Sean Clark – Memory Mirror

My work explores the concepts of flow, connectedness and emergence. I’m interested in how simple processes can build complex structures and the nature of the relationships between a whole and its parts. I take inspiration from a field of study known as ‘systems theory’ but I hope that my artwork is straightforward enough to make sense of without detailed knowledge of any background theories or complex concepts.

I work mostly with digital technologies such as video screens, digital cameras and computers. This is because these technologies enables me to create the artworks I want to create, rather than because I want to say anything particular about the technology itself. Digital technology allows me to make artworks that can respond immediately to their environment so, for example, I can create images that change when someone looks at them. Or I can create soundtracks that respond to the presence of people in room; or I can simply make pieces that evolve over time in response to the subtle day-to-day changes in a gallery space.

My creative practice has lead me to conclude that if there is anything special about digital art then it is its capacity to enable the creation of interactive artwork. That’s not to say all digital art has to be interactive to be meaningful, just that interactivity is a key – and consistent – affordance of this developing medium, and should be acknowledged as such. I am currently focussing my research on generating a better understanding what it means for an artwork to be interactive, and how interactivity can be used in creative ways.

The piece on display here, Memory Mirror, is part of a set of interactive artworks I call ‘active mirrors’. Active mirrors use video cameras and screens to create a simple feedback loop where the viewer sees themselves on the screen and when they move their image moves, as if looking at a mirror. However, unlike a normal mirror, what gets reflected back depends on the rules contained within the system and the history of previous interactions. I can, for example, create active mirrors that favour particular colours or shapes, or only respond if the viewer is moving, or still.

The Memory Mirrorartwork (or ‘interactive art system’, as I would call it) behaves differently depending on whether it senses movement or not. If there is movement then it displays what it sees on the screen and remembers it. If there is not then it instead shows what it has seen in the past. When installed, the artworks starts as a blank screen. It then creates itself based on the interactions that take place. If it is not interacted with then the artwork will not develop and screen will remain blank. Any two installations will be different, yet the general form they create will be the same.

Within the artwork are processes that might remind you of the growth of plants, the flow of a river, or the man-made systems around us. This is where my interest in systems theory comes in, but I’ll save a discussion of this for my talk on the 15th July. For now, I’ll leave it for you to explore.

From the 22nd August until 28th October 2011 I will be exhibiting other artworks in this series at the new Interact Gallery, at Fabrika on Humberstone Gate in Leicester. During this exhibition there will also be more opportunities to find out more about how the artworks are constructed and how systems theory inspires my work. Contact me via email at for more information.

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