PRINT November 2017

Sarah Meyohas

Sarah Meyohas, Cloud of Petals, 2017, VR video, color, sound, indefinite duration.

ARCHIVES WIELD GREAT POWER: They shape memory and identity. What is selected, and how is it preserved and used? The current trend of networked data (museums putting their collections online, Google Books) makes content management systems interactive. This is the gamification of the archive.

For my most recent project, I formed my own interactive archive. Sixteen workers photographed a hundred thousand individual rose petals. Next, a machine-learning algorithm generated new, purely digital petals based on this data set. I then worked with producer Tyler Pridgen and developer Nate Turley alongside VR studio Superbright to create a virtual environment in which 3-D models, derived from both the AI-generated and original photographic petals, become particles in simulated systems, floating in space like a cloud.

The current physical state of these systems, in turn, exists only through the agency of a viewer. That is because of the critical difference between a physical artwork and a virtual-reality piece: A physical artwork requires a one-to-one physical confrontation, which anchors subjectivity in the body; in virtual reality, by contrast, the viewer is a point in space, both physically disembodied and embedded in the work. In affording limitless positions and perspectives, a VR simulation is therefore akin to the latent, n-dimensional space from which the AI-generated petals emerged: Every point is a potential image.

Sarah Meyohas is an artist based in New York.