The Language of Things, an exhibition by U.S./ Mexico-based multimedia artist Roberto Romero-Molina, explores the complex relationship between our experience and how we represent it. This installation features multichannel sensors which draw from numerous samples of audio and visual material to create a dynamic sensory world within the exhibition space. Romero-Molina creates systems that connect pre-recorded sounds, like memories, to the present moment and spatial reality of his viewer. His loops of sonic and visual data mutate, grow, and generate serendipitous, unrepeatable moments that unfold in real time over days, weeks, and—with some of his works—years.
Romero-Molina’s work points to the fact that most things around us play out in some sort of cycle, at different scale and magnitudes. What are the effects produced by our participation in these cycles? Can we fully know them? How do language, narrative, and the creation of meaning impact how we locate ourselves within these cycles and navigate the ambiguity between causation and chance?
The artist takes up these questions in System #49, a video installation. In this work, he presents us with an eight channel video installation arranged in a circle. Upon entering the installation, we are confronted with various scenes. Though each viewer ostensibly sees the same material, different readings will arise based on which video channel a viewer initially latches on to. The subsequent path of their attention as it cycles between the screens draws us into an endless narrative, which serves as a metaphor for the diversity of individual experience even within a shared environment. However, despite the fact that the artist ordered the series of visual events, and pre-programmed the durations of activity and inactivity for each channel, all the possible variations in these cycles have never been played out in entirety.
The processes of these interactive systems—not simply the content they present but how they present it—provides us a microcosm of how we comprehend our experience of the world around us. The use of machines to teach us about deeply human phenomenon—such as language, interpretation, and meaning—brilliantly illuminates these activities of the mind that are so automatic, they pass through our awareness invisible. Perhaps most poignantly through his content’s intentional engagement of individual experience within a group setting, Romero-Molina’s work cultivates empathy and invites his viewer to contemplate the space between experience—collective and individual—communication, and meaning.