Gabriel Barcia-Colombo

Capturing memories in video art

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Transcribed by Thu-Huong Ha
Reviewed by Morton Bast

I love to collect things. Ever since I was a kid, I've had massive collections of random stuff, everything from bizarre hot sauces from all around the world to insects that I've captured and put in jars.


Now, it's no secret, because I like collecting things, that I love the Natural History Museum and the collections of animals at the Natural History Museum in dioramas. These, to me, are like living sculptures, right, that you can go and look at, and they memorialize a specific point of time in this animal's life.


So I was thinking about my own life, and how I'd like to memorialize my life, you know, for the ages, and also — (Laughter) — the lives of my friends, but the problem with this is that my friends aren't quite keen on the idea of me taxidermy-ing them. (Laughter)


So instead, I turned to video, and video is the next best way to preserve and memorialize someone and to capture a specific moment in time. So what I did was, I filmed six of my friends and then, using video mapping and video projection, I created a video sculpture, which was these six friends projected into jars. (Laughter) So now I have this collection of my friends I can take around with me whenever I go, and this is called Animalia Chordata, from the Latin nomenclature for human being, classification system. So this piece memorializes my friends in these jars, and they actually move around. (Laughter)


So, this is interesting to me, but it lacked a certain human element. (Laughter) It's a digital sculpture, so I wanted to add an interaction system. So what I did was, I added a proximity sensor, so that when you get close to the people in jars, they react to you in different ways. You know, just like people on the street when you get too close to them. Some people reacted in terror. (Laughter) Others reacted in asking you for help, and some people hide from you.


So this was really interesting to me, this idea of taking video off the screen and putting it in real life, and also adding interactivity to sculpture. So over the next year, I documented 40 of my other friends and trapped them in jars as well and created a piece known as Garden, which is literally a garden of humanity.


But something about the first piece, the Animali Chordata piece, kept coming back to me, this idea of interaction with art, and I really liked the idea of people being able to interact, and also being challenged by interacting with art. So I wanted to create a new piece that actually forced people to come and interact with something, and the way I did this was actually by projecting a 1950s housewife into a blender. (Laughter) This is a piece called Blend, and what it does is it actually makes you implicit in the work of art. You may never experience the entire thing yourself. You can walk away, you can just watch as this character stands there in the blender and looks at you, or you can actually choose to interact with it. So if you do choose to interact with the piece, and you press the blender button, it actually sends this character into this dizzying disarray of dishevelment. By doing that, you are now part of my piece. You, like the people that are trapped in my work — (Blender noises, laughter) — have become part of my work as well. (Laughter) (Laughter) (Applause)


But, but this seems a bit unfair, right? I put my friends in jars, I put this character, this sort of endangered species character in a blender. But I'd never done anything about myself. I'd never really memorialized myself. So I decided to create a piece which is a self-portrait piece. This is sort of a self-portrait taxidermy time capsule piece called A Point Just Passed, in which I project myself on top of a time card punch clock, and it's up to you. If you want to choose to punch that punch card clock, you actually age me. So I start as a baby, and then if you punch the clock, you'll actually transform the baby into a toddler, and then from a toddler I'm transformed into a teenager. From a teenager, I'm transformed into my current self. From my current self, I'm turned into a middle-aged man, and then, from there, into an elderly man. And if you punch the punch card clock a hundred times in one day, the piece goes black and is not to be reset until the next day. So, in doing so, you're erasing time. You're actually implicit in this work and you're erasing my life.


So I like this about interactive video sculpture, that you can actually interact with it, that all of you can actually touch an artwork and be part of the artwork yourselves, and hopefully, one day, I'll have each and every one of you trapped in one of my jars. (Laughter)


Thank you. (Applause)

Using video mapping and projection, artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo captures and shares his memories and friendships. At TED Fellow Talks, he shows his charming, thoughtful work — which appears to preserve the people in his life in jars, suitcases, blenders ...

About the speaker
Gabriel Barcia-Colombo · Video sculptor

Gabe Barcia-Colombo creates madcap art inspired both by Renaissance era curiosity cabinets and the modern-day digital chronicling of everyday life. Think: miniature people projected in objects and a DNA Vending Machine.

Gabe Barcia-Colombo creates madcap art inspired both by Renaissance era curiosity cabinets and the modern-day digital chronicling of everyday life. Think: miniature people projected in objects and a DNA Vending Machine.