Ars Electronica 2005
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Festival 1979-2007


The Mechanics of Emotions

'Jean-Baptiste Barrière Jean-Baptiste Barrière / 'Maurice Benayoun Maurice Benayoun

Emotional Traffic is Act 10 of “Mechanics of the Emotions”, a project that consists of at least 13 acts.
Each act is an autonomous unit-installation, exhibition, website, performance, concert, urban or social action. But, although each act is autonomous, it nevertheless constitutes an element in a narrative flow that transforms the relations among the world, the artist, the work, the audience, the art market, strategies to amass power and techniques of survival into aesthetic situations. In other words, everything implicit in this work is staged here in a tragicomedy that reaches its climax in Emotional Traffic.Emotional Traffic is a concert in which the emotions of the world are played just like musical instruments. At the same time, it is also a performance in which the flows of the Internet are played like the threads from which are woven the conflicted fabric of the relationships between politicians or conductors and their audiences: the fisherman’s net, the spider's web and the strings that control the movements of a marionette.

“Mechanics of the Emotions” has to do with the emotions of the world. They are extracted from the Web, and displayed in the form of maps.
La Mécanique des Émotions proceeds from a platitude: the Internet constitutes the equivalent of the world’s nervous system that can enable us to feel the physiological state of the world in real time. World Emotional Mapping is thus a dynamic cartography of this planet’s feelings that is compiled from an analysis of the results of thousands of search queries, whereby place names (the names of cities, countries, continents) are each associated with terms that designate a feeling. The number of hits assigns a value, an intensity, a dimension to each element, which then represents a location on the dynamic map of emotions.
In April 2005 at the SFEAR Exhibition in the Church of St. Pierre aux Nonnains in Metz, France, the map of FEAR was projected onto a 31¼2-meter-diameter, helium-filled balloon. The same church was the site of an exhibition of relics representing the Frozen Feelings of the planet.

Frozen Feelings
A snapshot of the map of emotions (TERRIFIED, March 29, 2005, 09:31:17) distorts a virtual balloon that, as soon as “the air is let out of it,” is cut to pieces by a digital “milling machine” and thus turned into an object of veneration (a relic) and a transaction (a work of art).

Emotional Market
From Temple to Market: The “e-Market” exhibition in May 2005 converted a 700-m 2 -space in the Bund 18 Gallery in Shanghai into a luxury boutique. Twelve screens displayed projections of feeling maps, while the audience was presented with 12 Frozen Feelings accompanied by the music of emotions extracted directly from the maps. E- Stock used LED screens to provide a real-time display of the market value of the planet’s emotions like the continually updated quotations from a stock exchange.

Emotional Traffic
Emotional Traffic is a real-time presentation of the process of interpreting and transmitting information. If the maps of emotions are read like musical scores, then the performance has to be understood as a desperate attempt to find the right filter for the interpretation of these scores. The fact that the maps themselves are merely an abbreviated representation of a phenomenon that is undergoing an attempt to be interpreted (through the use of the English language) or a symbolic representation (since they privilege verbalization) makes the relationship with the audience even that much more conflicted and contradictory.
It could well be that the actions and activities of the installation visitors (which are not coordinated with one another, and thus the visitors can move about freely and go in and out as they please) activate systems of attention regulation. This, in turn, results in a possibility of participation or manipulation that is engendered and made visible by the performance.
The way in which “La Mécanique des Émotions” mixes together contexts, media and genres gives rise to what I call “critical fusion”: a mode of action based on situations in which fiction and reality, life and spectacle, the virtual and the real encroach upon one another’s domains and interact to allow viewers a glimpse of the artifices of everyday life.
Translated from German by Mel Greenwald
Software development in collaboration with V2_Lab
Software (WEM): Birgit Lichtenegger, Artem Baguinski, Maloes de Valk
Production: CITU (citu.info), V2 (v2.nl), Ars Electronica Festival