Digital Bru(i)t (2017)

As a voting citizen, the recent presidential election has forced me to question the behaviors and responsibilities of citizens and activists on the Internet. On the one hand, the Internet has opened up vast networks of communication, allowing people to share and access information at a speed and degree previously unexperienced in human existence. On the other hand, it has created echo chambers and networks of affect, where people’s personal opinions, beliefs, and anxieties are reaffirmed, allowing prejudices and misinformation to become further entrenched. Digital Bru(i)t is a palimpsest of gestural interaction with technology, emerging from my affective response to digital citizenship. I consider the citizen from the definition posed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract (1762), where the citizen as someone who sees beyond their own needs as an individual and recognizes the needs of the other. Excerpts from the text are mixed and repeated with an atonal flute composition, providing the soundtrack for visuals that include algorithmic animations and image distortions, digital textures, and the gestures of a performing figure. The video is designed in response to the architecture of the Boston City Hall, a new brutalist construction that emerged from a utopian vision of welcoming new forms of civic engagement. It is also inspired by the raw concrete surface of the building while encompassing visual forms that resonate with the drama and unity, play of light and form, of the architecture of city hall. However, in contrast to the modernist architectural ideals of the new brutalism, with its simplified forms and bold structures, Digital Bru(i)t presents an interplay of visual and aural confusion that conveys the unknown complexities and challenges of human engagement with digital technology. The term “bru(i)t” is a combination of the French words brut, meaning raw, and bruit, which translates to noise, in reference to the digital and aural noise of the video as well as the onslaught of media “noise” present on the Internet.

Screened as part of “Concrete Actions,” presented by the Mobius Artists’ Group at Boston City Hall with support of an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Square grid with pink, green hues, and yellow with overlay of abstracted hands