Parallel Self Embraced
Interactive Light Art Installation
Note: This piece was originally intended for Burning Man 2020, but delayed several times due to the ongoing pandemic. It is currently scheduled for installation at Burning Man 2023.
Honoraria award recipient - Burning Man 2020
In brief: We live in tumultuous and divided times. Our relationship to each other today is often one of disagreement, strife, and tribal mentality. Parallel Self Embraced presents an alternative - encouraging a coming together interpersonally. The piece forms a sort of abstract mirror. Identical on either side, participants step up to it and see the person across from them. Within an infinite number of universes, in an infinite number of timelines, all events are possible, and in infinity, within some space and some time, you are me and I am you. Parallel Self Embraced thus functions as a looking glass through which to see a partner, a friend, even just a stranger, as a reflection of the self that could be, and the beauty inherent to the person traveling in a world parallel to yourself.
Physical description: Twin 12' by 12' square panels made of welded pipe and metal bars stand parallel, a foot apart, with wooden stairs leading up to the center of each panel on either side. Lines of the structure radiate from the outside of the square inward toward human-shaped negative spaces. Parallel Self Embraced is an outdoor installation. By day the piece appears as an abstract dark metal sculpture with lines radiating out. By night, LED pixels along the radiating lines light up. When a person enters either of the human shaped negative spaces, they trip a variety of interdependent Arduino sensors (eg. proximity sensor, photoresistor tripwire, pressure sensor, etc.) that connect to the LED strands and audio processors. Discreet speakers provide a daytime interaction element and lie beneath the stairs of either side.
Philosophy: In viewing the twin panels of cycling LEDs, I wish to show where our realities meet. These are the borders between my universe and yours. I want you to see those two realities – see that they are both beautiful and, if you wanted, we could bridge the gap between your universe and mine. There are rewards for doing so. This work was proposed to the Burning Man organization prior to the Covid-19 epidemic reaching the United States. It is a work that certainly takes on new meaning in the aftermath. As we continue to experience a divided nation — a nation in disagreement on even the most basic questions of how to value safety and life over economic stability - our ability to come together, our ability to reach some understanding of each other, and our ability to embrace has become impossible. It is within this palpable division and within, hopefully, the relaxing of social distancing that Parallel Self Embraced will be installed. Now, more than ever, it will be difficult to see a bridge between each other — and yet now, more than ever, such a bridge might be a crucial part of the healing and return to civil discourse that our world so badly needs.
I’d like to stress, however, that I don’t wish the piece to encourage a drift toward centrism or middling. The outer limits of our distinct universes – the breadth of my experience opposite yours – is likely infinite. In an infinite spectrum, “center” loses all meaning. This doorway and potential connection therefore exists at a point of found commonality and shared experience unmoored from tethered points of political or philosophical alignment.