A Superlative Artist
Lucia Santaella

“Dianaest Domingues,” this is how artist Giselle Beiguelman refers to her colleague. Actually, everything about Diana Domingues is superlative: she’s a superlative professor and advisor, superlative researcher, and, above all, internationally recognized superlative artist. All over the world, there are no researchers or artists involved in the field of art and technology who do not know Diana Domingues and her work. The name of this award-winner artist who has been quoted in several foreign books honors not only her hometown, Caxias do Sul, but also our country.

Diana Domingues sets high standards for herself and others; she’s determined, hardworking, a force of nature, an untiring energy, and has an enviable fertile imaginary. And this precise untamed imaginary is what makes up the trademark of her art. It is an imaginary that does not drive off the difficult complexities that exist in state-of-the-art technologies and in advanced sciences; on the contrary, it benefits from them. These alliances result in an art that is connected with what is most hybrid and innovative in the field of contemporary artistic creation.

Since the early 1980s, the artist used the cardiac sound and its transcriptions in participatory environments through electronic stethoscopes, oscilloscopes, amplifiers, neon. In the late 1980s, when multimedia technologies became available to artists, Domingues created dreamlike atmospheres in installations that explored the volatile, evanescent, and metamorphic aspect of bodies and subjectivities. These pieces were the path to a more radical phase, which started in the mid-1990s, in the series of video installations TRANS-E: o corpo e as tecnologias [TRANS-E: the body and the technologies] and in the work In-Viscera, a multimedia installation comprised of five transparent screens on which electronically treated video laparoscopies were projected. The images, which consisted of a tour inside the viscera, had been recorded by a microcamera during a surgery.

It is almost impossible to keep up with Diana Domingues’ teeming and continuous production, which resembles a rushing river. Therefore, here, my only intention is to point out some of the landmarks of her career. From landscapes created by the sensitive perception of the inner body, which was auscultated by advanced technologies, the artist went on to work with the body connected to interfaces in sensorized environments and software controlled by neural networks inspired in our biological nervous system. In the year 2000, her piece My Body, My Blood presented an immersive system that had interfaces for proprioception and stereoscopic animations; it was awarded the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts, at the 7th Havana Biennial.

From networks, Domingues went beyond complexity, taking a leap to artificial life. The installation Terrarium-Viveiro explores parameters that create artificial snakes controlled by a system of genetic algorithms that is prepared to execute and process calculations to simulate the characteristics of organic environments. Another step forward was taken in HEARTscape, an immersive virtual environment that offers interactions with a simulated virtual heart. It is a place that simulates a cave to receive the participant’s body. The viewer is completely involved by the feeling that his or her body limits are being dissolved, fusing with the environment that pulsates and throbs.

A good example of the artist’s genius is the cyberinstallation L’Mito – Zapping mobile zone (2004–2006), an interactive system that involves virtual reality, data mining on the Internet, artificial intelligence, and genetic algorithms, whose interface is no less than a laser bar-code scanner, amplified projections, stereoscopic glasses, and touch screen. From this technoscientifically based aesthetic alchemy, Diana Domingues migrated to the social platform called Living Tattoos, a speculative software whose aim is to create a cyberplatform for a tattoo community based on a collaborative social network.

The endless list of works by Diana Domingues continues. A full descriptive and critic documentation of her body of work requires a book. In the meantime, let’s just note that today the artist, surrounded by scientists, is in an environment that corresponds to her irresistible attraction for an aesthetics that emerges in the heart of technoscience. In her research laboratory in the biomedical engineering program of the University of Brasília, she develops artistic projects in affective interfaces, wearable biocybrid systems, electromyography, data visualization, voice recognition, sound landscapes, and mobile augmented reality in mixed urban life.

Recently, through networks, I asked Diana Domingues to tell me about her recent interests and projects. Her answer was like a creative storm. She said that, in the environment she lives in “artists, engineers, biologists, geographers, philosophers, physicists, physicians, musicians, choreographers, mathematicians, computer scientists investigate the reengineering of life and the reengineering of senses, the reengineering of nature, the reengineering of conscience, and the reengineering of culture. Enactive interfaces for structural couplings in presences that are colocated in the physical space and in the data space lead to evasions in VR in CAVE. Plurisensorial and crossmodal interfaces, ubiquitous and mobile communication, locative, pervasive, and sentient interfaces, mapping and tracking in geolocativity, augmented and mixed reality, biological interfaces, computer vision, tagging and geotagging, signal processing, biomes, climate and biodiversity, laws and phenomena of the cosmos, synesthetic interfaces that redefine and provide supplement to the physiology of the body in biofeedback and bioengineering, remote communication and portability miniaturized circuits are creative solutions of the technological apparatus defying the ecosystem.”

What else would be necessary to prove the blazing transfigurations technoscience may undergo when in contact with the fertile imaginary of an artist?

Lucia Santaella is a communication sciences professor, with a habilitation degree (“Livre-Docência”) from the University of São Paulo’s School of Communications and Arts. Santaella is head of the graduate program in technologies of intelligence and digital design, director of CIMID[Research Center in Digital Media],and coordinator of the Centro de Estudos Peirceanos [Center for Peircean Studies], all of them at PUC-SP. She is an honorary president of the Latin American Federation of Semiotics, was president of the Charles S. Peirce Society (USA, 2007), and vice-president of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (1989 and 1999). She received the Jabuti (2002, 2009), the Sergio Motta (2005), and the Luiz Beltrão (2010) awards.