal influencing the piece can be seen on the analog meters on the front and the light that breathes from the bottom of the black structure. The three stages with peepholes are controlled by the pulse and perform their own interpretation of the word pulse.

This project was developed using a different methodology than my usual research practice that involves a theory to prove which is then developed through the creation of an artwork. This project came from playing with found electronics until their meaning and relevance to the project were revealed either as being part of this particular piece or for a future project.

The artwork also involved many hours of hunting for found objects that would aptly represent the ideas of the word pulse that I wished to convey. Fortunately, the town of Durham is a wonderful place for finding unusual objects. I also had the privilege of being given permission to use and discover the many beautiful electronic objects that reside in Laura Kikauka’s funny farm for this artwork. One could say that this artwork found me.

Allegory of Pulse is now the Rhythm monolith in the monolith project which plays the percussion element.

Technical Info

This project uses found objects that are controlled by Arduinos. The audio component of the piece comes from piezo microphones attached to found objects that amplify the sounds of the working mechanisms.

The three monoliths stay in time with each other by monitoring a common pulse that acts as a metronome for the project. It can be found above the work on the ceiling. The pulse is a simple 555 timer running at 60 bpm.

The piece uses motion sensors to tell the piece when people are around and to begin its performance. This allows the audience to run all the monoliths similtaneously or focus on one at a time.