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Habitgram

Beewoo

2004

Habitgram

Synopsis

Habitgram presents a “mirror structure” between the exhibition space, the viewers and participant and the projection of video images.

It is a surveillance coat that the visitor is invited to wear. Into it are inserted several wireless mini-cameras that pick up the immediate environment of the viewer/participant. These live images are multiplied through real-time video projections on the gallery walls, allowing experimentation with a new type of perspective. While wearing the Habitgram, the participant actually “wears” the space in which (s)he is standing.

Documentation

Galerie photo

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Author

After completing her DEUG in Japanese at iNALCO, Paris, Beewoo left France to study in Japan in 1991. Since then she has worked in photography and then video. In 1997 she obtained her bachelor’s degree in media arts at Multimedia Arts, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. She is currently a Master’s student in UQAM’s Arts Visuels et Médiatiques program.

She has shown her work in numerous exhibitions and real time video performances as part of collectives such as KIT and Battery Operated. Her work has been presented at electronic art festivals such as INVIDEO, Italy; Split 2001, Croatia; FCMM, Canada and in places like The Anchorage, New York City and Stubnitz Rostock, Germany. She is a founding member of the multimedia label C0C0SDC1T1, which publishes collaborative works between sound and video artists. She is based in Montreal.

Technical specifications

The Habitgram prototype has two mini-cameras inserted in the pink patches visible on the coat: one on top of the hood and one on the right knee. (In the longer term six cameras will be distributed unevenly over the coat). Each camera is linked to a transmitter, which requires a case holding eight AA batteries. The casings, batteries and transmitters are inserted in Velcro pockets sewn inside the coat at the back and at chest level. They are disposed in a way that makes them unnoticeable to the person wearing the Habitgram. The transmitters are quite light (about 50 g). Although the sixteen AA batteries seem heavy at first, the coat is comfortable when worn.

Each camera is wired to transmitters that send radio signals to one of two receivers. provided. For the prototype, two identical pairs of transmitter/receivers were used. This was possible because each one could be assigned to four different channels. But even with two pairs, the images received were sometimes blurred. The sources seemed to be captured simultaneously according to the coat’s position.

The two video sources (captured by the two cameras and transmitted to the receivers) were sent out to six video projectors dispersed in the gallery space. One receiver was connected to a video amplifier distributing the signal to three projectors. The other receiver was directly plugged into a video projector that was in turn plugged into another projector plugged into the third projector. The three projectors could be connected in this way to each other without signal loss because they each had a BNC IN and a BNC OUT socket.

  • 2 mini-cameras (PC181XP)
  • 2 battery cases and 32 rechargeable AA batteries
  • 2 transmitters (TM2 : 2.4GHZ transmit Module A/V)
  • 2 receivers (MVR2 : Extra Microwave Receive For MVL1)
  • www.supersircuit.com
  • Fabric and sewing material
  • 1 video amplifier
  • 6 video projectors
  • www.projectordesign.com

Assessment

The prototype’s production and public presentation were crucial steps in the evolution of a larger final project centered around Habitgram.

On a technical level, this prototype required using high-quality mini-cameras because the video signal looses a significant part of its initial definition when transmitted through Hertzian (radio) waves. Lighting was used for daytime and nighttime projections in order to make them seem translucent. The installation also requires six projectors that are as bright as possible.

Frequent signal losses which produce parasites in the video image could have been avoided by using more powerful transmitter/receivers, but this option was not chosen because these heavier and bigger transmitters would have been more difficult to integrate into the coat. The use of smaller transmitter / receivers also suited the aesthetics of the project.

The skills of a professional dressmaker were needed for the production of the coat’s pattern and for the conception of the pockets holding the mini-cameras and electronic accessories. During the DARE-DARE presentation, we were able to observe the endurance of the two wireless devices over a long period of time. This also allowed us to adjust the coat’s design for the insertion of up to six cameras in its future versions. Increasing the number of wireless devices will require further research on Hertzian transmission options in order to find the right combination of transmitters and prevent incompatible frequencies.

As far as the artwork’s interactivity and integration with the space is concerned, observing the participant’s reactions and conversing with them was quite an enriching experience. The cameras were positioned so as to rotate the captured images, either vertically, horizontally or at a 90° angle. Some participants tried to restore the images to their original position but, at the same time, they were somewhat choreographed by the Habitgram which influenced their movements in space. Many of them reported experiencing sensations of vertigo while wearing it. I had anticipated this phenomenon but not the extent to which it occurred and I felt it was positive.. I think this phenomenon can be attributed to the correlation and simultaneity between the participant’s body motions and the movements in the video image. This feeling, that can be compared to being seasick. is an interesting metaphor for the immersive device at the center of which stands the viewer wearing the Habitgram. The user in command of this mediated image flow finds himself submerged in it in a discomforting way. Would the media image be so untamable? Drowning in this immersive environment, the viewer constantly attempts to understand its structure and source. Meanwhile, (s)he discovers new ways of exploring the physical architectural space in relation to its multiplied video mirror. Here, being immersed does not prevent the viewer from taking a critical distance towards the artwork. On the contrary, it is the immersion itself that triggers critical observation.

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