conversation piece

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conversation piece is about non-verbal communication, the extensive queues we humans can pick up from another's facial expressions. Also under investigation are issues of synchronization and sympathy. The pairs who participate in the project share a primal task, one which we rarely have cause to think about, balance.

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Photograph from

Filming portaits at Goliath Visual Space
Aug. 2004

capturing expression

The participants are asked to stand on either end of a long board and balance it between them. This physical sensation of being on a seesaw is, however, just a pretext. This change of state is prepared to shake off at least one of the layers of protection through reservation in some, and protection through ``theatricality'' in others. Raw communication is the subject.

I have filmed participants at several different occasions (see below), these experiences have proven to me the power of this gimmick for eliciting a candidness in portraiture, and its ability to capture the fleeting expression, an empirically ephemeral subject. We are usually not privy to these types of conversations of expression between others.

Video Portraits

Open Studios

Photograph from http://metm.orgMost recent group of images shot during the open studios at my apartment in Brooklyn. The lighting was better, but I was still a little annoyed at my interface for correcting the exposure and white balance on my cheapo little cameras... Still working on it.

» you can watch the videos


Photograph from http://metm.orgOne night stand at Goliath Visual Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I got alot of portraits, but people were getting drunk so the quality of the interactions got bad. I guess you need some kid of self-consciousness to have a portrait taken.

» you can watch the videos

ENSBA France

Photograph from A proof of concept run of conversation piece was conducted with six pairs of students in Paris in 1996. The heads bobbed up and down and I was filming the level on a third video channel.

» you can watch the videos

Future Work

possible installations

The video can be presented in two ways. Single channel and multiple channel. Each has its strengths. Single channel most clearly shows the communication, the discussion is splayed open for viewing and is more readily perceived and analyzed. A triple channel presentation accentuates the magic of synchronization of the connection through space of the common sensation of balance through the board. An expression which starts in one channel actually travels through space to the other channel, the spatiality of this communication is more readily felt.

portraits of a population

All portraiture is voyeuristic. We are curious about other humans, and constantly need to analyze them. This basic fact is as fundamentally human as walking upright. I hope, this spring when the next sampling of portraits is taken, to attract as wide and as varied a population of participants as the borough of Brooklyn is capable of producing.


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