Participants chase text animations to trigger spoken, and experience text and activity as entwined.
- Year Created: 2001
- Submitted to ArtBase: Sunday Nov 11th, 2001
- Original Url: http://nathanielstern.com/2000/enter-hektor/
- Permalink: http://nathanielstern.com/2000/enter-hektor/
- nathaniel stern, creator
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enter is an immersive, interactive installation that combines conceptual and aesthetic principles from traditional installation, interactive art, and performance poetry, to explore the relationships between text and the body. Its participants enter through black and red velvet curtains - a literalized performance space - and into a white interaction area approximately 8 meters long; the width at the entrance begins the size of a doorway and expands to that of a large projection screen.
Upon entering, viewer-participants meet with an almost real-time abstraction of themselves - an outline drawn with large black dots; the closer they are to the screen/camera, the larger their image becomes. hektor’s thoughts (in the form of text) float around them, in animated sequence. With this exterior re-presentation of their bodies, viewers-turned-performers can grab and trigger hektor’s text; each word that a viewer’s outline touches will stop, turn red, and recite a line of poetry. enter:hektor asks viewers to “leave behind” their everyday performances of self, and attempts to accent each step and movement as a rich, performative gesture.
The enter software does not work as one would suspect, and pushes viewers to act in ways they normally wouldn’t. Rather than traditional body-tracking software, the code is written in such a way that only the outermost points on the horizontal axis are shown - for example, if you put your arms up in a V, your head disappears. The piece was originally exhibited on an old 8500 Macintosh (2000), which ran relatively slowly; in the updated version (2005), I’ve imitated this minor lag. The lag, combined with the intuitive/unexpected paradox of its awkward “limited body” interaction, creates less of a mirror and more of a “call and response, and response” space - much like that of a poet and his/her audience. Meaning is found in the space between body and text, and the half-second lag becomes that space between. Its intention is to frustrate, excite, and make viewers work harder towards communication, in a complex inter-course.
As viewer-participants learn how to perform this space, they move in new ways. Whether they are trying to “speak,” or doing their best to avoid it, hektor forces them to go between the same exaggerated gestures and jerky expressions that he does. I’ve watched some viewers crawl into a ball and lash out at his words with their arms, others dance and play on the fringes in an attempt to speak quickly and all at once, while still others get up close to the screen and squirm around words, so as not to speak.
enter is a recognition of the negotiations and contradictions inherent to the performance of communication, and of self. We are asked to use our bodies as a writing and speaking tool, to create a poetic language of gesture, and to explore what we already know (but do not know we know). Through a fictional “other,” we converse, and are versed, without verse.