Installation artist Jana Cruder observes changes and behaviors to our naked, texting bodies in her participatory new work.
This article contains adult content.
The show-stopping The Way Of The Modern Man installation, from Jana Cruder at the Los Angeles ART Show this past weekend, had onlookers doing more than just lookin atg it. Driven by audience interaction, Cruder’s work has participants taking it all of for the sake of art. Cruder tells The Creators Project, “This was the first public installation of the works made possible by the DO ArT Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that works to bring art to the public. This installation at the LAArt Show was the most publicly attended installation so far with a reach in the upwards 65,000 people.” She tells us, “Judging by the crowds’ reactions and comments, it truly hit a chord with people. That was the encouraging thing about it, the public wanted to be involved.”
For the work, Cruder requests audience involvement, so she and others can observe the the human body, behavior, and changes in posture that occur while texting. “I chose to have people remove their clothing to their comfort level. It’s best for the project if people are nude because I can observe the spine better and see the subtleties of the body communication and language. I feel with the clothing removed, it levels the playing field and shows us we’re all human.” Cruder explains, “I was surprised how intimate and personal people would get with me so quickly. It also was very interesting how people digitally consumed the works, as the exhibition itself is about digital culture.”
Reflecting on the expectations of herself and the crowd, Cruder describes the emotional process, “Pretty much everyone was nervous when they entered. It’s crucial to the art to create a space where they feel comfortable enough to open up, that’s why I created the inside of the booth to feel womb like, warm and soft peach color. The subject couldn't see out but could be observed by others.” Cruder explains, “After a few questions I had them undress to their comfort levels and then we’d continue. It was interesting that the nervousness tended to go away after they were fully nude and the deeper we got into the questioning. People left excited and confident, to me they were truly remarkable and brave.”
During the participants' time spent in the box, Cruder engages with them, as they stand isolated, with only the presence of their smartphones. “I worked closely with a psychologist who is passionate about the works because she is starting to really see some of the effects of anxiety and modern addictions to technology in her clients.” Cruder continues, “She and I worked together to create questions that would elicit feeling, that would take the subject through a range of emotion and trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine. It was important for me to see how we are communicating and how we are creating bonds and what is changing neurochemically through these devices.”
While Cruder remains behind the scenes for the text exchange, onlookers can read the entire conversation on a big screen as it happens. “The live, streaming text feed gave the audience a little insight with how the participants were feeling.” Cruder explains, “The exchange was an intimate dance, I’d ask a very deep question about fear or pain and then ask a lighter question or inject humor. I was working to get them to go deep into their emotional beings and share that with me. Some people went there more easily than others, and I observed through their body language that some people had no physical response when I asked them deep questions.”
A big part of Cruder’s project is not only to observe the changes we are experiencing, but to bring awareness back to ourselves. “In our ultra fast-paced hyper-reality of instant communication, we are not communicating how we really feel and that is changing humanity,” she says. In the future, she hopes to carry this piece onto other locations to keep the dialog going. “I want to have the public continue to engage with this work. I want to take it to other cities and continue to do the project as different installations in different locations. I want to collect more observations of humanity and how it's changing due to our communication through these devices.”
Click here to visit Jana Cruder's website.