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Community, 2001

Ochen K.


This piece is about, in general, community, and our individual roles within that community. Specifically, this piece is presented within three particular ideas.

First, the idea our society perpetuates that any bond outside of the construct of either the first family we are born into, or the second family that we create through marriage and childbirth must, and will, always supersede those bonds of friendship and community. The segregation of the 'nuclear family' from the extended kin and community forced women to become more dependent on the individual man, and children to become more dependent on the individual woman. This dependency created the much used opportunity for the abuse of that power.

The second idea is the contemporary agreement by the 'social capitalists' like Putnam and de Souza Briggs, that the notion of 'community,' and its relevance to daily life has been waning over the last half century. It is generally noted, but often downplayed, that while the traditional models of community such as the church, recreational clubs, the PTA, political parties, etc. have shown a steadily declining membership count, new models of community, such as self-help groups, social movements, and especially the Net, have flourished in membership ratios as well as group counts.

The third idea, is that of a deeper understanding of the difference between loneliness and solitude. It is a distinction we all know to exist, but find difficulty in seeing it practiced in our own lives. Without that understanding, community is nothing but a home for codependency.

Ochen K. explains the tangible experience of this piece through the metaphor of a party. Generally, a party does not consist of everyone engaged in a single large conversation, but rather many smaller conversations defined geographically. (Three people sitting on a couch having one conversation, four people standing in the kitchen having a different conversation.) Two limitations of this construct are:

  1. One can only truly be engaged in a single conversation each moment, and,

  2. each conversation can only be had within the context of the relationships between all the participants. (A conversation between three friends is fundamentally different than an identical conversation between two lovers.)

Through this piece, those are no longer limitations, but rather the vehicles of the communication itself. Imagine that while engaged in one of those conversations at that party, when you stood up, you would be having that same conversation within the context of your peer community. While sitting, you would be having that conversation within the context of a small (perhaps even two person) intimate gathering. And while lying down, that conversation would be a conversation with yourself.

This is not a description of the interaction of the piece, but rather an attempt to relate the emotional concept of the experience.

The conversations comprising this piece would be real-time conversations, but would not necessitate multiple users to be present. When one user is present, he engages in a conversation with himself, with the author (the artist) playing the role of their questioning mind. When multiple users are present, they communicate with each other, with the author (still the artist) as the questioning facilitator.

Much 'net art' is situational. The artist provides a situation intentionally devoid of projection, where users can define and then discover their own messages. This is not intended to be so. Ochen K. has ideas of community, and chooses to talk about those opinions through the three specific ideas outlined above. This is by no means a chat room. It's a mixing of a submersive interactive experience, with single and multiple user's opinions and reactions defining the scope and direction.

Walker Art Center Gallery 9, Community, 2001.
G9 launch: February, 2001
credit line: Commissioned by Gallery 9/Walker Art Center through a grant from the Jerome Foundation.
  status: host
technology: Shockwave