Interstices

Still

Adad Hannah

2002

Still

Synopsis

Constant interaction with technology has become embedded in the everyday.

By referencing Pavlovian theory in a technological setting, this project suggests that we are increasingly accepting the authority of pervasive technologies. These technologies however can have positive results, an aspect I will research further as I try to find applications for my work.

The piece initiates the use of feedback loops in my video works. It is an audience–responsive installation that focuses on the notion of stillness and explores the conscious and unconscious interaction of participants with other participants and with the screen.

The participants enter a darkened room and look around. They see nothing at first. Gradually, however, a dull glow emerges on one of the walls. As they move closer, the light source fades but if they stand still, it becomes brighter. Gradually the participants are conditioned to stop moving and, if they stand still enough, they see an image of themselves transfixed in the dark. Participants also observe each other’s behavior, and have to collectively agree to stand perfectly still in order to see the projected image of themselves. When a new viewer enters the room, people already in the installation must interact with the newcomers to indicate the rewards of standing still.

The interactive installation Still attempts to engage the participant in a game about motion and sight. In a counterintuitive way it rewards remaining motionless with the ability to see oneself. Like Narcissus watching his reflection in the water, if we move we will disappear. I wanted there to be a learned response – a simple one that could be passed on from one participant to the next.

Aesthetically I tried to keep it as simple as possible. All the sensors and cables and other hardware were tucked away as much as they could be. The participants see an opening into a room glowing from within. As they enter the space it instantly goes dark. Then out of this darkness they eventually figure out the interaction and then develop a conditioned response.

Documentation

Galerie photo

    ahstillphoto1ahstillplanen

Author

Recent projects include: a paper on art and technology at the Theoretical Meetings of the 7th Havana Biennale, in Cuba (published in the catalogue Encuentro de Teoría y Crítica) and The Sewing Room a solo exhibition at the Surrey Art Gallery.

One of his Stills (long-exposure videos) was included in the Laboratories exhibit at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Over the coming year he will be exhibiting work from this series ( and/or possibly the current digital project) in solo exhibitions in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal, as well as Mope//02 in Vasa, Finland and the 10th Biennial of Visual Arts in Pancevo, Yugoslavia.

Technical specifications

At the front of the space is a video projection that spans almost the entire wall from floor to ceiling. Just above the screen there is an infrared camera and an infrared array (invisible to the human eye). The camera sends a constant stream of NTSC video out to the computer. A Formac ProTV PCI video card gets the video into the computer. The video is then fed into SoftVNS (a set of objects that works with MAX/MSP) where it is desaturated and flipped horizontally. There are two GoFly infrared motion sensors that measure the amount of movement in the room and send a signal to a midi transmitter. The midi transmitter sends a midi signal (though a Midiman 1x1) to MAX that describes the amount of movement in the space. When the movement is above a certain threshold MAX tells SoftVNS to dim the image and it fades to black. When the threshold has not been met for a set period of time the image will slowly fade back up. The processed image is then sent out to the projector, giving participants an almost real-time mirror image of themselves standing still.

Assessment

Most users were able to experience Still, but some people who entered the space and did not stay motionless for long enough left the installation without seeing themselves. One of the technical difficulties was that when working from a live feed there was a short delay of about 100 milliseconds that was easily noticeable. Next time I would like there to be a faster and more accurate reaction (possibly attainable with more sensors) so that the participant is more aware of their affect on the video output.

One of the difficulties with art that relies on technology is that often you must invest in sensors, hardware, and software before you really know if they are the right tools for the job. I found this to be a bit of a problem, but as it worked pretty much as I had in mind I think it was a success. As there is a larger pool of equipment this problem will be minimized - access to equipment for testing will become more available.

The audience reaction seemed to take three trajectories. A few people walked in and walked out, not waiting (or perhaps not noticing) that their mirror image was fading up on the front wall. Perhaps some sort of instructions or other preparation for the visitors would have made it more clear what was going to happen. Having said that, I did enjoy the aspect of surprise and play that might have been diminished had there been more explicit instructions.

The second group of people figured out what was going on and after one or two cycles of fading down/fading up decided that they got it and that they could leave. The third group is those that figured it out and then decided to test it and play with it. They were interested in testing the parameters of all aspects of the installation; how small movements could the sensors detect? Where was the camera? What if they kept moving? These visitors tended to stay the longest and get the most out of the installation.

In the future I would consider making this a more immersive experience with video on all four walls and possible the ceiling and floor as well. If this were achieved I think it might make the participant even more aware of his or her own body as it controls the reaction of the installation.

Originally I had wanted to have it feel like a mirror with a crisp colour image. The final result with a grainy black-and-white image was an interesting surprise as it took the real-time image and gave it a look that many equated to an old movie - black and white with a bright spot in the center.

© Interstices : Groupe de recherche et de création en arts médiatiques, 2010
© Interstices : Media Arts Research-Creation Group in 2010