feeder insider w / SAINT MACHINE [en]
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Marilena Oprescu Singer, known as The Reverend Mother or SAINT MACHINE, is a multimedia artist and author of immersive and participatory installations that investigate biological processes, our relationships with technology or public space. We are pleased to talk to Mari about FEED ME, ACUM [NOW], and the latest installation Hybrid Sensorium, on display at Ars Electronica 2017.
sense / cavity / dream
Public space could… be greener.
In the morning… I close my eyes and breathe deeply.
Last time I was at the cinema… I saw a movie with a smurfette.
The light… comes from us.
Recently, I’ve read something interesting,… Postcapitalism, Paul Mason.
I dance… tribal dances at home with my daughter.
On Mars, I sure would like to have with me… my garden trees!
An application I use daily… many, the last addiction is Waze.
I am excited when… hard to say, I am excited all the time.
3 artists who inspire me… Bosch, Kahlo, Sonia (my seven-year-old daughter)
Cristina Popa: Hi, Mari, how are you? Which projects do you lend your time to now?
SAINT MACHINE: I’m working on completing the Hybrid Sensorium and, concurrently, on the next installation.
C.P.: Who is SAINT MACHINE and how did you discover this character in yourself?
SAINT MACHINE: I’ve gone through a few, MAA, MA, I am fascinated by the idea of negative space, cavity, syncope, or content generating void. For me, SAINT MACHINE is a defiance of religious fanaticism and an irony addressed to the projection of an ultra-technologized future. I wanted it to contain this interruption of meaning and the question: Who is man in this hiatus?
C.P.: Hybrid Sensorium, produced for Ars Electronica 2017, explores how we feel the body in the physical space and the sensory distortions caused by both technology mediation and direct contact. What personal goals do you have for this installation?
SAINT MACHINE: Hybrid Sensorium at Ars Electronica was a pilot project. I continue to work on the process part of the installation, developing a software that monitors and archives the user’s behavior.
Hybrid Sensorium tests the visitors’ willingness to abandon their biological needs in exchange for digital content. At Ars Electronica I played with the interruption of the breathing pace. The idea is very simple, to interact with the installation, you must first put your head completely into the capsule. Inside, a membrane is breathing with you in real time. The intimate sound of your breathing is amplified outside the installation, on public display.
When you decide to hold your breath, the membrane opens and reveals a hermetically sealed head that activates a unique cavity in which the senses are mixed. Just as long as you do not breathe at all, your first exhale makes the membrane close and return to the rhythm of your breath. For the animation film inside the capsule I worked with the artists Sergiu Negulici, who animated my drawings rendering each brush, and with Mitoş Micleuşanu, who made the sound design. Razvan Vasilache has programmed everything in Unity so that all content is interactive in real time. On the electronics side, Radu Mititelu has gotten us out of the mess with the simple but ingenious solutions, and for this, I have to thank Claudiu Marin. I also thank Irina Cornisteanu, director of RKI Wien for believing in the project, without her support, participation in Ars Electronica would not have been possible.
C.P.: FEED ME is one of the most remarkable installations for the local public space. What did you learn from TRA about its visitors?
SAINT MACHINE: This experience with visitors is very similar to the one with the kids. You put some things there and forget them afterwards, not to feel overwhelmed and make room for other things, it’s a brain protection mechanism.
After exhibiting the work, they come back filtered by other eyes in more interesting ways than you have imagined, I think from all these people I learned to wonder that I do things and I have no idea what I do.
C.P .: From one production to the other, FEED ME transforms – the Womb of TRA communicates through tubes and then through scales, NOPER’s illustrations are animated interactively or randomly. Where is the installation now and what plans are there for it?
SAINT MACHINE: that’s because I have never had enough time to finish things the way I intended it, then because once you experience an exhibition, to repeat it, it just feels like something fake, and I’m different in the meantime. Feed Me is now in a warehouse, on rent, so to speak, it has traveled, but has also received many invitations that I could not honor because of the high assembly costs. For May 2018 we have an invitation to participate at Street Delivery Alba Iulia, I have never been to Alba, but I’m curious and want to go because I saw some fabulous pictures of the fortress and the beautiful projects made by the Carolina Creative Quarter, a team of enthusiastic people who believe in the things they do.
C.P .: What are the dearest collaborations and why?
SAINT MACHINE: Many, the collaborations with the artists I’ve corrupted. Noper, because he had the courage to associate his name with mine in a project that seemed completely dubious and because we lived together the excitement of throwing ourselves into the unknown, this play with ideas and forms, the pleasure to treat common obsessions and to look at them through the eyes of the other. Reniform because it teaches me to believe in myself and assert my things. Mitoş Micleuşanu because he exists. Mitoş is a universe all together, a total artist, with each project I am surprised that this man is working with me, but nah, I grew up in the country and I think I ate chicken poop when I was little. Gerfried Stocker and Martin Honzik from Ars Electronica, the way they vibrate with my ideas is a challenge to me, both Feed Me and Hybrid Sensorium have been invited to participate in Ars Electronica since the project stage, the pdf presentation, few people have the vision and the courage to do that.
C.P .: ACUM [NOW], curated by you at ARCUB Gabroveni, invited artists and passers-by to imagine a subjective Bucharest. From your experience, what processes are essential for participatory projects and how do we help the community to intervene in the public space?
SAINT MACHINE: if we talk about the general public, it is essential that they are not underestimated, or sedated with colorful projects but without content, it is important that projects paid from public funds, dedicated to the general public, say something, have an educational component, not merely entertainment. For participatory projects, context must be created, a well-rounded context and at the same time full of empty spaces in which the public feels the challenge to intervene. “ACUM” is a project we made with great pleasure for ARCUB, together with Mihaela Păun and the Bucharest 2021 communication team, Vero Turza, Cristiana Tăutu, Magda Bucur, coordinated by Trevor Davies.
We treated the city as a living organism, and culture as a virus, imagining ACUM, a time-space capsule that carries self-generating content, infecting the city and thus activating its immune system.
I only created the context, but things became really interesting only after some more clever people joined, and I enumerate them here in the chronological order of the events: Vasile Leac, Sorina Vazelina, Dan Sociu, Mitoș Micleușanu, Svetlana Cârstean, Suzana Dan, Matei Branea, Sergiu Negulici, Stefan Radu Cretu and Mugur Grosu. They each came with their own world, in very different ways they resonated with another type of audience, some of them working side by side with passers-by.
C.P .: How do you find your inspiration?
SAINT MACHINE: Well, I do not know, I do not really look for it, there are things I need to do. My projects are a combination of exorcising the dreams that won’t let me sleep and translating everyday reality in a form that I understand, otherwise, I am not able to digest what happens to me.
C.P .: What kind of mediums of expression would you like to experiment with in the future?
SAINT MACHINE: I dream to paint when I grow old.
C.P .: How did you first came into contact with feeder.ro?
Words and translation Cristina Popa
Photos © SAINT MACHINE, Cristian Vasile, Ars Electronica, Yair Bartal, Fatma-Nur-Özoğul.