Jason Van Anden
The Smile Project is a vehicle for representing my understanding of human behavior and emotional responses. It combines all of the spheres of my experience into one being, Neil. He is empowered with the ability to "emote" through the use of physical gesture, sound and animated facial expressions. Neil represents four years of experimentation with artificial intelligence, hardware and papier-mâché.
My inspiration for creating this interactive artwork came from observing fellow members of my group therapy. The goal of our therapy is for each member of the group to try and comprehend how and why people behave as they do in order to impose logic and understanding on our own behavior and the behavior of others in the world. Fortuitously, about the same time I started therapy, I began to consider the unique potential of computer technology as a tool for expression. Initially, I explored this by creating two-dimensional video game like simulations that abstractly illustrated challenges I experienced or saw played out in the group. On a deeply personal level, I understand that the manner in which I work is a sublimation of a childhood compulsion of mine to understand (and control) my environment.
I hope the viewer experiences a new level of interaction when meeting Neil for the first time. I am personally curious to observe what will take place once this simulation is let loose to do what it will and I believe that the experience will have an enduring impact on its audience.
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