“What are the parallels between human and computational sensory systems?” is the question at the centre of Erin Gee’s research. Deeply invested in revealing the functional parameters of emotion, she works against dismissive attitudes that contrast emotion with logic. Gee suggests that “emotion has a real biological function to help us remember, help our bodies react to adversity, to reward us in times of comfort.” Her works translate bodily responses into machine-augmented experiences. The technologies employed—such as audio and sensor electronics act as metaphors for the human body and emotional systems, revealing the physiological processes that underlie our emotional states. Her robots, software, and compositions distort, transform, enhance, and communicate feelings and emotions as reflected in the biorhythms of our body, such as heartbeats, sweat, and vibrations in the larynx, giving visible and audible presence to feelings of intimacy, affect, and fear, as well as more abstract emotions that are not always easy to identify or validate.
As Literature Professor N. Katherine Hayles observes in her 2017 book Unthought: The Power of Cognitive Consciousness, “The same faculty that makes us aware of ourselves as selves also partially blinds us to the complexity of the biological, social, and technological systems in which we are embedded, tending to make us think we are the most important actors and that we can control the consequences of our actions and those of other agents.”
Gee’s computationally-generated symphony of emotions composed of bio-feedback illustrates the consciousness bias that we carry and suggests the potential connections that we might make with each other—both human and non-human entities. Growing out of this relationship, self-centered humans can find a path to a humble co-existence and shared responsibility.
Gee’s research-driven artworks allow us to break free from an egocentric understanding of thought-processes that prioritize the brain, in order to see how the rest of the body thinks, feels, and reacts.