Quarantine Manipulator [2014]

Quarantine Manipulator (2014) Interactive installation

Quarantine Manipulator is an interactive installation exploring various ideas concerning the relationship between the masses and the manipulator and scientific knowledge, power and propaganda.

The work plays on the aesthetics of a scientific ‘quarantine isolator,’ used by scientists to test and experiment with substances that might be harmful to handle in an otherwise, uncontained situation. My use of this aesthetic has layered meanings and connotations. Firstly, the aesthetic of the quarantine isolator refers to modern propaganda’s dependence on scientific analyses of psychology and sociology [1]. The nature of propaganda can also take a scientific experimental approach in order to advance its strategies and tactics. The isolator aesthetic also emphasises the separation between the manipulator and the manipulated; how the manipulator sees themselves as being ‘above’ the masses they manipulate and issues of class warfare that this idea arises. This is achieved through the fact the gloves and perspex case physically prevent the participant from directly coming in contact with the pink plasticine which represents the masses and the steps leading up to the isolator forcing the participant to ‘move up in the world’. There is also the idea of the hidden mastermind/manipulator who leaves no traces of their mark.

The installation is interactive and allows viewers to step up to the isolator and put their arms through the suit sleeves and gloves to manipulate the pink plasticine inside. The participant is unable to look down and see through the isolator to see what their hands are doing, instead if they look down they are confronted with their own reflection in a mirror. However they are able to see what their hands are doing by looking out at a projection in front of them on a wall of a live video feed from a webcam within the isolator. This interactive experience almost becomes a sort of ‘simulation’ of being a powerful figure or manipulator. In doing so, the work becomes a sort of parody while emphasising the separation between the participant (as part of the mass) and the powerful. When a participant looks down they see their own reflection in the mirror, symbolising how the manipulator has only their own interests in sights. By directing the participant to look upon the projection of their hands in order to see what they are doing, I am drawing the viewer’s attention to the manipulator’s out of touch perspective of the masses. The steps have been covered in cut and layered newspaper to appear as if they have been constructed of stacks of newspaper.  I have chosen to do this to refer the foundations or tools of power over the masses: mass and news media or the manipulation of information that is fed to the masses.

[1] Ellul, J. 1973. Propaganda: the Formation of Men’s Attitudes: Vintage Books. p.4

2015 Sunshine Coast Art Prize: New Media Award

Quaratine Manipulator was selected as a finalist in Sunshine Coast Art Prize New Media Art Category 2015.

Exhibition, Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens Art & Ecology Centre, 10 Oct – 1 Nov