BACKSCATTER – interactive visuals, music, performance by Wetcircuit (Holly Daggers). Premiered at ReVISION by Forward Motion Theater at The Tank January 14th, 2011

“Backscatter technology is used by the TSA – a division of Homeland Security – to perform random full-body scans of airline passengers. The scanners create “ionizing radiation”, X-rays powerful enough to strip molecules in the body of their electrons. Charged particles launch from the skin back into the scanner, producing a ghostly nude image that is literally created from body matter.

Fourth Amendment rights are forfeit when passengers consent to the search.”

Artist statement:

My performance piece BACKSCATTER premiered in NYC on January 14th 2011. My first in which I have done 100% of the creative work: music, visuals, interactive camera technology, and the stage performance itself.

The piece is intended to provoke some thought about the TSA’s use of X-ray radiation to produce body scans of airline passengers. While most of the public outcry about the backscatter technology (at least in the media) focused on whether passengers’ privacy could be assured in a digital age, I found some of the health risks to be more alarming.

Unlike photography where photons bounce harmlessly off skin into a cameralens, “backscatter” refers to a process where you are bombarded with enough radiation that your skin blast off its own electrons – in effect you are zapped with enough juice that your body “glows” – briefly, long enough to be seen by the scanner’s sensors. This is how the bodyscanners can see under your clothing. Your skin will glow, your electrons pass through your clothes, and any concealed denser objects are revealed as shadow.

The technology behind the performance includes a camera-based interactive program that translates the body into a 3D field of grids and vertices. The program controls two video projectors, one projecting geometric patterns onto the body, the other showing the dynamic results. The audio is procedurally generated within structured parameters to generate a new soundtrack every performance.

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