Healing Pool uses custom algorithms to create a glowing pool of organic patterns on the floor. When visitors step across the pool, lay on top of it, or simply touch it, the patterns tear apart and rebuild themselves, but never exactly as before. The project serves as a type of memorial, a constantly evolving record of change that honors the minuscule ways in which the slightest interactions—no matter how small or unintentional—have some impact. It feels as if the pattern is healing a wound, holding a memory of each interaction. Healing Pool premiered at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI.
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A Boston-native Brian Knep is a media artist whose works range from large-scale interactive installations to microscopic sculptures for nematodes. He was the first artist-in-residence at Harvard Medical School, working side-by-side with scientists, using their tools and techniques to explore alternative meanings and ways of connecting to the world. “Deep Wounds,” commissioned by the Office for the Arts at Harvard University, has won awards from Ars Electronica, the International Association of Art Critics, and Americans for the Arts, who selected it as one of the best public-art projects of 2007. His work has been shown at the Denver Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the RISD Museum, the Aldrich Center for Contemporary Art, and others; and he has received grants and awards from Creative Capital, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the LEF Foundation, among others.
LEONIE BRADBURY, ALTER PROJECTS
“Healing Pool” by Brian Knep consists of two interactive floor projections with patterns that change in response to visitors. For Illuminus, the pieces will be projected directly onto the surface of Lansdowne Street from above. Knep uses custom algorithms to create a glowing pool of organic patterns on the ground. Left alone, the patterns slowly pulsate and shift over the course of the evening. When a person walks across the piece the patterns tear apart and rebuild themselves, but never exactly as before. The change is similar to a scar left behind when a wound heals. Thus the pool holds a history, or memory, of all the interactions that have occurred since the piece began. In its unique location at Lansdowne street Healing Pools similarly incorporates—both physically and metaphorically—the rich and varied history of the historic location and the many visitors that cross its path each day. According to Knep, “this project serves as a type of memorial, a constantly evolving record of change that honors the minuscule ways in which the slightest interactions—no matter how small or unintentional—have some impact. It is also an examination of how each person is, like the pool, a manifestation of everything that came before.” The pieces in the Healing series explore interaction and integration: the changes, both destructive and regenerative, that happen when things interface with each other. When visitors walk across, the patterns pull away, creating wounds. When left alone, the patterns grow to cover these wounds. In each of the pieces, however the patterns grow back in different ways. This work is related to the research being done on artificial intelligence and artificial life, but the path and the goal are different. Most explorations in these fields attempt to create human-like intelligence and behavior, and in so doing they use more and more complex algorithms and techniques. In contrast, with these pieces Knep focuses on the complexity possible with very simple rules. The patterns and their growth are completely emergent phenomena; they arise from the mathematical equations that the software simulates. The basis for these equations comes from biological and chemical models of molecular interactions, interactions that are at the core of all living things. By amplifying them and making them visible and accessible, they become metaphors for human behavior and interaction. These pieces are not life-forms, but they exhibit life-like behaviors that are simple in their goals—to grow—but complex and subtle in their realization i.e. how the piece actually grows and reacts to visitors. Participants quickly understand how the pieces react to them, but the subtlety of the behavior of the algorithm creates many possible, and often surprising, interactions.