David Bowen’s Tele-Presence
David Bowen’s installations, Tele-Present Wind and Tele-Present Water, recreate the movements caused by natural phenomena in a gallery at the very moment they occur in their original environments. In Tele-Present Wind, Bowen sets up a device that records the movement of a dried plant stalk on a beach in Minnesota as it yields to the forces of the wind, while numerous other plant stalks inside a gallery in Moscow – each attached to a similar device – receive the data and mirror these movements in real time. Tele-Present Water (the video is hypnotic), similarly, is comprised of a yellow, flexible grid suspended and manipulated by a device that receives data about a segment of ocean retrieved by a buoy station in the middle of the Pacific and feeds the information back to the grid, which in turn performs the exact movements recorded (another version of the same work collects data from a buoy set adrift!) Just as his plant stalks seem to dance in a non-existent wind, so does Bowen’s grid rise and fall seamlessly with no water in sight. While undeniably captivating, these works certainly bring up questions about dissociations from nature and the authenticity of its direct experience.
Of course, any attempt to describe these installations is no match for seeing them in action, so watch the videos! You can explore many more fascinating David Bowen projects at his website here (particularly poetic are Self-Shading Device and 24Leaves). If you want more information about how buoys collect ocean data, you can visit the National Data Buoy Center and even see a map of not only the buoys, but who owns them.
What do you think about Bowen’s Tele-Present series? We know we can replicate these movements with absolute precision, but what might we lose in the translation?
- Erin Saunders