The Making & Meaning of Renée Rhodes’ Muscle Maps for Virtual Travels

Our CCA Community Student Fellow, Bianca Sandiko, caught up with exhibiting artist Renée Rhodes to ask her a few questions about her fascinating video piece for Get Lucky: The Culture of Chance. “Muscle Maps for Virtual Travels” is  displayed in exhibition space as a one-channel video projection focused on a board at floor level. Get Lucky is open for viewing this week  Tues.–Thurs.,12-7pm, and closes  Thursday, January 26, 6–9pm with a reception & discussion panel.

How did John Cage’s legacy of chance operations influence this work?
With this specific piece, I was mapping my travels over the Internet for the course of a week and translating that into choreography. John Cage and Merce Cunningham and their chance operations definitely factored into the sort of language that I use. And I’d like to think of [my process] more like systems more so than chance operations because the system that I’ve created is very specific.

It’s a matter of translating movement through a virtual place into movement in a physical place, and there are different choreographic phrases that correspond to different topics of moving through data. A lot of the repetition has to do with mapping how long maybe I spent looking for information – looking for a specific type of information. It’s kind of split into topics and choreographed from there.

When you were creating this system did you end up finding things that surprised you or encounter any “lucky mistakes”?
Definitely. First there was the challenge of embodying information that I moved through, or embodying that movement that is usually done by a click of finger. So that process of physically embodying virtual movement was exhausting. It was really interesting to at the end of that feel a different relationship to the way that I move through a virtual space because now I have like a physical memory of it too, that’s attached.

Did you set a certain time during each day throughout the period of a week?
No, that is definitely another thing that was not controlled at all.

So I was going back and looking through browser history – a week later. Trying my hardest not influence myself to search for certain things [again] and trying to keep myself removed a bit. Then I organized it into some sort of structure and form that could be used to create a choreography form.

Is the structure and form hard to organize? I know when you go to one source there is always another link to another source, and all those connections build and build and they kind of get tangled up.
Totally. Yeah, exactly. I was reading a lot at the time about visualizers and visualizations, especially of the Internet. And making very visual maps that some how sort of organize how nebulous that space is – so I just focused on methods for simplicity, trying to keep it really minimal, and not showing necessarily all the webs of interactions but what’s important.