Monday, October 10, 2016

Jenna Reineking - Woven Twogether, 2016

Artist's website, which, as of today (10/10/2016), doesn't include this work which was in her graduate exhibition (Pacific Northwest College of Art).

Cf. Keetra Dean Dixon's Union Sleeve; aka Arm Trap.

Livialein - Threelloon - 2010

Livialein's website: here defunct.
Other presences: flickr, Facebook, Vimeo,

Cf. Keetra Dean Dixon's Just Between You and Me, 2008.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Externalizing Virtue

James KA Smith's recent blog post touches on one of the characteristics of relational prosthetics I am most fascinated by: the externalization/objectification of internal dispositions.  Musing on the irony (and Augustinian aptness) of a software program that restricts internet access and calls itself Freedom, Smith writes:
The development of such software is, technically speaking (I'm not here to judge), the confirmation of the absence of virtue--that is, the absence of adequate internal dispositions to pursue the good and resist temptations away from that. In short, again technically speaking, such software is a corrective for the vice of sloth--but a wholly external corrective. Aquinas notes that law and virtue are sort of in inverse proportional relation to each other: the more virtuous I am (having goodhabits), the less the external constraint of law is necessary. Conversely, the more vicious I am, the more the force of law is necessary. 
In this particular case, what has happened is that we have unwittingly imbibed habits of distraction: the material rhythms of an "online" life have inculcated in us patterns of behavior--and hence internal dispositions--to seek distraction. It's not that we lack habits; it's that we have acquired habits ofdistraction. 
I'd argue that it's not the absence of virtue that is signaled, at least not the total absence.  It is the front-loading of virtue.  We choose at the beginning our path of action, knowing, as Smith is saying, that perhaps our discipline is not up to the level of temptation afforded by our environment.  This is not so different from a sex addict avoiding the brothel or the alcoholic throwing away his liquor.  Or what if rather than throwing away his liquor he buys a safe and has a friend lock it all away.  This is a wholly external corrective but he still chose it.  It seems silly to say he is lacking virtue for doing so.  It is the beginning of virtue.  As Dr. Marvin says, "baby steps."


While most of my relational prosthetics enable the participants to do something they couldn't otherwise do, Helmets is particularly absurd because it doesn't really offer any new possibilities.  It merely suggests by its form that two people do something they could, physically speaking, easily have done by moving their legs--facing each other and moving closer together--but it relocates the action to an external mechanism, a crank.  The existence of the object somehow legitimizes and encourages the attendant action.

When two people encounter one another they must tacitly define the situation together, and even before that there is a tacit process of establishing the division of definitional labor (Goffman). Relational prosthetics intervene in these processes, bearing the lion's share of the definitional labor.  Well designed, single purpose relational prosthetics make it so obviously apparent what their attendant action is, that to engage another person in them is largely to submit to the initial definition of the situation embodied by the apparatus.

And by relieving participants of some of the burden of definitional labor, which is so colored by automatic behaviors, it frees them up to have a new (hopefully positive) playful experience.

Katya Mandoki writes, ""...the opposite to play is not seriousness but the automatic."

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Person --> Object <-- Person

Person <-- Object --> Person

Person <== Object ==> Person

Person <== Object ==Person

Person -- Object --> Person

[Person] -- Object --> Person

[Person] <-- Object -- Person

Person <--> Object <--> Person

Person --/ Object /-- Person

Obj[Person]ect <--> Obj[Person]ect

Person ⊃ Object ⊂ Person

Person --> [Object] <-- Person

Person/Object <--> Person

Person/Object <-- Person

Person/Object --------------> Person

Person/Object] ? <-- Person

Person ? Object ? Person

"Confusion machines" yielding results for the tested not the tester

Belgian/German artist Carsten Höller doesn't make relational prosthetics in the strictest definition of the term (although the concept of "influential environments is certainly getting close) but I liked some of the language in this review of his career survey at the New Museum:
Slim and balding, he could still easily pass for the agricultural entomologist he once was. Except that now his deeply inquisitive, German-accented musings refer not to cereal aphids but to the humans who consent to participate in his thoroughly subjective experiments, which stand science on its head, yielding results for the sake of the test subject rather than that of the tester.
The devices and environments Mr. Höller has conceived since he began to make art 18 years ago — he prefers to think of them not as art objects but as “confusion machines” — require a great deal more planning and money than conventional lab equipment.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pantalaine - Provisioners of America's Finest Plural Clothing, 2005

'Advertised' in Issue 17 of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, I'm not sure if the website/joke predates its appearance in the magazine or if it existed prior.  Nor am I sure who is responsible for Pantalaine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jamie Isenstein - Arm Chair, 2006

While not activated as a relational prosthetic, since it exists as a performance/sculpture rather than as an interaction between artist/chair and audience/potential-participant, Arm Chair nevertheless could be one and is therefore worth considering.

From the artist's gallery portfolio:

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Intimate Transaction, Between Two People With No History and No Future

Sarah Zarr in her short essay, "Something for the Pain," about her trip to the physiotherapist's office:
"The claustrophobic space, and us so close in it, made me want to giggle or crack a joke.  But I remained dignified and managed to act like people ask to touch my hips every day."

David Cross - Bounce, 2006

All images, video and text from the artist's website:

Bounce is a one day performance/installation that explores the relationship between pleasure, danger and the uncanny.  Over a seven-hour period the audience are invited to engage/interact with a large inflatable children’s play structure.  The leisurely ambience of the work is recast however by the unforeseen presence of the artist.  Two small eyeholes on the top of the structure reveal a body inside watching the audience from within.  The relational enjoyment of the work is recast by this uncanny moment of uncertainty when play is interrupted by a fragmentary live presence.  Bounce is a performance/intallation that renegotiates the artist/audience relationship mixing conviviality and recreation with violence and phobia.  it navigates a space between the real and fantasy linking the visceral transgression of body art with languages of everyday gratification.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

David Cross - Re-Tard, 2007

All images and text from the artist's website:

3 Photographs, Assorted Sculptural Objects, Performance.
Re-tard examines the relationship between, [sic] abstraction, children’s recreational structures and the grotesque.. Utilising commercially manufactured canvas props set up as a tableaux in the gallery space, the work consists of two modes, an opening performance and a subsequent interactive installation.  Three large coloured panels are positioned diametrically across the gallery space.  The panels have slots where my body and the bodies of the performers penetrate the surface.  Each panel has two air holes where an assortment of attachable components can be fitted or removed.  As in a children’s fun house, the audience are encouraged to manipulate the pieces by attaching or removing individual components.  As well as the tableaux of objects, three large-scale photographs of the panels with my body positioned inside them are located on the gallery walls..Re-tard picks at the blurry edges of abstraction where formal concerns intercede with the popular languages of infantile play structures.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

David Cross - Pump, 2009

I first encountered an image of this piece in a printed advertisement for the artist's university's art program and was struck by the similarity to my box piece.  Having fallen in love with inflation as a metaphor and as a strategy to activate the viewer when I first saw images of Lee Bul's Hydra II (Monument), 1999, I naturally loved Cross's use.

All images, video and quotes are from his website:

David Cross is an artist, writer and curator based in Wellington, New Zealand
Working across performance, installation, video and photography, Cross has focused on the relationship between pleasure, the grotesque and the phobic.  His small to large-scale performance/installation work has sought to incorporate and extend contemporary thinking in relation to participation, linking performance art with object-based environments.  Often using his own body as a starting point, he employs a range of objects--many of which are inflatable--to draw audiences into potentially unexpected situations and dialogues.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Move: Choreographing You

The exhibition, Move: Choreographing You, opening today (October 13, 2010) at The Hayward Gallery in London, showcases several relational prosthetics.  Artists who have made RPs (or work that lies just outside my definition of a relational prosthetic) include: Franz Erhard Walther, Lygia Clark, Robert Morris and Franz West.

The promotional/viral video below features pieces Number 31 and 48 of Franz Erhard Walther's Werksatz series.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Krzysztof Wodiczko and Sung Ho Kim (Interrogative Design Group) - Porte-Parole, 1993

Artist statement (and all images) from Interrogative Design Group's website:

The Porte-Parole Mouthpiece is an instrument for strangers, its function is to empower those who are deprived of power.
This object encircles the jaw with a small video monitor and loud speakers placed directly over the wearer’s mouth, showing the lips moving in sync to the prerecorded narrative. It is designed to replace the hesitations and fearful silent of an immigrant’s personal voice with a fully formed version of the immmigrant’s story. It function both as a conduit of ones' voice and image as well as a gag that blocks the mouth and prevents from speaking.
Porte-Parole transforms its user into a virtual subject, literally, a cyborg communicating through a high-tech device rather than your own bodily apparatus for speech. The small size screen drives viewers to come closer to the user face in order to see the image of the moving lips and hear the voice.

Exhibited in 'Xenology: Immigrant Instruments, 1992-1996' ,Galerie LeLong NYC, 1996.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Krzysztof Wodiczko et al. - Dis-Armor, 1999-2000

Dis-Armor Project:Krzysztof WodiczkoAdam WhitonSung Ho Kim, Jurek Stypulkowski, Brooklyn Model Works

From the website of MIT's Interrogative Design Group:
Dis-Armor is the newest in a series of psychocultural prosthetic equipment designed to meet the communicative need of the alienated, traumatized, and silenced residents of today's cities. It connects contemporary research in two fields: wearable communication technology and prosthetics. In doing so, it counters the dichotomy of the present explosion in communication technology and rampant cultural miscommunication. 

Dis-Armor offers an opportunity for indirect, mediated communication by allowing its users to speak through their backs. LCD screens, worn on the back, display live images of the wearer's eyes transmitted from cameras installed in the helmet covering the face. A speaker positioned below the LCD screens amplifies the user's voice. Attached to the helmet is a rearview mirror, alternatively, a rearview video camera, monitor, microphone, and headphone. These permit the user to see the face and hear the words of the spectator/interlocutor standing behind. Wireless video equipment installed in the helmet further allows two users to work in tandem, showing each other the other's eyes and broadcasting to each the other's voice. 
Specifically, Dis-Armor is an instrument designed to focus on the psychological difficulties of Japanese high school students and "school refusers," who live in silence and lack facial expression. It uses the ancient traditions of arms making to conceive of a playful alternative to intimidating face-to-face communication. It is designed for particular individuals among urban youth who have survived overwhelming life events (violence, neglect, and abuse) and who now wish to overcome their false sense of shame, to break their silence, and to communicate their experience in public space.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Theatre Replacement - Box Theatre and BIOBOXES, 2007 - current

Theatre Replacement is a Vancouver-based theatre company that "tends to engage with biographical examinations, relationship to audience and space and explorations of unique and challenging ways of exploring content and staging material."  


Box Theatre is a collection of six one-person shows for one-person audiences. In each performance, actor and audience share a small box worn on the actor's shoulders. Using a combination of text, tiny props and a little magic, actor and audience engage in the most intimate of performance experiences. Working with Theatre Replacement artistic directors and local artisan Minoru Yamamoto, 6 actor/creators developed their independent stories and boxes. The new works were first performed at the Firehall Arts Centre and then subsequently altered to fit an outdoor festival setting. Box Theatre was commissioned by The Powell Street Festival, and featured the talents of some of Vancouver's most adventurous theatre makers: Adrienne Wong, Spencer Herbert, Kris Nelson, and Camille Gingras. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Keetra Dean Dixon (FromKeetra) - Just Between You and Me: Objects of Co-dependency, 2008

Just Between You and Me, 2008
Again, some of these operate on more of a symbolic level than an experiential one but are worth considering regardless.

All images and info taken from the designer's website [new link], except the balloon demo below, which came from Design Boom.

Keetra Dean Dixon (FromKeetra) - To-gather Together series

My evolving definition sees relational prosthetics (RPs) as straddling the boundary between generating symbolic meaning and facilitating participatory experience.  Assuming that the All-i-pops are not to be actually consumed, knowing that the hat/shoes piece (How about a little support?!) is near impossible to use, and seeing that the connected shirts piece (3shirt ---> Dress for the occasion) and the phone (Earphone) are likely meant only to be looked at, these pieces by FromKeetra are moving more toward the symbolic end of the spectrum.

Keetra Dean Dixon (FromKeetra) - Anonymous Hugging Wall, 2008

An edition in the ongoing series METHODS & APPARATI for Social Facilitation and Mood Elevation.
All images and information from the artist's website.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jenny LC Chowdhury - Intimate Controllers (in progress)

All images and info from the artist's website.  Her practice:
My work is the bastard child of an engineering education, a suppressed desire to be an artist and an unwavering interest in pranks. I suppose that means that my work has three parents. 

Whether in the form of a website, installation, cellphone application or a performance, my projects call attention to how technology has altered the ways in which people communicate with each other and their surrounding environment. A New York City native, my work often involves applying and manipulating technology in the bustling cityscape of which i am so fond.  
I'm currently finishing my masters' work at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program and hope to continue producing thought provoking, amusing work.
Intimate Controllers:
In development, Intimate Controllers, in its current manifestation allows two participants to play a simple video game whose play is similar to Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero except that the control interface is embedded in undergarments.  Each player's controller is worn by the other and as the game progresses each participant touches their partner in increasingly intimate areas.