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The 2015 Disney film Inside Out saw its CGI-animated personifications convincingly portray human emotions, begging the question—can technology portray these emotions better than we humans can? Pascual Sisto’s show of the same name offers some insight into this question by exploring the uncanny valley between us and our digital avatars through an orchestration of synchronized LED lights, audio, and a 4-channel video. Collectively, these elements produce an intensely hypnotic drama stage-directed by an algorithm that shuffles seven different audio-visual sequences at every viewing. In the absence of any real human characters, the portrayals of catharsis are at once disturbing and heartfelt—a signature effect in Sisto’s work.
Amidst the chaos, a voice synthesizer (think Siri) recites a Richard Brautigan poem, whose robotic tone is offset by a dreamy computer rendition of a Beethoven Sonata. The sequence is taken from an earlier video work, All Watched Over By Machines of Love and Grace (2013), which serves as the first installment in a video trilogy, followed by Daisy (2016) and ending with Inside Out (2018). All of these works explore the effects of synthetic human emotion with the same theatrical vocabulary of The Phantom of the Opera.
Far from the sleek visions of a techno-utopia, the final piece in Sisto’s high-tech triptych offers a warning from the past as the classical masks of comedy and tragedy appear in digital forms. At one point, an animated eyeless face attempts to betray us: “I am eye” assures the accompanying text. But the projected results of a magic 8 ball later read: “Don’t count on it.” Technology, for Sisto, is too couched in a mystique of suspicion to take on the burden of emotional surrogacy. By immersing viewers in an automated sensory assault, he creates an increasingly disturbing vision of a world where our reliance on our devices for intimacy and sentimentalism has gotten out of our control to the point of no return.
Pascual Sisto: Inside Out runs from January 27–March 17, 2018 at 5 Car Garage (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for address and/or more information).