The Giver of Names is quite simply, a computer system that gives objects names. The installation includes an empty pedestal, a video camera, a computer system and a small video projection. The camera observes the top of the pedestal. The installation space is full of "stuff"... objects of many sorts. The gallery visitor can choose an object or set of objects from those in the space, or anything they might have with them, and place them on the pedestal. When an object is placed on the pedestal, the computer grabs an image. It then performs many levels of image processing (outline analysis, division into separate objects or parts, colour analysis, texture analysis, etc.) These processes are visible on the life-size video projection above the pedestal. In the projection, the objects make the transition from real to imaged to increasingly abstracted as the system tries to make sense of them.
The results of the analytical processes are then 'radiated' through a metaphorically-linked associative database of known objects, ideas, sensations, etc. The words and ideas stimulated by the object(s) appear in the background of the computer screen, showing what could very loosely be described as a 'state of mind'.
From the words and ideas that resonate most with the perceptions of the object, a phrase or sentence in correct English is constructed and then spoken aloud by the computer.
The phrase is, of course, not a literal description of the object. At the same, time, it is definitely not a randomly generated phrase. Everything that the computer says in some way reflects its experience of the objects. However its experience is in many ways quite 'alien'. For example, it has no human real experience of the world. It has not burned its hand, scraped its knee, been hungry, angry, fallen in love, wanted something it couldn't have. It does the best it can to talk about the objects from its very particular point of view. If you spend some time with the Giver of Names, you tend to find that the peculiarities of its perceptions and its speech begin to coalesce into a tangible and coherent character. Misused or mispronounced words become the character of a dialect.
My intent as an artist is that sufficient tension exist between the object and the name given to challenge the viewers' preconceptions of the objects, and draw them into speculative exploration. The names will have something of the quality of titles that artists give artworks: something a little out of left field, representing a re-interpretation, or alternate interpretation of the visual image of the object. One aim is to highlight the tight conspiracy between perception and language, bringing into focus the assumptions that make perception viable, but also biased and fallible, and the way language inhibits (or alternately enhances) our ability to see.
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