Phantom Limb is a multimedia installation and Internet art project, exploring issues of memory and loss by investigating the embodiment of community and collective memory in virtual networks and self-regulating systems. The project consists of three physical installations to be mounted simultaneously in different venues, along with an integrative Internet backbone, which uses the web to activate and link all the works together. The title is meant to convey the tangible sensory override inherent in remembering that which is lost, when such a missing element is perceived as a virtual part of one's own body.
For example, Centripetal, one of the three installations, is a video clock. The movements of circles of light are generated in cross-referencing the recalled memories of lost loved ones, representing the temporality of their existence in the networked database.
Two circles of light are projected on the floor moving clockwise at different rates. The larger circle, moving at the rate of a minute hand, contains scrolling first names, continuously updated by the database.
The smaller circle, moving at the rate of a second hand, contains an empty circle of light. When approached by a participant, the circle projects video images of a survivor- speaking with their eyes closed, remembering the details of their loved one's face.
Each installation takes as a starting point the victims and survivors of some of the great contemporary afflictions of our society: violence, AIDS, and also specifically the events of September 11th 2001. The works investigate effects of loss in producing emotions, memories, and self-consciousness in people living with the immediate effects of these individual tragedies, in the loved ones of those who have died, and in the concerned community at large.
The central component of the project will be an on-line database, to be accessed from the Phantomlimb.net web site. The database will contain the names, dates of birth, times of death, and memories of lost loved ones, which will be continuously updated with new records by families and other survivors. The database becomes activated in the querying and deployment of its records, which are accessed through specific haptic gestural interfaces, as manifested in the associated physical installations. For survivors, access to the memories of those lost can be unreliable, painfully suturing the present to the uncertain temporality of memory. Gestures of recall are important, their inconsistencies forming a patterned collage that contributes to the new sublimated identity of the deceased.