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Deep Walls, by Scott Snibbe

"Deep Walls" is an artistic installation consisting of a wall display which is divided into sixteen panels. Each panel shows the silhouette of the actions of a previous audience member. As the current viewer passes in front of the installation, his silhouette is recorded. Afterwards, this recording replaces one of the previous panels.

In this interaction, viewers do not really control the artwork. Instead, interacting allows a viewer to be featured as part of the art after he leaves. The rules are very straightforward: any action in front of the screen is recorded and subsequently overwrites the oldest panel.

  • audience size: single person or small group
  • audience type: the groups are likely to be friends; the art brings the recordings of many strangers together
  • actors: the recordings are of passersby, often passersby who have not yet determined the rules
  • physical size: the wall has length and height of 2-3 meters, and the projection system requires a depth of approximately 8 meters
  • interaction time: usually quite short (under 10 sec), though it supports interactions that take hours. In addition, viewers probably spend some time contemplating the artwork statically.
  • rule set: unchanging
  • input: video - just a binary video of the shadow
  • output: video - exact recordings of 16 other participants' shadows

The artist intends this piece of art to embody the concept of sorting things into boxes in an organized, but at the same time chaotic, manner. The interactivity draws viewers into the artwork by making them participants, but it really asks them to consider its symbolism as well.

Interstitial Fragment Processor, by Golan Levin

The "Interstitial Fragment Processor" differs from "Deep Walls" in that it only is a complete work of art when someone is actively interacting with it. A screen shows the viewer's silhouette, and whenever a bright area is enclosed by shadow, there is a ping and the space is filled with a color. The colored region then acts like an object and falls to the ground, though it may be supported by previous regions, which are impassible.

This interaction prompts the viewer to come up with positions in which his shadow creates a "hole." The computer system reacts by finding these regions (probably with connected component labeling) and generating a new colored region (always pink, though the semi-transparency causes it to appear darker when obscuring the viewer's shadow). In addition, it makes a sound, which appears to be related to the size and/or shape of the region. Once the viewer moves, the new object becomes subject to gravity and begins to fall. The system uses physical laws to make the falling objects interact with one another. Sometimes the shapes appear to fall off the corner of the screen, but other times they seem to disappear after a certain amount of time.

  • audience size: one or two people
  • audience type: the pairs are probably friends
  • actors: passersby exploring the applications
  • physical size: a projector screen in a dim white room
  • interaction time: probably around 1 minute. Possibly longer
  • rule set: unchanging
  • input: video - just a binary video of the shadow
  • output: video - silhouettes with added shapes based on holes
    audio - noises upon creation of shapes, and possibly collisions, too

The artist intends this installation to make viewers think about the empty spaces formed by their bodies. A non-interactive piece of art could also treat this concept, but the "Interstitial Fragment Processor" makes it more memorable and engaging. It is also rather fun.

A couple more examples

Another of Snibbe's pieces is the "Myremegraph:" This has the user paint and erase pheromone trails for ants to follow. I like this piece because the dispersion of the ants after the trails are erased is interesting to watch.

Finally, Levin has a humorous piece of "digital" art that may be my favorite:


The exercises that we did in classes tended toward the creation of puzzles, or systems with rules where the intention was to get the audience to experiment until the rules were determined. Puzzles are fun, and having complex rules is one way to make the experience deterministically unpredictable, but most interactive art actually has very simple rules that are almost immediately apparent.

To my understanding, much of modern art relies on surprising the audience, inviting the viewers to think about something in a new way. The "Interstitial Fragment Processor" does this explicitly, and "Myremegraph," by having viewers draw with simulated ants, also works off of this surprise factor. This is clearly a generalization, however, since "Deep Walls" does not contain the same element of novelty.

Another aspect that I noticed is that the installations which look most like "art" to me incorporate the actions of previous audience members (like "Deep Walls"). The others can also be interesting, but do require participation to have anything of note. I think I'd like my installation to incorporate previous viewers' input, though I also want it to be more interactive than "Deep Walls," so that might be difficult.