an art installation by Emily Joy Hodgins
Continuing in the line of Greg Lynn’s blob houses, artificial intelligence and ‘smart’ objects, I designed a room that responded visually to human movement much like a mood ring responds to body heat. My piece, inspired by the visual concepts of Robert Irwin and interactive innovations of David Rokeby, portrayed a household room that appeared to be a living organism as colours changed and items shifted in response to viewers’ movements.
Three screens formed physical walls around the viewer. Located at the far end of the room on the right hand side there was a small couch and two small tables on which a plate of cookies, a disposable camera and a photo album rested. The remainder of the physical room was empty. Other furniture, including two empty chairs by the couch, a book shelf, table, and lamps were projected, from behind, on the walls surrounding the viewer. A camera, hung above the piece, detected movement in the space and caused the projected room to change based on the amount of motion in the space.
The digitally modeled room was designed in a sleek modern style, featuring simplicity and clean lines. It started in shades of blue with every aspect of the room seeming balanced with the other elements in the room. As the viewer entered the room, the colour shifted to green and then continued to “heat up” through the spectrum until it reached violet. The objects in the room also began to migrate from their starting position, much the way they would in the “real world” as people inhabited the space over a period of time.
Relationships were formed in the piece on a number of levels. First there was interaction with other people which was facilitated by the couch and the placement of the cookies in the space. As viewers moved toward this off-centre focal point they came into contact with other viewers in the piece. The space felt homey and stimulated thoughts of parties or social gatherings in a friend’s home. The ability for viewers to record their presence with the disposable camera gave a history to the piece and stimulated conversation. Individuals who did not have the opportunity to interact with other human beings in the piece developed a relationship with the room itself, often dancing around, provided they wanted to put the effort into it.
“Living Room” was an inviting piece that drew viewers in, yet required considerable action and effort in order to move to the peak excited state. The piece provided an accessible setting for every viewer, including those who were not used to interactive art. It was interesting to watch how different people with differing expectations respond to a room that was constantly seeking relationship and mirroring their own actions. Hopefully viewers began to realize that relationship is simply a matter of choice and a result of their actions, even beyond the scope of this piece.