Installations > Confabulator

Confabulator was a collaborative installation by Joyce Yamada and Joanne Ungar at the PS 122 Gallery in the Lower East Side, NYC. Joanne provided the video for "Heaven" and the failed amber-colored art piece in "Earth". Joyce provided the sculptural and structural work. Both worked onsite during installation and wrote the artists' statement.

Our videographer and photographer was Fred Hatt. The video is essential to the piece and is well seen on Vimeo:

CONFABULATOR A Collaborative Installation
Artists Statement
By Joyce Yamada and Joanne Ungar

Confabulator is inspired both by Heaven-Hell-Earth mythologies and by recent neuroscientific insights into the brain.

Unlike other animals, humans have giant frontal lobes and convoluted brain cortices. One function of our big brains is to strongly filter all incoming sensory data. This is how we cope with the potentially confusing mass of available information--by very literally not seeing, hearing, or smelling the vast majority of the world. This filtering is not something we consciously control; without it we would probably be overwhelmed by sensory overload. So our brains have a huge EDITOR function limiting the information that reaches our consciousness. Evolutionarily speaking, this has had great survival value, but there is a price to pay in terms of impoverishment of experience. Potentially even worse, there is an INTERPRETER residing in our left hemisphere that compulsively makes up stories to explain what information the Editor has allowed into our consciousness.

Our Interpreter is an endlessly clever storyteller, totally unconcerned about verifiable fact. Our Interpreter strongly seeks patterns in events, seeks explanations and reasons, not believing that much of what happens in life is totally random. Our Interpreter often confabulates.

Confabulator is a playful meditation about our limited understanding of how the world actually works. We tell ourselves "stories", thanks to our interpreter, about things like heaven and hell, and the infinite endurance and plentitude of our planet. Through our interpreter, we make up what we need in order to feel better about our lives, to feel more secure in our worldly existences, and certainly to feel more secure in our afterlives. Hence our beliefs in heaven and hell.

On the middle level of Confabulator is an unstable art work made of raw damar resin, slowly oozing into an amber pool, like living sap from long extinct trees. Scattered amongst the earthly landscape are shards of digital information, amber objects of historical preservation and timeless plant-life. The mythologies of the past are still very much alive in our present world, as evidenced by the hard working dung-beetles, actively keeping this particular artist-confabulated world in order.

Confabulator's "underworld" is comprised of intestinal landscape guts and the mysterious machinery we assume is necessary to keep the earth functional. Confabulator's "heaven" is a video montage built to soothe us in a tongue-in-cheek way -- a play on the rewards and imagery of god's heaven.

Confabulator suggests that both art and science are really seeking the same thing—a better, more compelling, more amusing story about ourselves and our world. Sometimes we create new paradigms for survival in an ever-changing world. And sometimes, misguided by our ever zealous Editors and Interpreters, we just confabulate.

February, 2009
Joyce Yamada
Joanne Ungar