Passing Phases (1995-1999)

A Interactive digital installation: a collaboration between Sarah Rubidge, digital artist, Garry Hill and composer Nye Parry with Tim Diggins

View of the installation


2D version of the imagery in action when the installation was running

Click image to see movie of the imagery in motion



Passing Phases was an interactive installation that aimed to move beyond a standard one-to-one/trigger-response interactive system. As such it was a first attempt to initiate collective interactivity between multiple visitors in order to generate an informal choreography from the interactive behaviours of visitors. The latter exert a continual influence on the behaviour of the installation, shifting the emotional states it has set up as they move around the installation space.

The physical installation consisted of a carpeted space surrounded by seven monitors placed on plinths of varying heights. The screens showed gesturing images of small body parts (hands, eyes, mouths, feet), many involving touch. The positioning and spatial characteristics of the gestures and images were carefully choreographed to created a sense of spatial cohesion, even though the gestures themselves had different emotional resonance. The dynamic features of the images were also choreographed with care to generate different sensibilities in the images. The latter appeared without modification, and were periodically overlaid with transparent 'ghost' images to generate impromptu tensions and new resonances within the installation. The individual images were bedded into a non-linear image system (developed in Macromedia Director) to provide a mode of stucturing that avoided the use of standard looping so as to set up unpredicatable rhythmic pattenrings within and across the image systems that appeared on the different screens.

Under the carpet around which the monitors were arrayed was placed a set of pressure pads, individual pads connected to each other to form a single pressure pad system. This was programmed to initiate a response in the behaviour of the individual sets of imagery. Further, the interactive structures of the programming were designed in such a way as to encourage co-operative behaviour between the viewers, the interactive system interpreting and responding to the combined movement of the viewers across the installation space. That is, when virtual links between different pads were activated by the presence of viewers on those pads the interactive progam used a system of 'weighting' to interpret variously the degree of activity on different areas of the carpet, the geometry of the viewers' pathways and the distance between viewer and viewers and between viewer and the monitors. It then caused the rhythms of both the gestures and the relationship of one image to others to change, and initated the appearance and disappearance of image systems on indivdual monitors.

As they moved within the circle created by the computer monitors visitors' thus exerted a continual influence on the activity on the screens, unwittingly shifting the emotional states the flow of imagery on the monitors set up as they moved towards and away from them, and from one screen to another. At the same time the installation was giving the viewers a new sensation that influenced the way they behaved. This process problematised ideas of the viewer 'and' the viewed, the performer and the audience, the leader and the led.

A central concern of Passing Phases, however, was an exploration of the potential embodied in the dialogue between the corporeal and the technological. Viewers were asked to remove their shoes before entering the installation to enhance their awreness of their senses. The images themselves are deliberately sensuous, the use of touch emphasising this. The pauses and repetitions of the images, their abrupt shifts from screen to screen generated continual shifts in the atmpsphere of the installation space. Addiitonally the installation took on subtle emotional rhythms as the iages shift from screen to screen, and appeared in different combinations. At times the mood was contemplative, calm, relaxed. At other times it was more active, tense, nervous or excitable. As the visitors explored the installation they simultaneously explored this emotional world, shifting the emotional states set up by the flows of imagery on the monitors as they moved towards and away from them, and from one screen to another.

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