The description of calm technology as an engagement that alternates between the user’s needs for “center” and “periphery” is also an analogy of how memory functions. The most popular conception of memory is that it exists as a linear sequence of happenings, then sits in the back of the mind like a dusty VHS waiting to be discovered and played in its entirety. Charles Fernyhough, British developmental psychologist and author of the book “Pieces of Light,” writes of research that increasingly point toward memories as anything but a neatly packaged, linear strand of data. If anything, they exist as fragments of details hovering in the fringe of consciousness and are assembled by the mind when the situation requires. In that light, pun unintended, memories are notoriously unreliable, as suggestions inserted during the time of recollection could easily be woven into the “memory.”
I’m interested in creating an interactive scenario in which fragments of a particular environment is recreated as a projection. I find that the more time one spends in a space, the less one “sees” of the details. The mundane breeds indifference. One may pass by a metal ashtray that has a little ceramic frog hanging off the side, on a table at the corner of the long hallway ten times a day: to use the bathroom; to find a colleague, to go to the kitchen, etc. And one day someone shows this person the ashtray with the frog and he would be seeing it for the first time: one of many fragments of objects floating in the periphery the memory of this hallway.
To another person, this ashtray may be a portal to another time, another world. Person B, as opposed to Person A to whom the frog ashtray is invisible, had traveled to Prague five years ago, and was lost in the winding old city streets looking for the rumored former residence of Franz Kafka. Frustrated she finds a cafe and flops down to recollect his bearings over a coffee. And on this cafe table is this odd-looking ashtray with a plastic toy frog that possibly a child who sat there before her had forgotten. The tablecloth under the ashtray was checkered red and white and the chairs were brown wood, worn in the seats where countless patrons have sat. So Person B, who works in the same hallway as Person A, passes by this ashtray in the hallway, and it jumps out at her like a beacon.
To these two persons, “center” and “periphery” are the same object: the froggy ashtray. One sees and does not see simultaneously.
The space around them can also be a periphery – and be subject to fragmented shifts. My visual work is collective fragmented information about a particular space. Layers of time could be overlapped and interwoven within these fragments. The ambient layer of information could possibly be the quiet shifting of these layers as they merge between the present and the past. Should a viewer become more invested in exploring the scene, the proximity of the viewer or interaction with an object related to the ambient scene may trigger another level of information: the periphery becomes the center, a portal. The oxymoronic osmosis between these two boundaries is like a sense of journey and discovery within the limbo between the cracks of time.