Relational Architecture 6
Body Movies transforms public space with interactive projections measuring between 400 and 1,800 square metres. Thousands of photographic portraits, previously taken on the streets of the host city, are shown using robotically controlled projectors. However the portraits only appear inside the projected shadows of the passers-by, whose silhouettes can measure between two and twenty-five metres depending on how close or far away they are from the powerful light sources positioned on the ground. A video surveillance tracking system triggers new portraits when all the existing ones have been revealed, inviting the public to occupy new narratives of representation.
Samuel van Hoogstraten’s engraving “The Shadow Dance” (Rotterdam, 1675) is the main source of inspiration for this work. Body Movies attempts to misuse technologies of the spectacular so they can evoke a sense of intimacy and complicity instead of provoking distance, euphoria, catharsis, obedience or awe.
«Body Movies» is a «Relational Architecture» installation created by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Thousands of portraits, taken on the streets of the cities where the project is shown, are projected on a giant screen or façade using elevated robotically-controlled projectors. However, the portraits are completely washed out by powerful xenon light sources placed at ground level. When people cross the square their shadows appear on the screen and the portraits are revealed within them. The shadows and portraits generate a play of reverse puppetry and embodied representation. Silhouettes measure between 2 and 30 metres high, depending on how far participants are from the screen.
A camera-based tracking system monitors the location of the shadows in real time. The computer vision interface, which is shown and explained on the site, triggers quiet feedback sounds when a shadow and a portrait match in scale. When the shadows have revealed all the portraits in a given scene, an automatic command is issued to change the scene to the next set of portraits. This way the people on the square are invited to match different representational narratives. Over 60 people may take part at any given time, creating a collective experience that nonetheless allows discrete individual participation.
The shadow interface is a direct reference to Samuel van Hoogstraten’s engraving «The Shadow Dance» which appears in his book «Inleiding tot de Hogeschool der Schilderkunst.» This print, made in Rotterdam in 1675, shows a minute source of light placed at ground level and the shadows of actors taking on demonic or angelic characteristics depending on their size. The optical devices deployed by Dutch masters of trompe l’Oeil and anamorphosis are the starting point for a piece interested in investigating the crisis of urban self-representation. The piece attempts to create an anti-monument of alien presence and embodied relationships.
«Body Movies» is the sixth in the series of “relational architecture” installations that Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has designed for cities in Europe and America for the past ten years. These interactive interventions have been exploring the intersection between new technologies, public space and performance art. «Body Movies» was originally commissioned by V2 organization in Rotterdam for the Cultural Capital of Europe 2001 Festival.