Hosts Project Description
Exhibition Dates: 9th February-27th February 2006
Venue: Bath Abbey
Large vertical screens were placed at strategic opposite points in the space. A visitor triggered the presence of a variety of unfocused and evanescent video characters through the use of positional ultrasound detection devices (Chirpers) and interpretative software. Individual characters appeared at random and smiled, beckoned or otherwise indicated that the visitor[s] should follow them and then passed onwards from screen to screen, keeping pace with the visitor[s]. These “Hosts” were of a wide range of ages, gender, and social type , but always appeared as the same figure singly to the participant.
A 3D audio landscape of acapella tonal voices accompanied the visitor between the screens on wireless headphones and formed a tangible changing audio landscape. The artist worked with a group of singers, musicians and sound designers in Bristol/Bath on this aspect of the piece.
If a visitor stood for more than a few seconds in front of a particular screen, the figure turned in the direction of the viewer and returned the visitor[s] stare. The video sprite looked the visitor up and down, or turned away in distraction and then spoke a series of poetic aphorisms, also seen as animated text on the screen. On a separate screen evanescent figures were continually climbing up and down two ladders mirroring the motif carved on the Abbey frontage.
Thematic The piece was a reflection on human life and death, presence and absence. The “Hosts” may be taken to represent a variety of presences: from the angels of Jacobs Ladder, to the spirit of people who have inhabited the same spaces, or seen as fragments of an individual psyche. The emotional mood was deliberately variable and the encounters change depending on a randomised selection sequence for the video sprite characters and sounds.On the last part of the installation will be pictured two vertical ladders, placed on opposite sides of the space, and disappearing beyond the screen edges. On one ladder the characters are continuously climbing upwards and vanishing. On the second ladder they are climbing downwards from the top of the frame and walking off screen.
Technology The project utilised ultrasound tracking software to detect human presence and its duration in allocated space zones, corresponding to the screen areas. Information was passed to control computers, which co-ordinate the video feed to individual projectors from networked machines. The presences were filmed on high definition digital video and transferred as QuickTime files to server hard drives.
Further Phases GPS enabled PDAs and 3G location polling will be used to map the video sprites on to a large area of Bath. They will emerge on screen and speak when triggered at concealed locations, following participants around the city. A website will enable further aphorisms to be submitted by the public and mapped to locations. Participants will be able to create an animated 3D avatar simply by submitting a portrait photo and text via their mobile device, Collaboration with Bath University is anticipated for this phase of the project.
The Bristol Wearables Group (Pyxys Design), Bath Film Festival, Business West, Roper Rhodes
Funding: AHRB , Bath Spa University, Arts Council of England
Filming: Terry Flaxton (Camera and Lights)
Actors: Graham Bill, Kim Hicks, Nicole Tongue, Tom Sherman, Samantha Pearl
Music and Sound Design : Richard Barnard
Software: Anthony Head
Host on a PDA
Chirpers: Ultrasound emitting badges