Shadowplay: interactive installation process

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I’ve found out that when I can’t quite figure out how something works, I’m intrigued and become curious. This curiosity then leads to play, and for me, to be immersed in an activity, an object or a space. I read about an art piece in the 70’s called Going Around the Corner Piece by Bruce Nauman. In this piece, people come into a room with a white cube in the middle, and face a closed-circuit (CCTV) set-up, that captures their backs but shows it in a monitor in front of them. People then walk forward, and are faced with the same set-up in the next corner: chasing your own tail never being able to catch up with yourself.

I found this installation brilliant, as a critique of surveillance culture, but also as an experiment in people’s behaviour and expectations. I found very interesting that the piece is never complete without people in it. I wanted to explore this further: people in space as part of an experience.

This idea resonated with research fellow Annelise Bothner-By, who invited me to have a series of workshops last Autumn in order to explore presence, shadows and space as part of her research in exhibition design. Research fellow and interior architect Birgitte Appelong joined for the first set of workshops, held during 3 days at Oslo National Academy of the Arts (Khio), where we explored shadows and light. Going Around the Corner Piece was an inspiration and I thought that a way to explore that further would be to create an installation (Shadowplay). This piece could use our own shadows reflected on the opposite corner of the “white cube” in the space. The shadow would be flipped, behaving in an unexpected way and inviting participants to chase it, never being able to catch it.

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First, we explored how this idea could work. We explored shadows and reflections and discussed how we could create a setup for Shadowplay. It was very interesting to use mirrors as well, to reflect shadows or “clear” them out.

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Then we made a model of the space, and explored first with real shadows and reflections, and later, with projectors creating a “shadow” of the figure-model (in reality we took a picture of Annelise and created a silhouette, which was reflected on the model as the figurine’s shadow) as a prototype for the real scale space. Here we found that it would also be interesting to cast a huge, weird shadow next to your own, a sort of play on scale. We tested it in the model, but went for the shadow reflected on the opposite corner idea.

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Afterwards we began building the space. We were working at “rom-lab” which has this fantastic setup and movable walls so it was perfect for this experiment.

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Then, I used openFrameworks and a kinect to make a silhouette in real time, that would be the person’s shadow. Then, I duplicated the setup and had another laptop with a kinect running on the opposite corner. We only had 2 kinects and laptops, so we couldn’t make the full-loop, but we managed to create 2 corners (half) the space. I had a lot of fun and am really keen on exploring and using more multiple kinects in a single installation!

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We tested the space and setup…

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…and then explored the installation and invited people to experience it too.

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This project was the last in this workshop, so we also presented our findings and experiments to the interior’s MA students and head of department at Khio.

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It was great to work with Annelise and Birgitte, and I was left wanting to work more with bringing life to a space through people’s intervention in it.

You can also check out Shadowplay here.

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