entering a darkened room the viewer is drawn to move into an illuminated
circle in front of a curved railing reminiscent of a ship's prow. As
the lighting dims one distinguishes a "porthole" in the darkness ahead,
through which are seen images that reference navigation, mapping and
ocean travel. When the viewer's vision is directed toward the front,
a projection starts up behind (this is accomplished using face recognition
software -- see Collaboration with Dialog Communication Systems). Colorful
moving images are projected on scrims behind the viewer and reflected
onto the walls and ceiling of the installation, hence enteringthe viewer's
peripheral vision. However, as the viewer turns around to see what is
happening behind them, the projected images immediately fade away. The
viewer glimpses the embers of an image - enough to tantalize but not
to decipher. The rear projections reappear again only after the viewer
turns forward. Available only peripherally, the elusive and sensuous
projections behind the viewer slip from view when directly confronted,
perhaps evoking longing for what is hopelessly lost or unattainable.
In disappearing their promised richness becomes ever more desirable.
One is left on the prow, looking forward, positioning oneself, scanning,
narrowing in, searching, yet yearning for what's behind. The mind seems
split between directed attention and those more expanded, free-floating
arenas of mentation which are ever present, but experienced fleetingly,
obliquely, as they flee from directed attention. Scrutiny brings a narrowing
of vision, ineluctably backgrounding that which is not being regarded.
Science, among other disciplines, attains ever more satisfying answers
to questions, but only, of course, to those questions that are posed.
Much lies peripheral to the scope of the attentive gaze.
In order for
this installation to be effective it was essential that the rear (peripheral)
projections appeared and disappeared seamlessly in reaction to the viewers
head movements. In the process of researching this problem, we communicated
by email with Robert Frischholz, Vice President of Research and Development
at BioID, a leading manufacturer of face recognition software. On hearing
of the projects he was warmly enthusiastic and supportive and within
a short time the research team modified BioID software to work with
our installation. This interdisciplinary, cross-cultural collaboration
was one of the most fun and satisfying parts of the project.
How it works:
from a small video camera located at the front of the installation and aimed toward the viewer,
are constantly processed by the BioID software. When a face is detected
(that is, when the viewer is facing forward), a signal is sent to an
EZIO board (from Michael Rodemer, U. Michigan) which triggers the illumination
of the rear video projections. When the face is no longer detected (that
is, when the viewer turns around to look behind him), the projections
are triggered to fade. Ralph
Bunker (Gillian's husband), wrote the Lingo code for Macromedia's Director,
which mediates the communication between the face recognition software
and the EZIO board. The wonderfully creative people we worked with at
BioID have now started a new company, HumanScan.
to Collaborative Work
to the Index of Art