Saturday, September 19, 2009

how the other half lives

Two snapshots of dogs in Southern social history courtesy of my hometown public library's North Carolina Collection:

Industrialist and early Duke University trustee Julian S. Carr with goat cart, children, dog, and African American servants in fore- and background (ca 1920's, likely at Carr family's Occoneechee Farm)

Five African American women and girls - and photo-crashing dog - in Brookstown area of Durham (ca. 1940)

See full citations here and here; information about Occoneechee Farm and Brookstown courtesy of the superb local history/geography blog Endangered Durham.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ghost dog

Sniff from karolina sobecka on Vimeo.

Sobecka calls Sniff an "interactive public projection."  In her artist's statement, she asks the viewer/reader to imagine an urban interspecies encounter:

As you walk down the street you are approached by a dog. He cautiously and curiously sniffs you as he gets closer. He is on his guard trying to discern your intentions. He will follow you as you walk on and interpret your gestures as friendly or aggressive. He will try to engage you and get you to pay attention to him... As the viewer walks by the projection, her movements are tracked by a custom computer vision system. A CG dog comes up in the projection and sniffs her, following her as she moves in front of the display.

What's being narrated here is a multisensory meet-and-greet between two free-roaming agents - something which is happening less and less, I think, in our leash-lawed, obedience-trained streetscapes. Indeed, as the piece is actually staged, Sniff is not loose on the sidewalk but trapped behind a window. Despite his name, he can follow you but never actually sniff you. The "interaction" here ends up being decidedly one-sided: with Sniff always pacing, jumping, reacting, beseeching.

When I posted this on facebook my friend Paul commented: "shelter dog behavior." In his perceptive reading, Sniff is a projection not so much of dog-human social reciprocity as its opposite.