Behold, the Oikoborg! is a software-based performance work created specifically for the Jackman Goldwasser Catwalk Gallery in the Hyde Park Arts Center. Meant as a platform for human-to-human communication filtered through a media-architecture facade, the piece brings Vera Buhlmann's concept of the oikoborg (an architectural media-being who functions as a companion species to humans) to a comically literal level.
The piece transforms the the five-screen, ten-projector array of the catwalk gallery into the hidden persona of the Hyde Park Art Center itself. The extra-wide urban screen is split into five large faces made of basic shapes, separated only by slight differences in the cartoonish eyes and mouths, as well as different colors based on the NTSC color bar standard. The projected mouths and eyes are controlled by the performers' voices via the minim audio library for Processing. Each face contains different personality traits, but it is the grouping of all of their voices together (in the manner of a Greek chorus) which comprises the hidden fictional persona of the building. The catwalk gallery is then the face of the HPAC-as-oikoborg and the rest of the structure its body.
The thoughts and opinions of the five-in-one persona are very loosely based of four important figures in the history of Chicago architecture (William LeBaron Jenney, Bertrand Goldberg, Fazlur Khan and Jeanne Gang) as well as the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. Their discussion takes the tone of great bluster and declaration yet none of the different sides of this group persona ever fully understand or effectively communitcate with each other. Essentially, the scene is a fragmented media-architecture personality desperately trying to relate to itself and the humans around it.
In a sense the piece is meant as a parody of the oikoborg as a long-standing media trope. In the style of Hal 9000 or Max Headroom, this digital being is bound and integrated with the physical space around it. Rather than glamorize this trope in a dystopian science fiction context, this performance attempts to analyze the problems that might occur in the life of such a being: a sedentary existence, the difficulty meeting other humans and media-beings etc. Although it takes the illusionistic appearance of a sentient media-architecture being, at the end of the day, the thoughts and ideas of the oikoborg are coming from human performers, suggesting that a hybrid virtual/physical existence does not imply disembodiment. Rather, human-to-human communication works in a problematic symbiosis with technology.
Text written by Adrian Vigliano
Chaz Evans (Bertrand Goldberg)
Peter Kersten (Jimmy Wales)
Sarah Nelson (William LeBaron Jenney)
Maureen Ryan (Jeanne Gang)
Adrian Vigliano (Fazlur Khan)
Part of the Screenology exhibition.