Print exhibited 2017–2018: Crossings and Boundaries. UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center PLATFORM Gallery (Santa Barbara, CA).
Poster Print exhibited: Morphogenesis Workshop. Open Sources, 2015 End of the Year Show, Media Arts and Technology, UC Santa Barbara. CNSI Building, UCSB (Santa Barbara, CA).
Description for Crossings and Boundaries exhibit:
Caduceus, or κηρύκειον, consists of a pair of staves, which collectively evoke and are named for the caduceus (staff) of Hermes, Greek God of crossings and boundaries. The staves are not only sculptures, but functional spatial-tracking objects to be used by dancers in live performance, specifically a transmedia mini-epic song cycle Psychagogy. Through its design and intended use, this sculptural pair is a meditation on Hermes’s domains, stressing fluidity over polarity, and particularly exploring the continua between the self and the other, sculpture and music, and space and time. Most importantly, within the larger framework of Psychagogy—a work that reasserts the inherently educational function of art—Caduceus directly assists in another crossing: the very transition into knowledge that occurs with learning.
Caduceus and the larger work of Psychagogy extensively explore social relationships and spatiotemporality by means of a poetic interpretation of the mythological exchange of gifts between Apollo and Hermes in the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes.” Hermes gifts Apollo the lyre, an instrument of the temporal art, music. Apollo gifts Hermes the caduceus (a messenger staff, consisting of either three branches or two snakes), carrying associations with spatial travel. Each gift comes to define a new domain for the receiver, with Apollo becoming the god of music and Hermes, the god of messages/boundaries, respectively. These connections are particularly articulated in the design of the staves and the dance within which they are employed.
Regarding the design of Caduceus, a simple, three-dimensional mesh resembling Hermes’s traditional caduceus was algorithmically modulated with musical audio signals in several ways to create this final embodied confluence of sculpture and music, spatial and temporal art.
Concerning their usage, as sculptures meant to be carried by two dancers, the staves create a kinetic, visual musical experience as they are moved about in relation to one another in space. They simultaneously evoke two parts of a singular physical object, yet also suggest a third fluid, interstitial or gestalt object when brought in close proximity.
As objects of gestural control, they simultaneously contribute to a cross-modal musical experience and to a social learning system as they algorithmically trigger digital parameters as part of a spatially-tracked dance.
As a general note, Psychagogy aims to examine bonds of friendship as a means 1) to better “know thyself” through the contrast of the self and other and 2) to co-encourage ethical growth, as per Aristotle’s chapter on friendship in his Nicomachean Ethics. This exploration is expressed through the dance, where the spatial movements of the dancers have the potential to algorithmically generate more or less interesting musical changes to an electronic musical component. These changes depend on the proximity of the dancers, how closely they complement the movements of one another, and how ambitious they are in experimenting with their movements. In this way, through this algorithm, the dancers are musically guided and incentivized to strengthen their bond to one another as well as to strengthen their individual abilities as dancers. Caduceus is central in shaping the quality of these interactions.
In closing, Caduceus is itself an instrument of crossings. It is a tool for investigation into the facets of Hermes’s domains, not only straddling and blurring boundaries, but probing the notion associated with him of psychagogy. Though movement with these staves, one can experience and question what it might mean to “lead a soul” in an educational sense, and seek out better crossings to better places of social engagement and personal growth. Lastly, with its combined morphogenetic design, semiotic usage of algorithms, systemically applied ethics and pedagogy, and artistically embodied classical literary criticism, this work articulates a number of disciplinary crossings, representing a transdisciplinary approach to artistic creation and pedagogical design that may hopefully be further developed and bridged into a full and culturally-rich educational model.