See While Seen, Touch While Touched

See While Seen, Touch While Touched, 2013 Shannon Willis
A tactile responsive environment
Containing 5 channel interactive video projection, two viewer responsive sculptures, and a responsive architectural intervention. On view at Pacific Northwest College of Art BFA Gallery December 4 2013- January 22,2014.

See While Seen,Touch While Touched, a tactile responsive immersive environment from Shannon Willis on Vimeo.


I am interested in the potential exchange between philosophy, science and spirituality. Philosophy plays a big role in the thoughts behind my work, especially Phenomenology. After reading Phenomenology of Perception, by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I began to think about existence and perception as one in the same. Perceptions are the key to experience as well as existence. Instead of separating out the senses, dividing brain from body, Merleau- Ponty’s ideas are that perceived and perciever are one. I am also inspired by Martin Heidegger’s ideas about the work of art and how art can open up a new world to transcend the thingness of an object.I want my viewers to be able to physically enter this new world I have created for them.
Using these ideas as inspiration, I created my recent thesis work, See While Seen, Touch While Touched, which I considered a situational environment. It melded environment, experience, event, and representation within one durational space. Contained within the gallery was a five channel video projection washing the walls in continually changing color. The video was a live feed originating from inside a translucent silicone form containing lights and sensors that responded to the touch of participants. The skin-like silicone covering was an organic form, almost grotesque in shape, with udder like protrusions and genital-like crevices. As strange the form was, when lit from the inside, it took on an other-worldly beauty. Another silicone sculpture in the room contained lights and light sensors, which acted as its “eyes”: changing color in response to viewers’ movements. Also contained within the space was an architectural intervention covering a large window with a semi- translucent resin with a skin-like texture. Housed within this window was a sound activated light. Participants affected the projections through a Kinect infrared sensor that translated the movement of viewers in the room to a white, time-slowed shadow added onto the projections. While the sculptures and interventions were viewer responsive, all the elements worked together as a whole to produce an interactive experience. The work influenced the behavior of the participants once they realized that they were effecting the visuals of the environment around them.