JMW Turner painting crop

study: gesture | water | light

This project began as part of Beatriz da Costa's Real Space Interaction course in Winter 2004. Following are some of the thoughts and processes that composed the project, as well as documentation of the installation, exhibited at the Beall Center for Technology and the Arts as part of Hybrid Vigor 2004.

landscape study | gestural light

background thematics

This project is conceived of as a case study for a gestural illumination system for a larger responsive environment. The goal is to create an illumination system that de-empasizes vision in the experience of space. To do this, the space is lit from above with video that is responsive to both casual and intentional movements by the participants. In this space, video is not used as a framed image object but as a material with plastic and luminous qualities. The source of the video illumination is a small pool of water not visible from the installation space. Its appearance can be altered by waves created by a series of fans directed at its surface. The strength of the airflow over the water, and thus the turbulence of the projected light, is determined by peoples' movement in the installation space as interpreted by a computer vision system.

Using actual water as the source accomplishes several things. Using a common material, such as water, illicits tacit body knowledge in the participant, lubricating the transition from an optical to an embodied experience. By digitally mediating the interaction with a physical material, the focus is shifted to the method of mediation itself, raising questions about how technology alters phenomenal experiences of space. Finally, by using actual physical material instead of a simulation, greater resolution and lower latency are possible.

project description

Participants enter an darkened space approximately 20' x 20' lit from above by a video projector. Patterns of waves on a water surface are projected onto the floor/participants. The intensity and direction of the waves are determined by both casual and intentional movements of the people in the space. Movements are tracked by an overhead video camera and relayed to the system's behavior engine, which in turn drives fans which disturb the surface of a large bowl of water. The image of the surface of this water is then projected back into the installation space.

As of winter 04, I have completed a working prototype of the hardware system, and have begun preliminary explorations with the computer vision system.

influences and examples of other work in this area | download presentation ppt

demo using one PC fan, a 3953 PWM chip, PIC and small bowl of water + torn bits of paper completed. Prepared to scale up project to full size in spring quarter.

To date (03-25-04) I can control the fans from Max via serial. I have written a slider controlling speed, as well as patches that will ramp up to full speed or down to off over a user specified amount of time, as well as a patch that will pulse the fan at user specified time intervals.

I have also completed a first round of experiments with the vision system in Bill Tomlinson's class, Biomorphic Computing | project documentation

Hybrid Vigor | Beall Center for Art and Technology

exhibition: June 04, 2004 - June 19, 2004 | web site

study: gesture | water | light

This project is a materials study for creating responsive environments. Projected video is used, not as a framed image object, but as illumination that is shaped by movement and gesture. The participant's actions are transformed into a breeze that disturbs the light as if it were a pool of water, offering a tactile visual experience.

images from installation and opening (06.03.04)

platform.JPG DSCN0453.JPG platform_under.JPG
projection_dark.JPG projection_dark2.JPG opening01.JPG
opening02_blur.JPG opening03.JPG DSCN0466.JPG
opening04_image.JPG opening05_many.JPG opening06_far.JPG
DSCN0470.JPG opening07_image_close.JPG opening08_image_close.JPG
opening09_image_close.JPG opening10_image_close.JPG opening11_image_close.JPG
gwl_christina_1 gwl_christina_2 gwl_erik_demo
gwl_erik_op_1 gwl_erik_op_2 gwl_girl_1
gwl_girl_2 gwl_girl2 gwl_so_1
How to display a flying dragon, from Johann Kestler, Physiologia Kircheriana Experimentalis, p. 247. from

© Erik Conrad 1998-2006