sponsored links
TED2012

Gabriel Barcia-Colombo: Capturing memories in video art

February 27, 2012

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 ...

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. Full bio

sponsored links
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I love to collect things.
00:16
Ever since I was a kid, I've had massive collections
00:18
of random stuff, everything from bizarre hot sauces
00:20
from all around the world to insects
00:23
that I've captured and put in jars.
00:26
Now, it's no secret, because I like collecting things,
00:28
that I love the Natural History Museum
00:30
and the collections of animals
00:32
at the Natural History Museum in dioramas.
00:34
These, to me, are like living sculptures, right,
00:36
that you can go and look at,
00:38
and they memorialize a specific point of time
00:39
in this animal's life.
00:41
So I was thinking about my own life,
00:43
and how I'd like to memorialize my life, you know,
00:44
for the ages, and also — (Laughter) —
00:46
the lives of my friends, but
00:49
the problem with this is that my friends aren't quite keen
00:52
on the idea of me taxidermy-ing them. (Laughter)
00:54
So instead, I turned to video,
00:57
and video is the next best way to preserve and memorialize
01:00
someone and to capture a specific moment in time.
01:02
So what I did was, I filmed six of my friends
01:05
and then, using video mapping and video projection,
01:07
I created a video sculpture, which was these six friends
01:10
projected into jars. (Laughter)
01:12
So now I have this collection of my friends
01:16
I can take around with me whenever I go,
01:18
and this is called Animalia Chordata,
01:20
from the Latin nomenclature for
01:22
human being, classification system.
01:23
So this piece memorializes my friends in these jars,
01:26
and they actually move around. (Laughter)
01:28
So, this is interesting to me,
01:33
but it lacked a certain human element. (Laughter)
01:35
It's a digital sculpture, so I wanted to add
01:39
an interaction system. So what I did was,
01:41
I added a proximity sensor, so that when you get close
01:42
to the people in jars, they react to you in different ways.
01:44
You know, just like people on the street
01:46
when you get too close to them.
01:48
Some people reacted in terror. (Laughter)
01:50
Others reacted in asking you for help,
01:52
and some people hide from you.
01:54
So this was really interesting to me, this idea of
01:58
taking video off the screen and putting it in real life,
02:00
and also adding interactivity to sculpture.
02:02
So over the next year, I documented 40 of my other friends
02:04
and trapped them in jars as well
02:08
and created a piece known as Garden,
02:10
which is literally a garden of humanity.
02:12
But something about the first piece,
02:14
the Animali Chordata piece, kept coming back to me,
02:16
this idea of interaction with art,
02:18
and I really liked the idea of people being able to interact,
02:20
and also being challenged by interacting with art.
02:22
So I wanted to create a new piece that actually
02:25
forced people to come and interact with something,
02:26
and the way I did this was actually by projecting
02:28
a 1950s housewife into a blender. (Laughter)
02:30
This is a piece called Blend, and what it does is
02:34
it actually makes you implicit in the work of art.
02:37
You may never experience the entire thing yourself.
02:39
You can walk away, you can just watch as this character
02:41
stands there in the blender and looks at you,
02:43
or you can actually choose to interact with it.
02:46
So if you do choose to interact with the piece,
02:48
and you press the blender button, it actually sends
02:52
this character into this dizzying disarray of dishevelment.
02:54
By doing that, you are now part of my piece.
02:58
You, like the people that are trapped in my work
03:01
— (Blender noises, laughter) —
03:03
have become part of my work as well. (Laughter)
03:07
(Laughter)
03:14
(Applause)
03:17
But, but this seems a bit unfair, right?
03:19
I put my friends in jars, I put this character,
03:23
this sort of endangered species character in a blender.
03:25
But I'd never done anything about myself.
03:28
I'd never really memorialized myself.
03:30
So I decided to create a piece which is a self-portrait piece.
03:32
This is sort of a self-portrait taxidermy time capsule piece
03:34
called A Point Just Passed,
03:36
in which I project myself on top of a time card punch clock,
03:38
and it's up to you.
03:41
If you want to choose to punch that punch card clock,
03:43
you actually age me.
03:45
So I start as a baby, and then if you punch the clock,
03:46
you'll actually transform the baby into a toddler,
03:49
and then from a toddler I'm transformed into a teenager.
03:54
From a teenager, I'm transformed into my current self.
03:57
From my current self, I'm turned into a middle-aged man,
03:59
and then, from there, into an elderly man.
04:02
And if you punch the punch card clock a hundred times
04:06
in one day, the piece goes black
04:09
and is not to be reset until the next day.
04:12
So, in doing so, you're erasing time.
04:15
You're actually implicit in this work
04:17
and you're erasing my life.
04:19
So I like this about interactive video sculpture,
04:21
that you can actually interact with it,
04:23
that all of you can actually touch an artwork
04:25
and be part of the artwork yourselves,
04:27
and hopefully, one day, I'll have each and every one of you
04:29
trapped in one of my jars. (Laughter)
04:31
Thank you. (Applause)
04:33
Translator:Thu-Huong Ha
Reviewer:Morton Bast

sponsored links

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.

Why you should listen

Gabe Barcia-Colombo is an American artist who creates installation pieces that both delight and point to the strangeness of our modern, digital world. His latest work is a DNA Vending Machine, which dispenses vials of DNA extracted from friends at dinner parties. He's also created video installations of "miniature people" encased inside ordinary objects like suitcases, blenders and more. His work comments on the act of leaving one's imprint for the next generation. Call it "artwork with consequences."

As he explains it: "While formally implemented by natural history museums and collections (which find their roots in Renaissance-era 'cabinets of curiosity'), this process has grown more pointed and pervasive in the modern-day obsession with personal digital archiving and the corresponding growth of social media culture. My video sculptures play upon this exigency in our culture to chronicle, preserve and wax nostalgic, an idea which I render visually by 'collecting' human beings (alongside cultural archetypes) as scientific specimens. I repurpose everyday objects like blenders, suitcases and cans of Spam into venues for projecting and inserting videos of people."

Barcia-Colombo is an alumnus and instructor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Read about his latest work on CoolHunting and in his TED Fellows profile.

sponsored links

If you need translations, you can install "Google Translate" extension into your Chrome Browser.
Furthermore, you can change playback rate by installing "Video Speed Controller" extension.

Data provided by TED.

This website is owned and operated by Tokyo English Network.
The developer's blog is here.