Actual Reality

Actual Reality

“Actual Reality” (2011—Present) is a serial multi-media work that develops over the course of many iterations and forms: a scored performance, an improvised response, a piece of software, a libretto text, audio recordings, a video-in-progress… Each new version processes and re-synthesizes previous Actual Realities.

I’ve had a google alert for the words “actual reality” for several years now, every day receiving an email digest of newly discovered instances of the phrase in context. It is a candid and democratic view of the internet. The term is used by diarists, pundits, analysts, self-help gurus and angry blog-commenters alike, as a lets-get-serious reference to the common background against which imaginary things come together momentarily. Everyone should be able to recognize actual reality, or to compare things against it, to measure when we’ve moved too far from it.

“Little by little it comes into view like a condensing cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the actual; and as its outlines become more distinct and its surface takes on color, it tends to imitate perception. But it remains attached to the past by its deepest roots, and if, when once realized, it did not retain something of its original virtuality, if, being a present state, it were not something which stands out distinct from the present, we should never know it for a memory.”

– Henri Bergson “Matter and Memory”

We experience sound moving from live utterance to processed signal, amplified and diffused into the room. We enact a translation, listening and responding to the processed signal, attaching new layers to it, simultaneously forging and following a wave of sound that condenses into patterns and disperses into clouds. Video images form for us an anchor in time, progressing slowly, with action that is hard to perceive until gradual changes are made apparent. A flute, a lily, a newspaper, a triangle, a mirror, a discharge of smoke—-these visual elements provide a medium through which to perceive a specific speed, a dilated scale of time passing.

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Actual Reality – The Sun Artist Takes a Walk

“The Sun Artist Takes a Walk” (2014-15) is a version of “Actual Reality” that borrows its shape from a series of workshops conducted by San Francisco-based artist, scientist, and educator Bob Miller. Beginning in 1975, Miller’s “Light Walks” led small groups of participants in the active noticing of sunlight resolving into images through naturally-occurring pinholes, shadows, and reflections.

“…what I used to think of as uninteresting diffuse white light turns out to be pretty damned interesting. If you think of every little area in space containing, in the light, all the information for a full-color, completely detailed image of things both nearby and far away—here in this little area of space, and here… and here—then it seems to me that we’re walking around all the time in an invisible sea of images. All you have to do to see one of them is to put your eye right “here” and let in one of those little specks of light. And on top of all that, you see it “out there,” projected on the real world. Wow!”

“Actual Reality” proposes, then, that all streams contain images. To play, and to pay attention, is to resolve these images, seeing them for a moment as reality.