M e l i n d a   R a c k h a m
(Australie / Australia)
empyrean.alpha, 2000

 

Les mondes virtuels interactifs réalisés à l'aide du langage VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) plongent le visiteur, de façon immédiate, dans d'«autres mondes», univers alternatifs créés de toutes pièces, sans attaches avec le monde réel mais continuant d'y faire référence. La coupure par rapport au réel qu'ils signifient, leur autonomisation et l'inspiration qu'y puisent certains artistes ont conduit à établir un parallèle entre le cyberespace et l'au-delà. Avec empyrean.alpha, Melinda Rackham conçoit le monde supra-terrestre de l'empyrée et exploite à son tour le potentiel de cette technologie, examinant les questions qu'elle fait surgir concernant l'idéalisation de la virtualité. Cyberespace et mondes virtuels donnent libre cours au désir de transcendance, celui de vaincre les limites du corps et les lois physiques du monde. «Computer networking, in short, responds to our deep psychological desire for transcendence to reach the immaterial, the spiritual the wish to be out of body, out of mind, to exceed the limitations of time and space, a kind of bio-technological theology[1]».

Dans empyrean.alpha, le visiteur se déplace dans un univers cosmique, et expérimente ce flottement, cette ascension, ce détachement résultant de la décorporalisation. Il éprouve ainsi la libération souhaitée du corps et des lois physiques tout en restant maître de sa trajectoire, de son point de vue, de sa position de sujet, en exerçant un contrôle sur sa destination. Mais cette impression de toute-puissance fera place à des sensations contradictoires. En effet, dans ce non-lieu, il fait également l'expérience du vide, du néant, de l'absence de repères spatiaux menant au déssaisissement et à la perte d'emprise. Les zones qu'il traverse, séparées par des écarts incommensurables, déconstruisent les modèles spatiaux connus et les références au monde. Dans cet espace ouvert et sans hiérarchie, il fait la rencontre d'éléments appartenant à des mondes microscopiques (cellules) et macroscopiques (astres), tour à tour intimes et immenses. Tous les espaces paraissent s'entrecroiser dans cet empyrée, échappant à la saisie volontaire, les zones occupant ce lieu se mouvant selon leurs propres règles. Devant l'ampleur et la complexité de cette proposition spatiale qu'il ne sait pas interpréter, l'inconfort s'installe et le visiteur constate son inefficacité. Il se voit à la dérive, à l'abandon.

C'est bel et bien à ce propos que nous mettent en garde des penseurs tels que Katherine Hayles face aux promesses d'immortalité des gourous du numérique[2]. Dans empyrean.alpha, la possibilité de reprendre le contrôle existe malgré tout. Le visiteur passe d'un état à un autre, au sein d'un environnement perçu tour à tour comme bienfaisant ou hostile, si bien que l'oeuvre fait ressortir toute l'ambivalence propre à cette situation. Oscillant entre la maîtrise et le déssaisissement, entre le désir de transcendance et l'angoisse du vide et de l'inconnu, le visiteur est appelé à faire face à ses réactions contradictoires concernant l'autre monde.

[1] Roy Ascott, «Gesamtenwerk: Connectivity, Transformation and Transcendence», (1989) in Ars Electronica Facing the Future, The MIT Press, 1999, p. 86.[retour]
[2] «The great dream and promise of information is that it can be free from the material constraints that govern the mortal world. Marvin Minsky precisely expressed this dream when, in a recent lecture, he suggested it will soon be possible to extract human memories from the brain and import them, intact and unchanged to computer disks. The clear implication is that we will achieve effective immortality » et par conséquent, l'auteure exprime ce voeu: : «my dream is a version of the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of information technologies without being seduced by fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality, that recognizes and celebrates finitude as a condition of human being, and that understands human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity, one on which we depend for our continued survival dans N. Katherine Hayles, How we became Posthuman. Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, literature and informatics, The University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 5 et p.13.[retour]

bio de l'artiste

 

 

Interactive virtual environments created by Virtual Reality Modelling Language immediately plunge the visitor into other worlds, alternative universes created from nothing, unattached to reality but continuing to refer to it. The break with reality that they imply, their independence from it, and the inspiration that certain artists have found in them have led to the establishment of a parallel between cyberspace and the hereafter. In empyrean.alpha, Melinda Rackham has conceived the supra-terrestrial world of the empyrean, and exploits the potential of VRML technology to question the idealization of virtuality. Cyberspace and virtual environments indulge a human desire for transcendence, a desire to overcome the limits of the body and the physical laws of the universe. "Computer networking, in short, responds to our deep psychological desire for transcendence to reach the immaterial, the spiritual the wish to be out of body, out of mind, to exceed the limtations of time and space, a kind of biotechnological theology."[1]».

In empyrean.alpha, we move in a cosmic universe and experience the floating, the ascension, the detachment of disembodiment. We feel the desired freedom from corporality and physical laws, while still mastering of our trajectory, our point of view, and our position as subject by determining our destination. However, the impression of all-powerfulness soon gives way to contradictory sensations: in this non-place we also experience the void, nothingness, the absence of spatial references which leads to a relinquishing and loss of control. We traverse zones that, separated by immesurable gaps, deconstruct known spatial models and references to the world. In this open, anti-hierarchical place, we encounter elements of microscopic worlds (cells) and macroscopic ones (stars), alternating between intimacy and immensity. All spaces seem to intersect in the empyrean, escaping our voluntary apprehension, as each zone is regulated by its own laws. Faced with the vastness and complexity of a spatial construct that we are unable to interpret, we feel uncomfortable and have to admit our inefficiency. We feel cut off, abandoned.

What becomes of us without our bodies, when we are projected out of our context? This is precisely what thinkers like Katherine Hayles warn us about regarding the computer gurus' promises of immortality.[2] In empyrean.alpha, there is, after all, the possibility of regaining control. We pass from one state to another in an environment which seems by turns friendly or hostile; in this way the work brings out all the ambivalence of this situation. Oscillating between mastery and loss of control, between the desire for transcendence and the fear of emptiness and the unknown, we are obliged to confront our contradictory emotions with respect to the other world.

[1] Roy Ascott, «Gesamtenwerk: Connectivity, Transformation and Transcendence», (1989) in Ars Electronica Facing the Future, The MIT Press, 1999, p. 86.[return]
[2] «The great dream and promise of information is that it can be free from the material constraints that govern the mortal world. Marvin Minsky precisely expressed this dream when, in a recent lecture, he suggested it will soon be possible to extract human memories from the brain and import them, intact and unchanged to computer disks. The clear implication is that we will achieve effective immortality » And in consequence, the author expresses this wish : «my dream is a version of the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of information technologies without being seduced by fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality, that recognizes and celebrates finitude as a condition of human being, and that understands human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity, one on which we depend for our continued survival dans N. Katherine Hayles, How we became Posthuman. Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, literature and informatics, The University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 13 et p. 5.[return]

artist's bio