2008 Shanghai, China
Collaborator: Jeffrey Shaw, Ulf Langheinrich (sound)
Hardware: Huib Nelissen
Software: Scott Ashton, Yossi Landesrocha
Production: EPIDEMIC, Paris, iCinema Research Centre, UNSW, Sydney
UNMAKEABLELOVE takes place in a world of constraint and deprivation, evoking in postmodern abstraction a space that resonates to Dante's purgatory. With ‘The Lost Ones,’ by Samuel Beckett as its point of departure, UNMAKEABLELOVE focuses on and makes interactively tangible a state of confrontation and interpolation between our selves and a society that is operating in a severe state of physical and psychological entropy. We may imagine that the space the characters live in could be a prison, an asylum, a detention camp, a reality TV show or a heinous exercise in totalitarian engineering. And we could presume that these people have been confined for many generations because they are completely resigned and habituated to their condition, insensible to anything outside the walls that intern them. Viewers of this installation, with their probing torches and apprehensions, on the outside looking in, are forced to experience the anomalies of a perceptual disequilibrium that directly implicates them in this alienated and claustrophobic situation.
The technological infrastructure specific to this work is ReActor, a hexagonal construction 5 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters high, with six-rear projected screens and stereoscopic 3-D viewing. UNMAKEABLELOVE uses six torches, mounted in front of these screens, to enable the visitor to peer into the virtual world. The virtual light beams generated by these interactive torches intersect and illuminate the computer-generated figures that inhabit its virtual interior. The obsessive life-like behaviors of these inhabitants are derived from a database of actions done by motion-captured actors, which are computationally animated and rendered in real time using a game engine and Artificial Life algorithms. As a result UNMAKEABLELOVE gives the impression that its indwellers are self-motivated agents, albeit an abject group of languishing people whose culture seems to be organized according to an elusive order, a disembodied intelligence, an unfamiliar (dis)harmony.
To more explicitly articulate the conjunction between the real and virtual spaces in this work, the viewer's virtual torch beams, which penetrate through the container, can effectively illuminate other viewers who are standing opposite them on other sides of the installation. This augmented reality is achieved using infrared cameras pointing at the respective torch operators, whose video images are rendered on each viewer's screen to create the semblance of illuminating the persons opposite them. The resulting confrontation between the actual and rendered reality of the viewers’ presences helps to reinforce a perceptual, psychological and kinesthetic conjunction between the viewers and those who are being viewed. It is an aesthetic strategy of embodied interactive simulation that affectingly engages the presence, agency and complicity of the viewer in this Beckettian dystopia.