Two-channel video, biosensor gaming, performance and installation.
Morphai is a research-based media x performance quest to bring one’s dreamed self synchronously to the waking world, through sleep performance and data-driven avatar. The exhibition runs from June 20 to July 14, 2023, at Agora Coeur des sciences in Tio’tia ke/Montréal.
A media art x performance piece as part of residency at MITACS and Sociability of Sleep, in Tio’tia ke/Montréal, 2023. When you are asleep, your dreamed self takes another form – like the human shape sent to dreamers by Greek god of dreams, Morpheus – the morphai. Morphai dances to the score of the sleep performer’s biometrics in real time, as an extension to the self in a strange, uncategorizable landscape of consciousness. As the digital avatar in the game engine gives an animated shape to the morphai, the sleeper is dressed in a phosphorescent costume that blurs out her identity but accentuates her movement, including dream enactment behavior. Fusing digital media and performance to bring one’s dreamed self synchronously to join the waking world, through sleep choreography (“analog mocap”) and augmented avatar.
The work has grown from the conversations with Dr. Liza Solomonova from McGill, Dr. Tore Nielsen and Dr. Claudia Picard-Deland from Dream and Nightmare Laboratory of UdeM and most of the installation has been done in Dr. Alanna Thain’s Moving Image Research Lab, McGill University. The exhibition of “Morphai” as part of the Sociability of Sleep exhibition opens on June 20 2023, and more information can be found at sociabilityofsleep.ca
The Morphai universe as a long-term, multi-branch project interrogates sleep characterization, sleep choreography, plural/other mind-body relationships, and the paradoxical axis of sleep as a performative activity. Incorporating my own diary-based sleep performance and collaborating with other performance artists, the Morphai universe continues to grow in astounding magnificent otherness with Morpheus watching.
Sensor data by Lee Wilkins
Performance artists: Dayna McLeod, Yiou Wang, Laurie-Anne Gosselin
Installation adapted from work of Michèle Barcena-Sougavinski
Morphai – the Digital Dream avatar
Game engine as a language of mythical thought:
In the technical mothodology of Morphai, I used the connection between Arduino and Unity to complete the procedural animation of the morphai avatar in real time. Marshall McLuhan makes an intriguing observation: “technology forces us to live mythically.” Game engine is a language of mythical thought as it easily lends itself to the animist world of movement and various responsive sensual elements. I find it very potent not just as a tool, but as a language that articulates exactly what has been in my dreams and imaginations – alter egos, animated animist world, transformations, surreal happenings that always exist but through this game language, can be rendered to a form.
Morphai as alter ego:
Morphai is not only a digital avatar but ultimately it is an attempt to encapsulate our dreamed self as an alter ego parallel to our waking self. It exists outside the western individualism that recognizes a person as having a body and a soul, which is a philosophical foundation of modernity under which the realm of sleep is always regarded as an absence of conscious mind or agency and dream life always inferior to day life as it is deemed unreal. The avatar, as not just a symbol but an output of morphai, lands in a strange spot of consciousness, in a strange and performative realm of mind-body synchronicity.
Still from Dayna’s performance:
Still from Morphai recording sleep performer’s biometrics:
The Morphai Chamber.
In a dance of silkworm, Yiou is entering pupation:
On Feb. 25, 2023, I slept in a mocap suit and did a 27-min mocap’ed sleep performance, retargeted onto an avatar made in 2 minutes. The following video is a pilot to a branch growing from the Morphai universe – Yiou’s repeated, authentic diary-style sleep performance. I was not a performance artist before, and have no dance background. But I imagine myself performing a dance of silkworm, in which I mimic the metamorphic phases of the silkworm, an animal my grandmother’s ancestral home used to keep1. Now I am entering pupation. All that is required of me is lie down and sleep in the comfort of my bedroom. What will happen from here?
The sleep activity in these performances is authentic sleep. They take place in Yiou’s Cambridge (Massachusetts) home, so far. Work in progress, parallel to the above-mentioned Morphai project.
1.My grandmother is a descendent of a traditional northern Chinese lineage that owned a small silk farm in the 1930s. They lived in symbiosis with a large colony of silkworms, and produced silk, before some historical changes stopped them in 1950s. Grandma used to tell me a lot of silkworm stories from her childhood with a smile on her beautiful wrinkled face. As a child, I also kept sterile pet silkworms, though in much smaller numbers and urban home environment. Without direct experience with silkworm farm handling, I epi-genetically inherit my grandma’s silkworm memories and emotions, which is some kind of soft, deep, unspoken love. As an adult, I sometimes dream back to the smell of the silkworm food that came with my childhood pet kit, which had a distinct, unforgettable scent that is neither desirable nor undesirable, just strange. My grandmother’s traditional silkworm symbiosis and the smell from my modern leisure silkworm keeping become mixed and intertwined. I guess I love silkworms, their lovely metamorphosing vitality, their creation magic, their gentleness and innocence demonstrated in their complete trust of humans, who usually sacrifice them after they exert their magic. After all, I have so far never dreamed of another scent, but the scent of my silkworm pet food.