Guest post: Artist-In-Resident Salem Collo-Julin

Today’s blog post comes from current Unknown Territory Artist-In-Resident Salem Collo-Julin.-Lee T.

When applying for one of the Unknown Territory Artist-In-Resident spots, I was excited at the prospect of learning some basics in coding and the chance to figure out if any of these tools are useful for me. I’m not always sure that thinking of what I do in the world as art is useful, so in some ways I feel that campaigning for myself as an artist-in-residence anywhere is a long shot. The Hacktory folks accepted my proposal, regardless of the findings from the critique panel in my head, and now one of my jobs is to learn, use this knowledge, and build something new.

In case you’re about to TL;DR, the basic gist of my project thus far is to figure out how to make a device that helps humans to read and navigate the emotional landscape before them. A compass, a whispering confidante, a bloodhound not for things or beings but for the general emotional atmosphere of any particular room, neighborhood, or part of the world. Such a device could be used for extreme measures of good (helping folks on the autism spectrum figure out what other people are meaning/saying) or extreme measures of stupid evil (i.e. Science Fiction about predictive criminal behavior; social engineering, “the science of emotional marketing”, blech, blah, gross). Is this doable? So far my research points to “no” in that people’s reactions and states of mind are frequently unpredictable and based in non-quantifiable experiences that they have had. But Lee, Georgia, and my fellow brilliant Artists-in-Residence think I should shoot for some small portion of this and see what I can come up with.

During the last few months, have you felt like you were on a roller coaster ride that you did not wait in line for? In positive and negative ways, I can relate. Coming into the residency, I have already had that year. Thankfully, this residency time has given me two very important things –

    A group of folks that are interested in my project, are all motivated and smart, and want us all to succeed together
    A place to go to learn computer finagling where there aren’t a bunch of people staring at you, vaguely sneering, making fun of you when you don’t know what something is.

I’m not quite sure yet what form this project will take as we draw closer to December, and an exhibition, but I can already see the benefit that coding will have on the mounds of research and conversations I’m engaged in around the concept of emotional landscapes. Processing is funny –it’s like talking to a cat – a dumb set of rules to communicate with something that isn’t really listening back. I’d like to write a program that eats up your stuff at the moment just before you hit “save” or “send”. I’ll call it “Emotional Land Scrape”. Or not – I’m sure there’s already something out there that acts in this fashion. And this is one of the great things about the tech world in general – there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, and everyone is at peace with that!

As I was writing this blog post, I received an invite to donate to a fundraising campaign for an art festival. One of the gifts offered for those who donate $90 or more is a Bullshit Detector wristwatch-style device built by one of my heroes, the artist/performer/human bullshit detector Joey Skaggs. I’ve also found several devices that chart feelings based on a neurotransmitter worn on the head, etc.

Obviously my instincts are shared by others. I really don’t care about being the first to make any one thing and I intend to keep my process and research findings open so that others may use them. We’ll see how it all goes down!

ON another note – here’s some links of inspiration, 4 around art/tech and an intro to Mr. Skaggs. See you on project night.

Things Who Flinch

Transborder Immigrant Tool

Ricardo Dominguez

Xeroradiography

Joey Skaggs

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