Interstices
HomeProjects — Rest Area

Rest Area

Jean-Maxime Dufresne

2004

Rest Area

Synopsis

The interactive audio-video installation Rest Area explores the tension between the psychic connection to a site and the generic and anonymous nature of the urban environment.

A tent, an intimate dwelling place of multiple moorings, becomes a pretext for sampling rituals, peripheral outings and prolonged experiences in the city’s peripheral zones.

The installation is built around a tent set up in a gallery. A video projection outside the tent shows a series of images of the tent set up in various urban locations. These images provide a multiplicity of points of view recorded where the tent was set up: the process of setting it up and taking it down, incidents around it, aspects of the site, etc. The video sequences unfold and are superimposed on each other in a fluctuating manner, conferring a sense of ubiquity on the tent. Two loudspeakers set up in the rest area between the tent and the video screen play the video’s soundtrack; the video intermittently goes black, setting off the noises produced when the tent is installed in an anonymous space. When the visitor slips into the tent, he or she finds an audio headset and is invited to put it on and stretch out on a mattress on the ground. With his head resting on a cushion, he discovers hanging over him a screen showing video sequences of the various states of rest and agitation of someone occupying the same space. From this point of view, he also simultaneously perceives through the opening of the tent the outside video projection. The tent thus becomes an intimate alveolus in which the visitor can experience sound environments created out of recordings made with a binaural microphone. These sound environments create a keen sense of immersion: the rustling of the tent against the floor, breathing, human presences gravitating around the tent, the distant murmur of city traffic, etc.

Documentation

Photo gallery

    jmdrestareainteractjmdrestareaseqvideojmdrestareaplanjmdrestareavueinterjmdrestareavueproject

Author

Jean-Maxime Dufresne has a degree in architecture and is currently completing postgraduate studies in the interactive multimedia program at UQÀM. His research delves primarily into issues regarding urban territories, psychogeography and technological mediation. These preoccupations have recently led him to present Rest Area (Interstices / Algorythmes / UPH 10) as an interactive installation, performance and video work, along with collaborative works Surfaces de réparation (AXENEO7) and Hot Spots (Dis/location / Dare-Dare). He is a member of SYN-, an urban exploration workshop responsible for a series of interventions addressing potential uses and investigations of space in the city, such as Hypothèses d’insertions (AXENÉO7, MobLab-IBA Rotterdam) and Prospectus (CCA Extramuros, 4e Biennale de Montréal). He is also involved in the organization of the Périphériques events that deal with displacement and renewed contexts for experimentation, by engaging the public with the use of technologies in particular settings. For the past three years, he has presented his work in various electronic art venues such as Mutek / Le Placard and Si :Alors :Sinon :Art and Interactivity at Daïmon center. He will be exhibiting at Optica center in 2006.

Technical specifications

The video projected outside the tent is controlled on an initial computer with a sequence generator programmed using Max/MSP/Jitter. This generator creates random combinations of events on the site by drawing on a selection of some 50 Quicktime videos with a resolution of 720 x 480 pixels.

Inside the tent, an iSight camera connected with Firewire constantly records visitors’ head movements. These signals are transmitted to a Jitter movement analysis system installed on a second computer. The movements recorded are conveyed by disturbances in the video being projected on the TFT screen, creating a pulsing effect in the image by heightening the variations in the mixing of the two images. The brusquer the visitor’s movements, the more agitated the sequences become. These fluctuations also affect the sound track heard in the headset: a residual noise is created by a filter which affects the sampling rate, generating a kind of nervous sound pulse when the head is moved.

  • Tent
  • 12 yellow Evatoze mattresses placed on the floor outside the tent
  • 2 acoustic enclosures set up on the yellow surface
  • Audio amplifier
  • Video projector
  • Blue mattress placed on the floor inside the tent
  • 4 portable camping lamps with a magnetic attachment system
  • 8 to 12 rechargeable AA batteries
  • Apple iSight (Firewire) camera (www.apple.com/isight)
  • 10-metre Firewire cable
  • Pair of headphones with a 1/4” jack
  • 7 1/2” TFT LCD screen with a VGA connection (800 x 600 resolution)*
  • Apple Power Mac G5 with a 10.3 OSX system equipped with MAX4.5/MSP2/Jitter
  • Apple Power Mac G4 with a 10.3 OSX system equipped with MAX4.5/MSP2/Jitter
  • www.cycling74.com
  • MOTU 828 MK2 audio interface www.motu.com

*TFT = thin film transistor technology; LCD = liquid crystal display
*An OKM binaural microphone was used for the urban sound recordings. A binaural microphone is made up of small omni-directional capsules placed at ear level. They make it possible to record a sound environment which, upon playback, will be spatially accurate.
www.okmmicrophones.com
North American distributor: www.independentaudio.com

Assessment

The installation makes it possible to examine the transformation of peripheral areas which are often subjected to varied uses: there one finds public parks, cemeteries, shopping centres, housing developments, industrial areas, etc. Rest Area enquires into our relationship with these sites by offering, by means of a technological interface, an experience which blurs the distinction between a psychic space and geographical zones in a setting in which perception is both “artificial” and private.

Seeking to define the modalities of access to this experience, the project uses a tent to isolate the visitor physically from the immediate surroundings and to heighten his or her receptiveness. By masking the surroundings and the exterior, the membrane of the tent accentuates the feeling of detachment felt in this alveole-like space. The TFT screen is positioned in this space like a control monitor or for comfortable viewing. The project thus hopes to alter our relationship to the screen (for example, the screen used as a means of “distraction” to make us forget the transient nature of a journey, as found on airplanes and in automobiles). Here, we see instead the physical and psychic state of a subject placed in a tent, states with which it is possible to identify. Using its content to amplify the subject’s isolation, the video image brings us back to our own presence and privileges our relationship to the sound events transmitted by the headphones.

Outside the tent, the fluctuating video image of different territories endows the installation with a temporal and transient dimension. With the treatment reserved for the sites depicted and their anonymous nature, many visitors have appreciated the visual interlinking of the scenes. The confusion created by the perception of unidentifiable sites suggests that this can happen in a generic “elsewhere” of an unfamiliar city. The video’s fluctuating effect was particularly effective at the time of setting up, mooring and taking down the tent, suggesting the idea of an oft-repeated ritual and putting the emphasis on the process and the experience. The set-up found inside the tent gives the visitor the impression of occupying a much more electronic and filtered sound space that is subjected to interference. The enveloping materiality of the membrane of the tent combined with the interactivity with the anonymous subject on the video screen contributes to reinforcing the omnipresence of the sound recording. Visitors thus often passed many long minutes in the tent, occasionally moving their head and thereby remarking on the subtlety of the disturbances that these movements caused in the sound and image.

From a technical perspective, the installation required a fair number of adjustments during the first few days of the exhibition, in particular to improve the functioning of the system and to prevent its tendency to select the same video sequences. Despite initially being quite fluid, compatibility problems were encountered between the computer (PowerMac G5), the audio interface (MOTU 828 MK2) and the multimedia publishing software (Max/MSP/Jitter). The installation patch had to be transposed onto a G4, in which the simultaneous use of the two Firewire ports and the intensity of the audio-visual manipulation caused a few failures. The relative darkness inside the tent caused occasional errors in the analysis of the image; it would have been preferable to use an infrared camera in order to obtain more precision in detecting the movement of visitors heads.

HomeProjects — Rest Area

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