Exit Archive

Fall 2005 | v.01 n. 01 | Invitational Issue |

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From Serial to Parallel, New Forms of Viewer Interaction
Roberto Bocci



During the past 15 years we have seen an unprecedented increase in computer processor speeds, quality and the affordability of digital multimedia systems.  This phenomena has fueled a proliferation of artists working as digital filmmakers, as two and three-dimensional imagists and as multimedia installation artists. Technological improvement has been a cause of change in the quality, the content, the relationship between artworks and viewers and a shift from serial to parallel interactive digital systems.

In serial works viewers have no control over the occurrence of audio and video events that loop over time in a predefined manner. In parallel works viewers play an integral function in triggering the artwork and create ever-changing viewing paths. Parallel systems have been made possible by the increased speed of computer processors and by running multimedia software directly from the computer's random access memory and hardrive. 

As an artist working in this field for the past twelve years my work has developed from analogue serial multiple channel installations to works in which viewers trigger aural and visual events by moving within laser fields or by touching sculptural forms. Electronic time-based works have allowed me to create pieces in which viewers are reached on multiple sensory levels and are actively engaged in the process of creating and exploring the artwork. This presentation will discuss a selection of projects I have created since 1992 that trace the evolution from serial to parallel systems and the relationship between viewers and the artwork.

Chamber, 1994 [>] http://www.boccir.com/html/ch.html is an analogue sound and video installation work in which viewers are surrounded by four monitors showing fragmentary images of architectural interiors. The project reconstructs feelings of confusion and disorientation that can be experienced when walking through institutional architectural interiors. Viewers enter and sit down in the installation and are surrounded by four video monitors. 

The viewer’s image can be seen from outside the installation through a surveillance camera. This project runs on analogue video equipment and is a good example of a serial artwork in which viewers have no control over the progression of events that unfold in a linear fashion over the duration of the six-minute video loops.

Periferal Visions was created five years after Chamber. [>] http://boccir.com/html/pvinst.html It was conceived in Florence, Italy in 1999. In the first version of Periferal Visions viewers trigger five QuickTime movies by moving a computer mouse placed on rear lit mouse pad. As viewers move the computer mouse over the interactive screen they trigger five QuickTime movies to create an ever-changing image that relies on viewer participation. As users move the computer mouse across the screen the QuickTime movies start and stop and create a transient image. Upon arriving to the States in 2000 I continued to develop Periferal Vision to a final version that was exhibited in 2002.

In the laser triggered version of the project [>] http://boccir.com/html/pvinst01.html a video projection is ceiling mounted and projects an image on the floor.  Sound emanates from four speakers. Four laser beams are installed on the corners of the floor projection.  A scrolling text sequence prompts viewers to walk under the video beam and trigger sequences.  When viewers intersect the laser beams messages are sent to a computer and a series of video and sound sequences are triggered.  As viewers move under the projection they create an ephemeral still and moving image that relies on viewer participation. As viewers interact and explore the piece Periferal Visions remembers which sequences have been triggered and prompts viewer to explore other areas of the interface. When all sequences have been triggered Periferal Visions resets the software memory and re-enables the interface. Periferal Visions investigates a simultaneity of past, present and future events that collapse within the video frame.  The image created becomes a metaphor for a transient condition. The project explores the potential of digital sound and image processing to create a condition that focuses on the margins of physical and mental sensory experience. The structure of Periferal Visions is non linear and branches outwards without a beginning or an end.  While interacting viewers define new paths and duration. The software for Periferal Visions is based on an open structure.  At any time new sequences may be added or subtracted to make this piece an ever-changing work in progress. Another central theme in this work is relevant to the idea of fragmentation and displacement. By enveloping viewers in a fractured sound and visual space, Periferal Visions attempts to displace viewers from organic to human made environments that merge or collide within the interactive projected field. The shift from a serial structure to a parallel branching interactive system is evident in Periferal Visions.

Another work that deals with ideas of fragmentation, the human body and non-linear sequences is a piece entitled Nuovi Volti (New Faces) [>] http://boccir.com/html/nv.html. The idea of fragmentation is extended here to include contemporary social and political issues and non-linear narrative constructs. Nuovi Volti (New Faces) is a multimedia project that includes and combines sculptural elements, sound, video, and interactive software design. Nuovi Volti was inspired by the new social and ethnic condition that is reshaping the racial status of Italy.  During the past twenty years numerous immigrants from all over the world have migrated to Italy to find a new home.  Many of them fled their home countries to escape from political persecution, poverty and war.  Italy is now becoming more and more of a multi-ethnic society.  This new condition has brought both positive and problematic aspects.  The changing ethnic status of Italy and the consequences that this condition has brought is the focal theme of this project. 

In the initial stages of Nuovi Volti numerous immigrants and native Italians were interviewed. Questions relevant to their life and existence in Italy were asked. The interviews were shot in youth organizations, in shelters for local women and immigrants, in hospitals, restaurants, shops, and on the streets of Florence, Siena, Milan and Rome.  To augment the street interviews television news clips relevant to immigration politics and facts were recorded over the period of two years. The end result of this preliminary work generated a very rich and multifaceted body of video interviews documenting tragic stories, feelings of anger, frustration and happiness coming from both Italians and recent immigrants. The television news clips document an insight on Italian immigration politics and many real life stories seen through the eyes of the Italian broadcast television.

In the second stage of the project all the interviews were logged, selected and recorded to the hard drive of a computer. They were then manipulated and edited in a variety of multimedia software applications.  The final video and sound files were used in the Nuovi Volti installation. In a dimly lit exhibition space viewers are confronted with a sculptural mask mounted on a stand.  The mask is a genderless hybrid form that merges the somatic traits of the new Italian ethnicities.  The mask is equipped with eight internal sensors.  Touching the mask sends messages to a computer. As viewers interact with the mask they trigger video fragments edited from the interviews.  Consequentially an ever-changing and fragmentary image is created on the screen.  This image becomes a visual and sonic metaphor for the new Italian ethnic condition.

Nuovi Volti is a multilingual project.  The video interviews record people speaking in Italian, English and French.  Subtitles are inserted in the lower area of the video screen. As viewers interact to create an image they hear stories narrated by the video fragments.  At times these stories may intersect and collide, unified by a common subject.  Other times the themes discussed may diverge to present different facets of a similar topic. Nuovi Volti constructs multi-layered narratives that branch outward without a beginning or an end.  The video clips are presented so that ultimately viewers may shape their personal opinions regarding the current Italian condition.

The Nuovi Volti installation proposes a new use of mixed media techniques that merge sculpture, video, sound and computer technologies used for artistic means of expression.  The project proposes a new paradigm for an art genre that includes visitors as active participants and a time-based design that diverges from conventional linear narrative structures.  The design of Nuovi Volti branches outward to offer endless experiential combinations that rely both on viewers and the computer as an Artificial Intelligence agent.

The theme of Nuovi Volti is centered on a universal condition of migrating populations seeking a better life and existence.  This condition has been responsible for the development of American society and is becoming ubiquitous in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Nuovi Volti is a work in progress. The project develops and evolves as the social and ethnic condition of Italy and Europe change.  Many more video and sound sequences will be added to this project.

As an Italian immigrant to the United States and a person who has lived in several countries throughout his life I consider Nuovi Volti a self-reflective work in which indirectly I can express feelings of displacement, frustration and longing.

In a work entitled Cycles of Confusion, 2003-04 [>] http://boccir.com/html/cc.html I began to experiment with touch screen interactive hardware/software and continued to investigate ideas of image and sound fragmentation and multiple viewpoints. Cycles of Confusion (CC) is a DVD-ROM, an interactive multimedia installation and a series of digital images that utilize computer technologies to combine sound, video, and interactivity. The title references the photographic phenomena of light rays traveling through a small opening to project small circular clusters of light on a surface.  These clusters are defined as circles of confusion. As a photographer I have always been interested in these optical phenomena responsible for the creation of images within the eye/brain, the photographic lens/film and the projected video image.  The optical phenomena are the pretext and the starting point for the creation of a multimedia landscape in which circular animated shapes congeal, intersect and rapidly alternate.  Cycles of Confusion constructs visual and sonic spaces to absorb and envelop viewers.  The video image is a revolving caldron of reality fragments that suggest metaphoric cycles of life, growth and death. 

Cycles of Confusion also investigates notions of fragmentation and simultaneity.  The video projection combines both still and moving images and brings together urban and natural landscapes, organic and inorganic forms. In the installation viewers are confronted with a vertical stand equipped with a touch sensitive screen.  Touching the screen triggers video and sound sequences that are mirrored on a large frontal projection.  Dragging the computer cursor across the screen triggers multiple sequences that run simultaneously to create a time-based kaleidoscopic image.  Sound is mixed in real time. As video fragments are triggered multiple soundtracks overlap to create an ever-changing and transient condition in which both images and sound rely on viewer participation.

The last piece I will discuss is a work in progress that can be considered an evolution and development of Cycles of Confusion and is entitled Cycles, Elements and Spaces in Between. In keeping with many of the themes central to my practice, in this final piece I have began to experiment with a combination of both parallel interactive and serial sequences. Sequences were created with time-lapse photography and animation procedures.  These techniques have proven to be very effective in the creation of animations that can suggest both feelings of fragmentation and linear course.   

 In Cycles I also plan to create software protocols in which the computer toggles between allowing and denying viewers the ability to shape and manipulate the course of the artwork. This piece will also question the validity and meaning of both interactive and non-interactive works and represents the convergence of ideas I have developed over the past 12 years.

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