Dust 2009

Paul DeMarinis
Likeness: October 10, 2009 – March 21, 2010
computer, video projection, photoluminescent powder, sound

Paul DeMarinis has been working in the arts for several decades and subsequently has produced numerous performance works sound and computer installations as well...


Paul DeMarinis has been working in the arts for several decades and subsequently has produced numerous performance works, sound and computer installations, as well as interactive electronic inventions. DeMarinis’s subtle and magical works display an intersection of tradition and progress, often motivated to cover an expanse of subjects and themes.

Today we hear the term multidisciplinary! It is indeed an accurate one to describe Paul DeMarinis. Although the majority of his productions fall within the realm of art, he is also a historian, an experimenter, a chemist, a physicist, an engineer, a programmer, an inventor, a computer scientist and an archaeologist. His cross-disciplinary approach affords him an aptitude to condense the many facets of technology into his art constructions that aspire to be concurrently comprehensible and philosophical.

DeMarinis’ art frequently tackles obscure associations among physics, aesthetics and social history of the media. His pieces are multi-dimensional and can be viewed as work that simultaneously straddles critical conceptual reflection and the humorous. His artwork address points of contact between technology and culture, and evince the underlying contradictions of precise science and superstition, acknowledging that technology’s usefulness and wickedness are profoundly linked. Throughout much of his practice one finds interplay between new and obsolete technology since he recognizes the importance of understanding the past and how it influences the here and now and as well as the future. It is this realistic perspective about technology that prompts him to probe and explore new relationships between science and art.

In 1987 he started collecting imagery of missing children. DeMarinis explains, “I don’t know whether it is just a local phenomenon, but in San Francisco one receives in the mail advertisements featuring local automobile brake and clutch repair joints on one side, and on the other, usually a pair of images, of a child who has gone missing. What is presented is a picture of the child at the time of disappearance on the left, and an image on the right either an age-progression by an artist of what the child might look like now (often decades later) or a picture of the abductor, most frequently one of the child’s parents. Sometimes there is no picture on the right – probably the most worrisome! I was immediately struck by the likeness between the two images – the child and the progressed child, or the child and the parent. The project would have been kinetic, media-archaeological, probably inspired by Christian Boltanski’s work from that period. Suffice it to say, some inner editor nixed the realization of that one.”

In his new work, Dust, DeMarinis explores facial similarities, pairs of faces, and the abstraction of images into the dust. DeMarinis presents a fragment of this collection of likeness-pairs, scanned sequentially into the light-memory of phosphorescent powder. After a few minutes of exposure to the projected image, the powder retains a faint green image of the two faces on its surface, something akin to the ‘latent image’ of photographic film or the veil of memory. Unlike photographic film, though, the image starts to distort. Propelled by low frequency sound vibrations, the powder starts to flow and dance, first distorting the faces and erasing their likeness, then distorting them into patterns of abstract light in motion, with form and beauty all its own.


Curated by Elaine A. King

About the Artist

Paul DeMarinis has been working as an electronic media artist since 1971 and has created numerous performance works, sound and computer installations and interactive electronic inventions. One of the first artists to use computers in performance, he has performed internationally, at The Kitchen, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Het Apollohuis in Holland and at Ars Electronica in Linz and created music for Merce Cunningham Dance Co. His interactive audio artworks have been exhibited at the I.C.C. in Tokyo, Bravin Post Lee Gallery in New York, The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and the 2006 Shanghai Biennale. He has received major awards and fellowships in both Visual Arts and Music from The National Endowment for the Arts, N.Y.F.A., N.Y.S.C.A., the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and was awarded the Golden Nica for Interactive Art at Ars Electronica in 2006. Much of his recent work deals with the areas of overlap between human communication and technology. Major installations include “The Edison Effect” which uses optics and computers to make new sounds by scanning ancient phonograph records with lasers, “Gray Matter” which uses the interaction of flesh and electricity to make music, “The Messenger” that examines the myths of electricity in communication and recent works such as “RainDance” and “Firebirds” that use fire and water to create the sounds of music and language. Public artworks include large scale interactive installations at Park Tower Hall in Tokyo, at the Olympics in Atlanta and at Expo in Lisbon and an interactive audio environment at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at The Exploratorium and at Xerox PARC and is currently a Professor of Art at Stanford University in California.