press release for Sound Symposium 1994, St. John's, Canada

by Bruce Johnson

Marshall McLuhan spoke of information media as extensions of the human nervous system, while Norbert Weiner created the science of cybernetics, envisioning systems where humans and machines merged to create a new hybrid. In modern life both of these visions can be seen as commonplace; our understanding and cataloguing of the world around us is inseparably linked to our familiarity with and use of technology.

To enter an installation by artist Don Ritter is to become an active participant in an technological emulation of a tangible and somewhat familiar experience. Ritter's work INTERSECTION creates a space which pivots the viewer between sensations of empathy and tension, re-enacting an environment that is a metaphor for both modern life and its accompanying anxieties.

INTERSECTION is an interactive sound simulation of vehicles driving along four lines of traffic. Occupying a darkened space, the installation is triggered and completed by the "intrusion" and interaction of the human participant. Through use of infra-red sensors and feedback technologies, the movement and placement of the listener within the space alters the sound (and therefore the presumed motion and bearing) of the oncoming car. A person entering the installation simultaneously transforms and triggers it, by framing themself within the trajectory of oncoming vehicle(s).

Ritter's installation places the audience in the active position of accomplice, making them as much a part of the medium as the technological supports that make it work. Entering and interacting with the art is a cybernetic act; a melting of the closed system of technology and fixed programming, with the seemingly random response of the human participant. The work will resonate with anyone who had experienced the sense of chance, risk and loss of control that goes hand-in-hand with the event embodied in this place.

Ritter's work accompanies contemporary artists ranging from American artist Bill Viola to Nova Scotia artist Richard Robertson. Like him, these artists work to place the viewer as an integral component, in concert with a technological component, to make a unified statement about modern life.