Wednesday, July 11

Interactive faces - human spaces

A shriek goes up from the crowd of kids. It's a sweltering mid-summer day in downtown Chicago, but this group isn't feeling it. The moment they've been anticipating has arrived. A giant face projected on the column in front of them begins morphing, from sly smile to a puckered blowing expression. Then the surprise - a column of water bursts from the giants mouth, sending a spray cascading over the group.

The Crown Fountain - two large columns and the ultra-shallow pool between them, are the creation of Jaume Plensa, one of the many commissioned public pieces of Millenium Park. Inside they're actually very dry, with a core housing electronics for projection, timing, and a steel framework strengthening the thousands of clear glass bricks. Jaume chose a cross section of people from 1000 Chicagoans, then filmed a set facial sequence - smiling, serious, then blowing. The footage is slowed down drastically and cycles through people after the dramatic fountain blow - composed of mostly air to minimise impact.

Closer to home, the most similar work is Kentaro Yamadas portrait series, shown at Window in 2006. Kentaro filmed a selection of friends with a range of facial expressions. Compared to Crown Fountain, the portraits are much more interactive. When visitors blow into a connected microphone, the normally stone-faced portrait shifts - laughs, looks askew, or simply changes. Interactive - but uncontrollable. The work frustrates any planned user manipulation of the system by the simple input device (mic volume) and the responses which don't quite match up. The resulting control/uncontrol tension provides an edge and interest which the spectacular but passive Crown Fountain really lacks.

1 comment:

Kentaro said...

I wish I could do a scale of crown fountain..
clown fountain's faces are faces of many Chicagoans.