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INTERVIEW WITH KRISTIN LUCAS
Series curator Kathy High conducted this telephone interview with Kristin Lucas in May, 1997.
Could you speak generally about why you wanted to make HOST and how
you were interested in machines?
Yeah, okay. I wanted to introduce a multimedia machine which could be
used as routinely as a bank machine, only with the kind of escapism that
interactions with arcade games and the World Wide Web provide. And I stuck
with the idea of a bank transaction, loosely, because it has a beginning and
an end. But within HOST I play the role of the user and also the system
operator. I play the role of the user, but I'm also the player or the
competitor with the machine. And while I was creating HOST I read books
like MASTERING PAC-MAN and THE ROBOTS ARE HERE to develop a strategy for interaction. And I have placed HOST a little bit further into the future
so that I could incorporate multimedia as kind of a familiar transaction
like a bank kiosk would offer.
And then there's also the idea that, in mediated spaces, like this we have to kind of figure out a way to tune in to what we need from them. I mean, like with Internet chat rooms having a discussion, a virtual discussion, in a room where there are voices all over, you have to be able to pick out the one that is consistent with what you're trying to get to. So, you can really get lost in there, and I was trying to parallel that kind of a conversation.
You know, it comes out of all of the above, but not necessarily by my using these virtual environments. I suppose it comes from just feeling bombarded by the sense that they're everywhere around me -- that I'm just bumping into them wherever I go and I have to find my path in between them. So, I'm trying to understand how to get into those spaces -- in and out of those spaces -- which are kind of stifled by this pervasiveness of mediated spaces.
Well, initially I was thinking a lot about the idea of surveillance cameras and the constant watching, as if you're sitting behind a desk and you're viewing a space which you're not able to see. You are not able to monitor an entire space with your own eyes, so you're using . . . they have developed systems where you can look at multiple monitors that change every few seconds to another shot. So, the idea is that . . . I think I have something written here that I could read to you: "As I indulge in a virtual conversation about a troublesome relationship, the session instantly becomes an amalgamation of daytime television and tabloid, wherein the surveillance camera becomes the eye of the media." It's also kind of engaging "see-you-see-me" technology, where we've also become the eye of the media on places like the World Wide Web. It's so complicated right now.
Some of the footage was shot in Owego. The system operator footage was shot with the soundtrack from a Superbowl pregame. And then part of the video was shot here in my own home, where I created my own small kiosk, just so that I could have separation between the camera and my face, so I could find a plane between there. And then I went up, I live in Park Slope, and I shot some footage on the street, and then I keyed myself into that footage.
Okay. We design machines to perform tasks the way that we would like them to perform, only we try to design them without the human margin of error. But those errors are inherent because we're programming things.
Well, I made a video that was called WATCH OUT FOR INVISIBLE GHOSTS
before I made HOST.
This video was structured like an interaction with a virtual game where I
had used soundtracks from "Gladiators," children's cartoons, and sound
from video games. I was surrounded by cameras, and the camera jumped every
time that a joystick fired off a shot. Someone else was playing the game
while I was doing it, but I was in this space which was full of media
icons, rival action heroes, and I was kind of engaging in this virtual game,
in this virtual space with these characters who were never present, and so
it was also in this very isolated virtual environment. And my idea of
using a video game is that we get into this same kind of space, this place
where we kind of lose sense, or lose the boundaries of where our lives
stop and where we begin to engage with media.
And that relates also to my own body as a woman, or my experience with understanding my body as a woman, and understanding technology or having technology integrated into my life in different kinds of ways.
Yeah, well, I have always performed for my videos and I'm interested in performing with the equipment that I use because the content of my work is the idea of the process of producing and also being a participant, using media devices to produce imagery. And so I'm interested in my role as producer because I am multi-tasked like a computer, and it's all about timing. And I've been working on a performance in order to kind of introduce the "live" element of multimedia. Within the performance I use multimedia as content and dismantle it, because I think that we do have a certain romanticism with it, and that when we witness multimedia we see it kind of drained of all of the work that goes into it, and drained of the technical problems. And I want to highlight those problems to drain multimedia of its mystique, really. So, I'm constantly asking the viewer to pull their attention away from the hypnotic black box and to look at the person who's producing the images, the manipulator, the person in control there.
Yeah, in a way it also feeds back on the idea of encouraging women to see these machines as tools, to bring things down to tool level. And I think that at that point we're able to maybe influence the direction of our use of technology. And so, the script is loaded with technical errors and problems that are built in, and it's also largely improvised so that I really don't have a sense of the ultimate performance.
Yeah, that's definitively a part of what I'm trying to do: to advocate this as a possibility for women, and to be a bit subversive with the materials.
Well, you know, it's just hard because I feel like there is so much and I've not had a lot of time to really sit down with it, and I start thinking that there are certain things that are really important to talk about and then someone will ask me something that is also really important, but I don't know where to begin. So, I could tell you something about Atlantic City, but that's the only other thing I can imagine.
Well, when I was editing HOST, I pulled a string of all-nighters, where I was kind of creating the same space that I was dealing with as content, which is an isolated multimedia space where I'm situated in front of a monitor; only I had headphones and I was working on editing this. And then I just started thinking about this trip that I had taken to Atlantic City, and about how certain mediated spaces like casino environments just go on and on. You never really feel a sense of time passing. It's just amazing how controlled those spaces are, with the lighting and the temperature and the sound levels never changing, always the same day in and day out. This time passes so unnoticed. It was kind of amazing to me. But anyway, I just felt that it kind of informed the video. It was another mirror within the piece -- like, here I am creating the same space that I'm using.
Yeah, OK. Well, I really appreciate your insight on the piece, too.
You know, I just feel like the women who have watched HOST have really understood it much more than the men, even though I feel like I have an audience of men and women equally. I feel like the women hone in on it right away.
Oh, thank you.
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