Chris Somerville: Thesis Paper Outline

Thesis Paper Outline

Inspiration & Historical Precedence:

Psychological Context:

  • Carl Jung (pioneer in psycho-analytical development of humans) coined the phrase ego and the id.

  • The ego is the development of the self-realization component of our psyche and our projected self-image; The Id is the inner-self.

  • An unbalance of the ego and id, according to Jung, can lead to many social and psychological disorders. A common one termed by Jung was the ‘mid-life crisis.’

  • “According to Jung, the individuation process involves the separation of the ego from the self and the eventual return or reunion of the ego and the self in later life. In the first stage of development, the ego and the self are one. The child below the age of two cannot usually distinguish between self and other. In psychiatric terminology, this is referred to as a stage of inflation, but symbolically it represents an original wholeness in which all is unconsciousness. In literature, this original age of mankind is characterized by the legend of the Golden Age or by the story of the Garden of Eden before the apple of consciousness was eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. At this stage, Jung argues, the self is experienced as a deity.”[1]

  • The ego and id balance is crucial for informed and balanced decision making. The ego will make decisions based on itself, while the id will construct decisions based on how it will affect others. A continued imbalance of ego and id, according to Jung, will lead to a social developmental imbalance and possible anti-social behavior. This is especially true if the ego is the psychological component of the psyche in charge.

  • Many researchers into the mental health of excessive social-media users have warned of the dangers of the user’s virtual social universe being ‘ego’ driven.

  • An ego-driven psyche, as claimed by researchers, will make decisions for their own personal gain and not consider the impact of their decisions on others.[2]

[1] Robert N. St. Clair, “Visual Metaphor, Cultural Knowledge, and the New Rhetoric,”95

[2] Valkenburg, P. M., Peter, J. & Schouten, A. P. Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents’ well-being and social self-esteem. Cyberpsychology and Behavior 9, 584–590. (2006).


Interactive Digital Sculpture (historic examples):

  • My early career began as an installation artist and I was later drawn to digital pieces and furthered my education with a post-grad diploma in digital animation. Nancy Patterson (shown below) was an artist I knew personally and encouraged me to get the post-grad diploma.

  • My installation work dealt with the relationship of the audience with the gallery space and the piece itself. It naturally became interactive. I will translate this theme in my thesis work. The relationship now has evolved between the viewer and their interactivity with social media via their digital devices. Scott Snibbe's work and quote below is a great example of the connection between personal space, social-media, and how it influences our daily social interaction decisions and reflects our social behaviour.

  • "We think of personal space as something that belongs entirely to ourselves. However, Boundary Functions shows us that personal space exists only in relation to others and changes without our control." Scott Sonna Snibbe

Fig 1, Boundary Functions, Scott Sonna Snibbe, 1998

  • The title, Boundary Functions, refers to Theodore Kaczynski's 1967 University of Michigan PhD thesis. Better known as the Unabomber, Kaczynski is a pathological example of the conflict between the individual and society: engaging with an imperfect world versus an individual solitude uncompromised by the presence of others. The thesis itself is an example of the implicit antisocial quality of some scientific discourse, mired in language and symbols that are impenetrable to the vast majority of society. In this installation, a mathematical abstraction is made instantly knowable by dynamic visual representation.”[1]

  • Nancy Patterson:


  • “A blue taffeta and black velvet party dress is displayed on a dressmaker's mannequin or 'Judy,' located next to a computer and several monitors of varying sizes. In large type, the stock ticker symbol and price which is being tracked, marches from right to left across the monitor screens as the stock price is continuously updated. Large white numbers and letters on a blue background (matching the blue of the taffeta skirt) scroll in simulation of the pixel board displays used to track stock values on traditional exchange room floor.

  • PERL scripts (running under Linux) extract and analyze stock prices from online stock market quote pages on the internet. These values are sent to a program which determines whether to raise or lower the hemline via a stepper motor and a system of cables, weights and pulleys attached to the underside of the skirt. When the stock price rises, the hemline is raised; when the stock price falls, the hemline is lowered.”[2]

  • Murray Favro:

    Favro was a Canadian installation artist concerned with Media and how it affects our views on our surroundings. His work, Synthetic Lake, 1972 (Figure 7) was an early representation of mixed media. This work was a large mechanized piece (8’ x 12’) that had a large canvas draped on top. The mechanics of the piece rolled the canvas back and forth like waves along the shore of a lake. A video of lake waves was projected onto the canvas. It would take another essay to go into further detail on any of these artists works, but Favro’s, Synthetic Lake dealt with the sensory bombardment of media and the projected image (television) and how it actually isolated the audience from reality. It’s a synthetic lake, not a real one.

  • General Idea:

  • My interest in General Idea and installation art works carried over into my Post-Secondary studies. In my senior years I focused on sculpture.  During the early nineties the Art Community, in Canada, had continued the tradition of installation work and my Professor was an advocate of this movement. I spent several hours researching and attending exhibits in order to learn as much as possible.

  • What struck me the most about conceptual installation work was the attempt by artists to investigate or interpret how the emerging influx of various media and the emergence of the internet affected society’s view of what was the reality being reported? What was true and what was fantasy? In the new MTV generation of media bombardment, the first Gulf War, and OJ Simpson, how do we as a society dissect the facts or how do we interpret the truth, and how do we interpret our own reality? What is our relationship as human beings to our environment?

  • This concept of man verse environment has been a prevalent theme in Canadian Art for centuries. The environment now, however, was rapidly changing and survival in the wilderness was no longer our concern, it was survival against media bombardment.[3]