Thursday, October 1, 2009

Megawatt Messaging: Q&A on the Electric Aesthetics of D.A. Therrien

Don't you just love art projects that make you fear for your life? Electricity-obsessed Arizona artist DA Therrien has created a few in his time, like suspending performers in a cage in a high-voltage field, or creating huge jolts of electricity on plates attached to people's chests.

Thankfully for Nuit Blanche viewers, Therrien, who's creating the centerpiece work for Saturday's fest, has mellowed a bit with age. Rather than tempting corporeal disaster, he's tempting verbal mishaps instead, installing a massive lit-up work, "Beautiful Light: Four-Letter Word Machine" at Toronto City Hall. (Therrien installed a similar work in Scottsdale this year, though this iteration will be a bit different.)

Today, the National Post published my condensed Q&A with Therrien. Here's an excerpt:

Q Besides this huge machine, human performers are part of the piece. What will they be doing?

A The performers will see information on a screen and process it physically to create the display text. I wanted to make the process more complex than it needed to be, because that's the way society is, and the way language is. We create complex situations, and that complexity creates error -- but error creates new information. It's like DNA code; our mutations make us what we are.

There's also a part of the work where a computer runs the display, and that part is, of course, perfect. But error is a very important thing in society. We tend to want this safe, perfect society, but that's not the kind of society that leads to invention or creativity. It's the screw-ups and the mistakes that make for some of the most interesting art and science and literature.

Q So you're hoping for some system crashes on Saturday?

A [Laughing.] Yes.

Image from Beautiful Light's January '09 installation in Scottsdale from Nuit Blanche

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