Installation - Wood, acrylic, aluminum, fibre optics, custom electronics, 2016

Collaborative tech art installation by Melissa Johns, Zeffrey Carter-Allan, Vishal Krishna, and Timothy Walker.

Given the subjective nature of personal experience, everyone exists as the center of their own universe.

Solus is an interactive installation which plays with and revels in contradiction: space versus confinement, isolation versus community, and reality versus illusion. A deceptive work, it employs mirrors to simultaneously interrupt the environment it occupies and create the illusion of an expansive interior space.

In order to interact with Solus viewers must endure a dysmorphic experience either by interacting with fragmented reflections of themselves on the exterior, or contorting their bodies to access the inner chamber where they become unable to spatially reorient themselves. Solus is a manufactured environment which inspires the viewer, finding themselves isolated in a seemingly impossible landscape, to engage in meditative pause. Aesthetically referencing deep space to engender sensations of awe and wonder, the immersive installation places the viewer in the center of an apparent microcosm; a nod to philosophical branches of thought which espouse the agency of the individual as singularly important.

Solipsism, a theory asserting that the only thing that can be known to exist is the self, has taken on a more colloquial reading as a descriptor of ego-driven self-centeredness. While the fabricated stage of Solus appears to facilitate this line of reasoning, the interactive element of the work delicately subverts it: external feedback from viewers outside the structure determines the intensity of the interior starscape. Though one may feel as if they’re the center of everything, their experiences, perspectives, and actions are heavily informed by others. Philosopher Hegel asserts the natural solipsism of the self must be sublimated to facilitate enduring relationships:

“Believing at first that it has no need of the other, the self makes the discovery that it needs and depends on the very other that it originally deemed “unessential”. This is more than a “decentering” of the subject. It is an inversion of the original standpoint that transforms the subject into a potential intersubjective ethical partner” (Williams, 1998. P. 52).

Solus supplies the stage for Hegel’s “recognition” process, but leaves revelation up to the individual. In this way, it aims to reconcile recurrent self-interest with the sheer vastness of the universe and the impact of others within it.

Works Cited

Williams, Robert R.. Hegel’s Ethics of Recognition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Print. P. 52.