Thecla Schiphorst

Bodymaps: artifacts of touch

Bodymaps: artifacts of touch is a computer interactive sound and video installation. It confronts views of interactivity and questions technological interface mappings which typically require a point and click or literal language of experience that supports notion of "ownership" and "dominance" over. This work invites relationships through an experience grounded in proprioceptive knowledge, skin sense feeling, listening through touch, seeing through hearing, together integrated through attention.

The piece uses a specially designed sensor surface, with 15 Electromagnetic field sensors embedded beneath it operating very much like 15 theramins, and 8 force sensitive resistors which can detect touch, pressure and the amount of force applied to the surface.

Together these sensors lie beneath a white velvet surface upon which is projected the images of the artists body and that of her son's. The surface yearns for contact and touch. Its rule base is complex, and subtle, impossible to decode, its effect is disturbing, erotic, sensual and subjective.

Images of the body are stored on videodisk. The body of the artist [and a digitally represented body] are projected onto a horizontal planar surface. The surface is covered in white velvet creating a sensual and unexpected texture which leaves "traces" of the hand prints that are left behind. As the viewer places his hands closer to the surface or skin of the installation, a complex soundscape response to their proximity, and movement. The image shudders. The viewer becomes participant through the sense of touch. There is not escape from entering the "third space" between objective seeing and subjective feeling.

The intention of the work is to subvert the visual/objective relationship between the object and the eye, between click and drag, between analysis and power, to create a relationship between participant and technology that transgresses rules of ownership and objectivity and begs questions of experience, power, and being.


Design, Video: Thecla Schiphorst
Production Director, Programmer: Grant Gregson
Sound, Programmer: Ken Gregory, Norm Jaffe
Sensor System: Infusion Systems Ltd.
Physical Design: Hanif Jan Mohamed
Camera: Carla Elm

(digital eARTH)

Thecla Schiphorst is a computer media artist, computer systems designer, choreographer, and dancer. She is a member of the design team that has developed Life Forms, the computer compositional tool for choreography, and has been working with the world renowned choreographer, Merce Cunningham in New York City. She has an interdisciplinary M.A. in computer compositional systems from SFU, and undergraduate degrees in dance and computer systems. She is currently Choreographic Consultant and Artist in Residence at the Computer Graphics and Multi-Media Research Lab at SFU where she is exploring the use of motion capture and gestural input as a real time interface.

Thecla Schiphorst lectures extensively, facilitating workshops and exhibiting her work - the Future Moves Festival conference in Rotterdam, the New York School for the Visual Arts for "Being Human" lecture seriers on psychoanalysis, body and technology and many others.

Bodymaps: artifacts of touch has recently been exhibited at the Western Front Gallery in Vancouver BC in April 1996, at Ars Electronica in September 1996, featured in the October 1996 issue of Wired magazine and will be presented at the Video Positive Exhibition in Manchester England in April 1997. Her newest interactive work, Felt Histories: re the fact of a doorframe. will be exhibited in Vancouver in 1997.

Thecla is also the Artistic Director of the award winning Cunningham multi-media Archival Project entitled immerce. This enables the work of Merce Cunningham and John Cage to be explored and navigated using an interface metaphor which aligns ideas of movement, the body, and the artists' process to mechanisms for interactive selection. This piece has won three first place festival awards at the International Digital Media Awards Festival, and has been shown at the ARC awards in Los Angeles.

Thecla Schiphorst has been a faculty member at the Simon Fraser University Computed Art Summer Intensive, and at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver. She is the past chair of the Conference on Dance and Technology held at Simon Fraser University in July of l993. Thecla Schiphorst is the co-founder of Digital Earth, a new non-profit cultural society and co curator of the web-based project The Ecology of Communications, and Transverse Worlds.