Ghosts for Cellphones: 10 captures
I am haunted. Haunted by tales of electronically-charged change. Haunted by promises of formlessness, disguise, hidden identity. I can't shake the longing to 'beam up,' to pass through time and form, to function like a charged-up device without a shell.
I am haunted by devices. Like a problem child carrying a blanket, I drag the device everywhere, stuffed in my pocket, clutched in my hand, inserted in my ear, [wondering about other options...]. I speak to my devices. I hold them, I push all their buttons.
My devices are haunted. These things that I carry project voices and words. I listen for their call. [They don't seem human.] What is this thing that wants to get out?
The haunting of devices drifts through and collapses time, imbuing the present with presence. Technology structuring history with radical shifts. Miniaturized and ubiquitous, it spins the head of Benjamin's angel.
My devices haunt houses and highways and horizons, endowing place with a new sense of space. They are here and there, and somehow nowhere. They create a new here where I am there.
This haunting makes a sound. It crackles in the air. Snaps and buzzes and hums. It even seems to make the silence. Silent movement, buzzing paths, humming networks, crackling connections, snapping disconnections.
Sensor ghosts. appear on your radar screen but aren't really there. brought on by anticipation, anxiety, and technological or unexplained interference or error. paths. crossings of all kinds, especially across borders real and imagined, above and below large bodies of water, through all kinds of weather.
In my recent research and artwork, I consider questions of subjectivity and space in relation to wireless and mobile technologies and their histories, as well as histories of electronic and geographic "frontiers." In this work, I utilize narrative and scientific metaphors of ghosts and haunted space to explore questions of how mobile and networked technologies are reformulating our understanding of subjectivity and presence as both embodied and disembodied subjects in time and space. The mobile device, itself a technological object that can store and "transmit" encoded and invisible data, also suggests a temporal "haunted" space and I often treat it as such in my work. This temporality also refers to the state of the mobile subject in connected public spaces and in shifting ad-hoc networks. What does it mean to enter physical and social space as both engaged and present subject AND as a disembodied subject entering that space via technology? Does the disembodied subject really long to become embodied, and if so, in what form? What place could histories of wireless technology have in determining narratives of presence? How do questions regarding transformation and transference relate to the wireless mobile device and the mobile subject? And how do we inhabit or traverse real and imagined spaces - especially spaces that seem "other," "foreign" and unknown?
The "SGpaths" project considers that the space in which electronic transmissions take place is full of mutable "things" and asks what the signals or messages sent during transmission might encounter in that space, and what we might consider embodiment or subjectivity in a wireless space. The works starts with a loose multimedia narrative about a ghost that is actually a signal "lost by Marconi in one of his first wireless transatlantic transfers" and how this signal colhlides in Hertzian and real space over the Atlantic with other ghostly forms (other electronic data, remnants of the old Marconi stations, flying kites at the station on Signal Hill, and ghosts of frozen bodies "including Titanic victims" among the icebergs off Newfoundland. The narrative is also influenced by traditional folklore from the region, which has a strong narrative tradition around those lost at sea that takes form in ghost and fairy tales. The work is being enacted in several forms: multimedia podcasts, Bluetooth seances, video and sound installations, and locative media walks. The "Ghosts for Cellphones" images derive from a large ongoing collection of "ghost" images shot in various locations in Canada, USA, UK and Asia. Some of the images are being shown with their locational data and data-derived imagery, and eventually the entire group will be distributed to cellphones in a mass Bluetooth seance event.
Leslie Sharpe's recent work has employed the genre of ghost narrative in projects for portable media (cellphone, ipods, etc), gps, performance and installation to explore questions about subjectivity, embodiment, wireless histories, social networks and place, often using alternative forms of distribution such as bluetooth file sharing and podcasting, and encouraging audience involvement and further public use of her shared files. Her current project, SGpaths, includes a locative media walk project for her "Marconi Trilogy" and "Northern Crossings," locative media walk and a sensor-driven sculpture-sound installation.
Sharpe is AT&T Fellow and Assistant Professor of Digital Art in the Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University, Bloomington and was Area Head of Digital Art there from 2005-2007. She was a Faculty Fellow at University of California, San Diego and previously taught at Pratt Institute in New York. She received her MFA in Visual Arts/Computing Arts at University of California, San Diego and her BFA in Painting at University of Alberta in Canada.
Sharpe has been an artist in residence at P.S. 1 Museum/Institute for Contemporary Art in New York, The Banff Centre in Canada, and Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. Her work has been exhibited at the Observatori festival, Valencia, Spain, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Finland, The Dallas Contemporary, The Center for Art and Visual Culture in Baltimore, in New York at P.S. 1 Insitute of Contemporary Art, Exit Art, The New Museum, Artists Space, and Franklin Furnace, as well as other venues in the USA, Canada and Europe. Her previous installation and web work utilized the genre of the crime narrative and the persona of a private investigator ("Crime Stories of LSPI," 1996-2001) as well as several works exploring issues around gender and sexuality in books, installation, and using a tactical media approach ("Bra vs Bra," "Double Trouble," "Litany and Lipstick Drawing" and "Damned Women"). Sharpe is a contributor to the special issue on Locative Media published by Leonardo Electronic Almanac/MIT Press.
Sharpe was born and lived in Alberta, Canada prior to living in New York and California and now divides her time between Indiana and Canada.