Matt Kenyon’s High Tech Art

Visionary Matt Kenyon presented “Art Now: Multimedia Art” in Hawk TV’s studio this past Tuesday as apart of the Global Understanding Convention.

While a co-founder of SWAMP (Studies of Work Atmosphere and Mass Production) with Douglas Easterly, the event focused on Kenyon’s wide range of unique work, highlighting the relationship between global corporate operations with the public, mass media and communication and the tie between life and artificial life.

One of the discussions that had the audience laughing was Kenyon’s experiment with a drive-thru at McDonalds, titled McService. Kenyon and his accomplice circled a McDonalds drive-thru 57 consecutive times, consistently ordering and paying for food, until two police cars were called by the fast food chain. “We were interested in how replacing this variable demographic with us would cause a reaction,” Kenyon explained.

Growing up in the small town of Hammond Louisiana, where Ma and Pa shops thrived, Kenyon developed a different perspective and an intrigue with the relationship between global corporations and consumers. So when a mega Wal-Mart was built on the edge of his community, it only made sense for one of his artistic endeavors to involve the global corporation.

“We had to perform the art of shopping, even though we weren’t,” he stated. Kenyon began his relationship with Wal-Mart by developing different routines to partake in.

Soon after, he was inspired by the Neilson Family Rating system and created his own version of the consumer tracking technology. Kenyon punctured a hole into the side of his face and then threaded wires through the opening to connect with a scanner in his mouth. He continued his routine of circling Wal-Mart, but now he was able to scan items by holding the bar code up to his mouth, activated by a simple grunt. Throughout this process, Kenyon was able to track the items he was exposed to in order to further understand the politics of consumption.

Members of the event were also introduced to Steven the Tardigotchi pet. Inspired by the interaction of Facebook and the popular 90’s virtual toy, Steven is enclosed in a brass sphere with two methods of interaction. Users of the Tardigotchi are able to connect with the virtual version, while also relating with the live Water Bear organism. For instance, if Steven displayed signs of hunger on the virtual screen, his living form would be fed. “You can find Steven Tardigotchi on Facebook and friend him,” Kenyon added.

Further into the lecture, a miniature mechanical creature was displayed. The robot had the ability to locate a puddle of soda on the ground and then absorb the liquid. Audience member and senior Henry Stankiewicz stated, “I thought it was awesome ‘cause there was a lot of high tech stuff.”

The majority of Kenyon’s work was shown through two televised screens, except for one. During the beginning of the event, a yellow, lined piece of paper was handed out to all the attendees. It wasn’t until the very end that he announced that the lines in the seemingly average paper contained names of citizens that have been killed since the beginning of the war in Iraq, only to be visible through the lens of a magnifying glass.

Following the presentation, Kenyon gave a more in depth explanation to his art. After describing the feeling that comes with walking down a flight of stairs and expecting another step, only to find the step isn’t actually there, he said, “The thing you thought you know is now strange and different.” That’s what Kenyon expects people to feel after seeing his work. “I think a function of a lot of art is to take something familiar and make it strange,” he admitted.

In reaction to the University’s new minor in Interactive Media, Kenyon said he believes it’s valuable because it doesn’t limit students to designing objects. “Now I think a lot of folks are about designing experiences,” he added.

Senior Danny Smith acknowledged, “He had a very different take on strange aspects of life.”

For more on Matt Kenyon and his body of work, those interested can check out www.swamp.nu.

IMAGE TAKEN from wired.co.uk