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I have been inspired by Karolina Sobecka’s project Sniff since I heard about it four years ago. This project was, as far as I’m concerned, extremely innovative for its time – and it is surprising when I look at the documentation on this project and realize it was made 7 years ago. This is an example of a site-specific interactive projection in public space. This project utilizes computer vision, Open Frameworks, and the real time graphics game engine, Unity 3D.

The project took place on a storefront window, and a sidewalk in New York City. Using an IR camera, people’s movements were monitored, and an animated dog “reads” the gestural response of the users to inform its artificial intelligence system, forming a relationship with the person who is interacting with it (which could be read as friendly, excited, aggressive, or standoffish). I feel this was innovative in many ways – the artists, Karolina Sobecka and James George, wrote custom software to create the project. But more importantly, they explored in an effective way the emotional and psychological impacts that could take place within an interaction with a digital “presence” – in this case, a dog. Many questions are raised here. Who is affecting whom? Where is cause and effect? Can you have an embodied experience with a digital experience? Can you summon genuine emotion from a digital presence? These are questions that I ask in my own work, and would like to explore in my research, creating interactive, digital experiences that explore our relationship to space, examine our connection to each other, and focus on embodiment. And I believe embodiment with a direct link to the spatial conditions (site specific) around us are the most powerful.

Sobecka’s work was inspired by the essay, “The Body We Care For,” by Vinciane Despret, which discusses a horse named Hans who was believed to have been able to learn mathematics. However, the horse was simply responding to physical and emotional signs from its handlers. She quotes Despret, “Who influences and who is influenced, in this story, are questions that can no longer receive a clear answer. Both, human and horse, are cause and effect of each other’s movements. Both induce and are induced, affect and are affected. Both embody each other’s mind.”

These questions, which I believe are becoming increasingly imperative, are at the root of my research.

Here’s a video of someone interacting with the work.

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