John Slepian is currently the Five College Assistant Professor of Art and Technology at Hampshire and Smith Colleges in Massachusetts. He was the co-curator of COLLISION16.
For the last nine years, my project has been to create digitally generated photographs, video installations, and interactive sculptures that investigate what it is that makes us feel human. In this world of rapidly advancing, and often paradigm-shifting, technologies, this is something that is becoming harder and harder to determine. Using some of these very same technologies (3D computer graphics and interactive programming, in particular), I have created a series of works that depict organic forms, apparently derived from the human body. Though enormously simplified, they exhibit identifiable gestures and behaviors. These virtual objects are clearly fictitious, yet they inspire empathy, disgust, and fascination. They are intended to elicit an awareness of the disjunctions that can occur between one's emotional and intellectual reactions, and thereby provoke in the viewer a consideration of the process through which we come to identify with the objects of our gaze.
My new body of work, illusory objects, is an extension of these previous explorations. Whereas earlier work investigated empathy, and the way we form emotional connections to the objects around us, this work more widely considers the mysteries of physical presence, and the way that complex meaning can be created through motion and abstract form. The name for this work is in both parody and homage to Minimalist Donald Judd's famous essay, Specific Objects (1965), and these pieces both exemplify and contradict (particularly in their three dimensional illusionary aspects) what Judd set out as the necessary conditions of successful "advanced" work. The pieces are also deeply informed by critic Michael Fried's critique of the "theatrical" in Judd's and other's work (in particular the time-based and site-specific characteristics that he believed should not be part of Modernist artistic practice). My objective is to use 3D animation seamlessly "projection mapped" onto painting supports and sculptural forms to create spatial illusions that, nonetheless, have a strong physical, animated, presence.