This piece formed with the idea that maybe individual works of art should be joined together by something other than text. In Black Body I have tried to build an associate for Catherine Richards' Curiosity Cabinet.

A black body is a scientific term that describes a hypothetical device which perfectly absorbs all electro-magnetic radiation. A perfect consumer or energy sponge. Passive, a black body would be a perfect antenna. Active, it would be a perfect transmitter.

Both pieces are based on older scientific apparatuses, once on the edge of discovery. Unlike many other scientific apparatuses they have been found useful by industry. Catherine's is a Faraday Cage; mine is an Electro-Encephalograph.

Both pieces help us scrutinize our unseen aurora, built with layers of wireless information: television, radio, pager, cell phone, GPS. The stuff that continuously flows over our skin. We are not brave Explorers or Navigators travelling on top of it, we are more like rocks in its stream. The radiation that flows over our bodies requires a translation mechanism to be understood, a sieve... some sort of channeller: televisions, radios, pagers, cell phones, etc. These are our agents, our familiars. The piece in this show considers the total 'noise' that surrounds us, not the information embedded within it.

Black Body drains this energy off our bodies to run an engine. The participant becomes an essential missing component, 'a coupling capacitor'. Each person has an unique capacitance which effects the overall circuit.

The Past Imperfect
People in the pre-scientific, pre-technological or pre-industrial world were surrounded by undetectable, dangerous forces. These mysterious forces were of their own creation and we find it strange that they were affected by them. These forces were managed by supernatural intervention. The thin barrier between the natural and supernatural worlds was the soul. The directional movement of the soul was governed by a strict set of compulsive behaviours that effected the tug of war between supernatural agents, good and evil. The body itself was not a concern.

The problem with this system was that there was never a clear indication from these agents on your status... on how well you were doing.

Now we find ourselves in a similar situation. Our technology has created, but also made detectable, a dangerous unseen world. It affects not the soul but our physical bodies. The thin barrier between worlds is our skin and we are terribly concerned that nothing penetrates it, letting in any of the terrible, invisible, deadly stuff that surrounds us. We are furiously developing compulsive behaviours to maintain the integrity of this membrane. Our agents are still supernatural. They are also of our creation but now they are machines. Again it is very difficult to discern what they are trying to tell us because they speak in statistics.

Black Body is a mirror, a second body that is distorted by electro-magnetic radiation.


Black Body [version 2.0], 2000. Installation. Computer, custom software, custom projector, custom electronics. 8 x 8 x 8 feet.


Doug Back has shown his work in Vancouver, Banff, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. Internationally he has shown in Holland, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, New York, Chicago and Mexico City. He has been Technical Director at Trinity Video, a founding member of the YYZ Gallery and Inter-Access in Toronto and an advisor to the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. He was awarded the Petro Canada Award in 1987.

 

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Code Sample
**** si = length of silence between sounds
**** length = how long the last sound was
**** aud = what the last sound looked like
**** cnt = the pure data NOTdivided
**** sndaver = an average of all data during length
audmass = 1
OUT 819, 152 'setup the 8255 for dig IO
OUT 817, 1 '817 controls the relay 1 = on, 0 = off

dacout = 2580 'setup DAC to P3 volts
GOSUB dodac

CLS
OUT &H33B, &H78 'Disable timer init PPI
OUT &H335, 3 'Select input #4

Antenna Amplifier --- Rectifier ---- Filter --- Computer --- D.C. Amplifier