The Changing Room – Lauren Lee McCarthy

As a society, we’ve established a general comfort level with the presence of artificial intelligence in our lives and homes. We ask Alexa to call mom, dim the lights and preheat the oven; we accept the targeted ads that influence our shopping habits, and regularly indulge in social media scrolling that undoubtedly influences our mood, energy levels and feelings. But at what point do we draw the line, and where does that comfort level end? In addition to managing external tasks, what if AI could directly access and alter our internal emotions? And what if we could also utilize that technology to manipulate the emotional state of others?

“The Changing Room” also brings to the forefront the ways in which the global pandemic has caused us to re-evaluate how we inhabit space and engage with others, and how advancements in technology can mold those experiences – for better or for worse.  

This winter, Los Angeles-based artist Lauren Lee McCarthy raises these questions and more through her immersive installation, “The Changing Room,” at OCA Center. Imagining an environment of smart architecture that controls emotion, McCarthy arranges the entire gallery into various live-work type environments that are conducive to human interaction yet guided by digital presence. On the second level is an accessible control panel where visitors are invited to browse and select one of two hundred emotions, which is then evoked throughout the entire space – and ultimately in everyone within it – through a layered response of lights, sounds, and visuals. “I’m hoping it brings up the question of what’s at stake when we bring AI into public and private spaces, and the ways our emotional experiences are mediated by technology,” says McCarthy of the exhibit.

Photographer: Cam McLeod

More About the Artist:

Lauren Lee McCarthy (she/they) is an LA-based artist examining social relationships in the midst of surveillance, automation, and algorithmic living. She is the creator of p5.js, and Co-Director of the Processing Foundation. Lauren’s work has been exhibited internationally, at places such as The Barbican Centre, Ars Electronica, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Haus der elektronischen Künste, SIGGRAPH, Onassis Cultural Center, IDFA DocLab, Science Gallery Dublin, Seoul Museum of Art. She has received numerous honors including a Creative Capital Award, Ars Electronica Golden Nica, Sundance Fellowship, Eyebeam Fellowship, and grants from the Knight Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, Google, and Rhizome. Lauren is an Associate Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts.


Web Design and Development: Surplus+ (Melanie Hoff, Angeline Meitzler, Sam Panter, Dan Taeyoung); Design: Seenahm Suriyasat, Leming Zhong, Sharareh Samangani; Writing: Clara Leivas; Sound Design: Kawandeep Virdee; Technical Installation Lead: William Peterson; Additional Technical Installation: Harvey Moon / MB Labs; Curated by Venessa Castagnoli. A first prototype of this project was developed as part of the TRANSMIT³ Residency presented by Ars Electronica and Queensland University of Technology. Documentation videography: Dylan Totaro

Made possible by Weber County RAMP, Utah Office of Tourism, Utah Department of Arts and Museums through Create In Utah Funding and Cache Valley Bank