5 'til 12 (2006)

The Beall Center becomes the site of a nonlinear narrative with Knifeandfork's character-based video installation.

Full Description

The Beall Center becomes the site of a nonlinear narrative with Knifeandfork's immersive installation, 5 'til 12. The visitor is invited to watch four characters, on four monitors, as they recount the tragic circumstances of the exhibition's opening night. The experience is unique for each visitor, as each story has most likely never been heard before... and won't ever be heard again.

The premise is derived from Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon, in which four eyewitness accounts of a murder are presented to the viewer, who serves the role of a magistrate. The contradicting stories reveal that objectivity is elusive, as each individual cannot help but infuse his story, consciously or not, with personal shame and ambition. It is unclear who is lying, or if it matters. Each story holds a valid reality of its own, a subjective truth that reinforces a desired identity. However, perhaps there could be another layer: in addition to stories that differ between tellers, might an individual's story change with each new telling? 5 'til 12 proposes that we evolve multiple narratives as we explore multiple identities.

The process is inspired by the Oulipo literary movement, in particular the canonical piece by Raymond Queneau, One Hundred Thousand Billion Sonnets, in which 'potential' literature emerges when lines of words are spliced and recombined. 5 'til 12 draws from the artists' own journals, fantasies, and parodies, all of which are algorithmically assembled to create an enormous number of potential personas for each character.

Stories are selected from the possibilities in rounds, using a programmatic variation on the Prisoner's Dilemma, a model from game theory where individuals choose to cooperate or not in order to maximize their own personal advantage. Seeking to portray themselves in the best possible light, the characters must choose to be complimentary, neutral, or vindictive toward each other. A character who appears confident and blameless while illustrating everyone else's faults will 'score' the highest. However, in the following round, he or she can expect revenge and must eventually make amends. The strategy of each character is adapted using an evolutionary algorithm according to its effectiveness in each round.

The installation uses RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) cards to identify individual visitors. When each new visitor swipes a card, a new story is selected, and the visitor is recognized as he or she explores the narrative space.

In the last few minutes of the final hour, anything is possible.

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