Last Thursday, in a bar, I was asked where I get my inspiration. I frankly answered: “In the shower.” For some strange reason, my interrogator laughed. I do; that is where it comes. Inspiration comes in the morning, in the shower.
But, occasionally, Inspiration and I seem to miss each other. Rarer still, Inspiration sometimes will run out to the street and chase after me to catch me. This summer, just after returning from my time back in California, Inspiration bowled into me, out of breath. Through gasps of breath, it asked “Where are you walking?” I asked mom to hold for a second and turned to Inspiration, “I’m walking to school.” Inspiration shook its head, “Now you are walking to school. Talk to your mom and tell her where you are walking.”
Inspiration is a genius. Yes, I was walking to school. I was also walking down Broadway, on Manhattan, in New York, in New York. But more important, I was also walking with my mother, who was sitting at home, in Grass Valley, in California. I was in two environments at once.
It isn’t a new idea. I remember discussing this concept of partial immersion back in undergrad in Erkki Huhtamo’s class on immersive environments. But it spurred me to think of my own walks in multiple environments and inspired a dress that is particularly poignant to me:
The steam engine opened the world to travel, breaking apart the nuclear family as children left the homestead to find their own ways in the larger world. Even in an age of airplanes, cars, instant messaging and telepresence, we are still in conflict with deeper ingrained ties to family and community. While technology has enabled us to physically travel anywhere and communicate from any location, we still experience occasional pangs of otherness when we leave our families and communities. And in leaving a location, we maintain a sense of belonging to the point that we are concurrently inhabiting multiple environments. We carry with us past experiences, events, and environments. Some call it baggage. I call it experience. Liminal is a vignette of one experience of dual presence.
Liminal is a dress that plays sounds from a garden as the wearer negotiates the cityscape of New York. While walking in the dress, the wearer is in a transitional space between west coast and east coast, nature and city scape, family unit and individual–two environments, two coasts, two homes: New York City and California.
The dress plays recordings from the artist’s garden in California taken by the artist’s sister. These recordings are triggered by switches sewn into the dress. By moving in the dress, the wearer activates the switches. Thus, by walking in the dress, the wearer walks in two different environments: the physical cityscape of New York, and the audio environment of the artists garden in California.