- ISSN 2039-800X
Trimestrale online di cultura cinematografica
Diretto e fondato da Luigi Abiusi
anno VII | UZAK 27 | estate 2017

Jesse McLean: See A Dog, Hear A Dog

Nicola Tirabasso

altJesse McLean is a media artist and educator whose research is motivated by a deep curiosity about human behaviour and relationships, especially as presented and observed through mediated images. Interested both in the power and the failure of the mediated experience to bring us together, McLean's work asks the viewer to walk the line between voyeur and participant.

Taking its title from a sound design maxim and using it as a conceit to grasp the desire for connection, See A Dog, Hear A Dog probes the limits and possibilities of communication. In this liminal cinematic space, the fear of conscious machines is matched with a desire to connect with nonhuman entities. Algorithms collaborate and improvise. Dogs obey/disobey human commands, displaying their own artistry and agency in the process. Technology, from domesticated animals to algorithmic music to chat rooms, reflects human desires but has its own inventiveness. Can we ever truly communicate with a machine, with a nonhuman animal, with each other? Our anthropomorphic tendencies, our fear of replacement by nonhuman forms, even our interpersonal
limitations, can’t foreclose the possibility of connection and understanding, a great unknown sometimes called trust.

I first encountered Jesse’s work last year through the screening program that I’ve hosted in Macao for Nocturnal Reflections curated by the Bay Area filmmaker Zacary Epcar. The film in the program was Remote (2011) and there was something about it that suddenly surprise me with an extraordinary sensitivity that wouldn’t leave my mind despite the others were also great works. Since that I’ve started to be deeply fascinated with her approach on films, in relationship to pop culture and mass media ambivalence.

We decided to “meet” on a Skype call and talk about her approaches, humans, animals and technologies inside her artwork See A Dog, Hear A Dog.
JM. Milwaukee, USA - 10:15 AM / NT. Milan, ITA - 5:15 PM

What’s for you the limits of human communication and our connection between non human entities?

Jesse McLean: All of my work is interested in human relationship with objects and media or emotional charge relationship that fill up with nonhuman, like media objects or a film or remediating the experience, like possession, like in the past, working with this emotional connection that can provide relationship to our understanding into these fields like a connections, but this work is a little bit more focused on computers: it’s more specific, and so that’s the part were the piece begin. That’s kind true and kind of not true, so I was thinking about people relationships to digital technologies and those kind of relationships are because we use them, we’re surrounded by all kinds of quote on quote by artificial intelligence or we’re deeply afraid, resented and dubious. We have a lot of skepticism about what it was done for our lives and now the new position on that in terms of “computers are great, computers are terrible” I think its just interesting to prove this area of vulnerability.

And in terms of communication?

In terms of communication this piece started also because of the title of the film, which is a sound design term: “what we see is what we hear”, you know the same fracture that helps me to to use dogs and think about the relationship that people have not only with computer or media objects, but also with another kind of being that are very sensitive with animals or dog, because people really do feel to have a connection, and maybe they do, It’s just that we can only ever understand them on our terms and we begin to morphosize animals, machines, anything inhuman, because we want to believe that we are communicating. It’s just a limit, there’s always a limit and even with creatures with the same species.

How much the anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism conceptions are relevant conceptions in your work? And also how can this behaviour reflects to our society?

I think we rule the world absolutely, and I think a lot of things like animals dogs are domesticated, I think its pretty complicated cause a lot of things that we want and we rule about, to have a feedback, we invented them, we made them and that’s also something about people relationship to a lot of artificial intelligent, and they’re all the things that we made to make our lives easier and we have fear of lost control of it, but we did it to celebrate our selves.

And also the egocentrism embodied on that, right?

Yes, I think there’s a real egocentrism into the whole thing, sometimes we can really believe so strongly that we know what’s best for something that is not us, we can see in the way we retreat the environment and other non human creatures or land, but in the vision for what is just best for us.

Speciale Crossroads 2017

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