Eye To Eyebeam: A Conversation With Carrie Mae Rose


Eye to Eyebeam is a series on Eyebeam's artists in residence and fellows that includes interviews, photos, and other information on Eyebeam’s artists and creative technologists. It is authored by Eyebeam intern Katherine DiPierro.

Carrie Mae Rose’s work is intended to make you feel vulnerable. Her projects, which include sculptural mandalas made of confiscated scissors and razors and a proposed necklace constructed out of violet wands (a relative of the Tesla coil), are literally on the cutting edge. More importantly, her projects lay bare the culture of militarization that’s become so pervasive recently, and examine its influence on pop culture, education, entertainment, and high fashion. Eyebeam intern Katherine DiPierro sat down with Carrie Mae for a conversation on the intersection of technology and vulnerability.

Katherine DiPierro: What are you planning to do during your residency?

Carrie Mae Rose: I am planning to build a series of interactive costumes I call Wearable Weapons. I will be testing and collaborating to create at least 2 or 3 collars that use devices called Violet Wands that are placed in large wearable armatures. Violets Wands are sold both to the police department and the S&M community and are generally described as either self defense products or highly erotic electro-stimulation tools. The wands have a variety of intensity levels that do anything from burn to arouse the end receiver. I’m still working out what kind of interactivity the pieces will have, but the working idea is that they will respond both to sound and movement.

KD: Just how deadly are your “wearable weapons”?

CMR: Well, they aren’t built yet, so not at all. Though of course, the Violet Wands can actually burn people on some settings, so the core materials aren’t exactly safe. That said, my ultimate intention is to provoke rather than harm. They playfully bring a heightened sense of reverence and one needs to handle them with educated caution.

KD: Much of your past work links nature to technology, whether through digital storytelling (uniVerses), dressmaking (the Agave Armor dress), or simply synthesizing naturalistic sounds. Cold you tell me more about your process of meshing together analog and digital elements?

CMR: To be honest, my main focus isn’t so concerned with the pairing of the analog and the digital. The question I’ve been asking with this body of work is how do I visually represent the feeling of being vulnerable. For me, there’s an equivalency between feeling vulnerable and the sensation of burning. You get this heightened sense of awareness; you want to hide; you want to move. I think this is similar to what fire or lightning might do, so it seemed natural to use electricity as a medium to explore these ideas.

KD: You’ve studied and performed Butoh; having never heard of it, I looked online for more information about the medium. It seems butoh eludes definition - it’s not quite a style or practice of improvisational dance, but it’s more than just a state of mind. How do you define butoh?

CMR: As I understand it, Butoh is a Japanese form of dancing with the darkness. Butoh emerged after WWII as a response to individual internal states of pain, oppression, and despair. It challenged conventional notions of dance while helping the dancer transform into other states of being. It allows the performer to explore a full spectrum of states of raw sexuality, grotesqueness, darkness, and decay. My art has always been a tool for healing and awakening and I am inspired by and greatly respect this form of performance art. My teacher, Diego Pinons, says this: Butoh challenges us to awaken and explore all human qualities ranging from the subtle to the outrageous, both beautiful and ugly. Butoh seeks the emergence of the deeper self, to touch if only for a moment, the inexplicable matter of the human soul.

Thanks for the interview, Carrie Mae! For the latest on her exhibitions and projects, visit Carrie Mae’s Eyebeam page or personal website.

Projects: Eye To Eyebeam, Residencies, Wearable Weapons, Wearable Weapons // Interactive Costumes
People: Carrie Mae Rose, Katherine DiPierro
Tags: fall 2011, fellowships, interview, residents