Love in the Dialectic of Vanity: Public Art Installation

Nov 8, 2019 / 3:45–5:15 pm
Viewpoint Gallery, UC Irvine


Love in the Dialectic of Vanity is a temporary public art project where the human and the machine co­produce Tanka poems. Tanka originated in the seventh century Japan and is one of the oldest Japanese poetry forms. It consists of 31 syllables and takes on a five-line 51715/717 syllable count form. Because of its economy and immediacy, it is an ideal form for swift, and sometimes intimate and intense, emotional expressions. Lovers in ancient Japan, after a night of courtship, are known to exchange Tanka poems for expressing gifts of gratitude. 
 
In this project, instead of a linguistic and recitative experience of poetry, the public is invited to inhabit poetic form as an embodied experience of connecting in space and time of the intimate and the private to the enlarged, the synthetic, the inflated, and the exposed. 
 
In the installation, a set of transparent and supersized inflatable mats, faithful to the same 2:1 length to width ratio as the classic Japanese Tatami mat proportion, are placed next to each other on the floor. One at a time, groups of two to three people are invited to take up sections of the mats along precut curves and toss and turn them 31 times to create changing spaces of transformation and transfiguration. 
 
Each group is promised a poem at the end of the work. The composed structures, no matter the exact configuration, visually resemble the mathematical structure of the Calabi-Yau manifold known to dissolve boundaries between two subjects while having the capacity of adding extra spatial dimensions during possible transformations between spaces. These changing physical structures, while in motion, also infer a generative process through an opaque interface giving birth to Tanka poems and praises for the poems that bear apparent signs and flaws of a machine-generated product. To conclude the program, the participants are further rewarded by a round of thunderous applause and cheering. 
 
In this work, poetic form is manifested as physical form to invite the discovery, and simultaneously, the witnessing of shape and bodies in proximity moving together through 31 folds in a public space; the interface, from which chosen words appear with undisclosed methods of translation and mapping, defines the space between lines and the space of meaning. Through the act of participation-either as an active composer or as an onlooker-our understandings of the relationship between transparency and opacity are confused and challenged. Juxtaposing the transparent and the opaque, we are interested in asking questions relating to the landscape of love, attachment, and intimate exchanges in the context of an era of hyper-visibility and accelerated reality. Our moment in history defines itself through the grappling with the age-old dichotomy of longing for love and exchange, wliile at the same time increasingly challenged by the evermore deeply felt experience of the deprivation of meaningful love in everyday life. Collaborating from the perspectives of art, design, computational poetics, and mathematical interpretations of time and space, we seek creative expressions associated with these topics. 
 
Instructions to Participants: 
 
Three rectangular inflatable pieces are lined up on the floor ready for interaction. Each is of 2:1 length to width ratio true to the classic Japanese Tatami mat dimensions. Interaction is designed for small groups of two or three people with one group interacting at a time. 
 
Step 1: Configuring the Mats 
 
You are invited to take up sections of the mats along precut curves and toss and turn them 31 times to create changing spaces of transformation and transfiguration. 
Snap corner magnets to the red-handled metal block to anchor the structure. 
 
Step 2: Receiving a Poem 
 
See the finished configuration on the laptop screen and press a large red key to receive the Tanka poem you generated and be rewarded for your work. 
 
 
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