In a recent post I outlined some of the exhibits at the Barbican’s Digital Revolution Exhibition. Here I continue that review by focussing on thee installations that really captured my imagination. There were three creations all based on camera and gesture technologies that moved the visitor from passive receiver to active participant.
Mirror Number 1o
Daniel Rozen’s Mirror Number 10 both reflected the movements and shapes of the people standing on front of the screen but re-presented them in different colours and outlines. The sensors were placed high and so wheelchair users and small people were largely excluded from the show. For example, my hands can be seen in the centre of the image below, and were divorced from the rest of my body as the sensors did not pick me up.
The installation was immersive and interactive and reminded me of green screen TV technologies where participants can be represented as flying or doing other super human feats by superimposing images on a green background. Mirror Number 10 was interesting in both the way it tracked movement and represented individuals.
The Treachery of Sanctuary
The second interactive installation I enjoyed and made me think about ways and means of representation was Chris Milk’s The Treachery of Sanctuary. This was a larger than life installation and so its scale helped make it a spectacle.
Three participants stand in front of three large screens next to each other and when they move there arms each screen transforms them into birds using different rendering techniques.
Yet personally I found the most interesting and thought provoking installation to be Design Studios Umbrellium, Assemblance. In a darkened room beams of light shot down from overhead projectors. As participants moved through them the beams moved in response. So I “pushed” beams of light in different directions with my chair.
The power of this installation seemed to me to be in its ability for both inclusivity and collaboration. Art could be made on the floor by people working together (or in opposition for that matter). This and the fact the installation was in a room of its own made its nature all encompassing. The work was powerful: it suspended time for a while and allowed me to play with light interacting with others as they passed through. Then after a while smoke was injected into the room and the light took on a new texture.
Some of the experience reminded me of Lis Rhodes Light Music at the Tate Modern in 2013 because it paired down the senses to pure light and dark. Yet that was very analogue but they both had an alien quality about them in the sense of placing the participant into an unusual environment.
The whole experience was refreshing and provided me with new ideas. Then, as I placed my chair by the car door to get in I looked down to check my feet and the vista I saw resonated with the Gravity images in that the ground looked like another planet was I really by the car and looking at a concrete floor or was I thousands of miles above the earth?
But what does all this mean for my work?
So why do I take photos rather than express myself in other ways such as some of those used above? Given I have recently seen the immersive and interactive nature of much contemporary digital output you can be forgiven for expecting me to progress my exploration in that direction. This isn’t the case and I need to explain why.
Well I used to take photos for the same reasons as most people just like most people like recording events like family get-togethers and weddings. But I have also come to create images as a form of both seeing the world and expression. For example, this photo above presents one thing (car, car doors and painted concrete floor) as another. Yet it is an index and does show what was present.
So photos offer both the representation of the real – an index – while also offering me the ability to create and express – through framing and other photographic devices. In some ways my last image takes Magritte’s idea in The Treachery of Images (see here) and challenge the viewer even more because they can blur the index and imagination more than other non indexical mediums.
It will be interesting to read what others made of the exhibition.