Fugitive: A Machine Driven Interactive Digital Video Space


Session Title:

  • Short Paper Presentations

Presentation Title:

  • Fugitive: A Machine Driven Interactive Digital Video Space



  • My expressed formal focus of interest has been for several years what I call the “aesthetics of behaviour”, a new aesthetic field opened up by the possibility of cultural interaction with machine systems. A decade of making and using real-space interactive installations has left me with a deep dissatisfaction that the common mode of interaction is all too simplistic. The paradigm in most cases is a simple positional one. If you are at position “x,y”, event “a” happens. This is a real-space extrapolation of the conventional hypertextual paradigm of free navigation within a rigidly predefined range of possibilities. My formal goal in Fugitive is to build a system which speaks “the language of the body”, which responds to the bodily dynamics of the user over time.

    I have argued in the past that the notion of universality of interface is untenable because interfaces are culturally bound. Nonetheless, in “Fugitive” I am attempting to construct a reactive system which is “intuitive” to the extent that changes in the response of the system are triggered by physiologically meaningful events. There is no textual, linguistic or iconic component. These events control the flow of digitised video imagery in such a way that no two people walking the same path in the installation will produce the same video sequence, because their bodily dynamics are different. “Fugitive” is a sort of cinematic hypertext in this regard. “Fugitive” is not, primarily a device for looking at pictures (or video), it is not a pictorial hyper-narrative. It is a behaving system.

    The user is engaged in a complex interaction with the system. The content and location of the image is the response of the system. It is about the act of looking, embodied looking, and it is about the metaphorisation of looking in video. The title “Fugitive” emphasises the evanescence of the experience of embodied looking. The exercise is fraught with paradox, especially for the scopically-fixated viewer. The user is presented with a darkened circular space the only changing feature of which is a changing image, and yet the user is encouraged to understand the image primarily as an indicator of the response of an otherwise invisible system, rather than as an image or image sequence of any semantic significance. An interactive work is a machine, and one must learn to operate a machine. Thus a central issue in interactive art is the question of the learning curve. Often a work is so simple in the dynamics of interaction that it is easy to understand but immediately boring. Alternatively, works are so complex that the average user cannot discern the way in which they are controlling or effecting the events, it appears random.

    In avoiding these two undesirables, the artist must either choose a well known paradigm, such as monitor-mouse-buttons or automobile controls, or the user must learn the interface. But nobody wants to do a tutorial or read a manual before they experience the artwork. Thus, my goal is to fashion systems which present themselves as facile to a new user, but which progressively and imperceptibly increase in complexity as the familiarity of the user increases. Clearly the user must desire to continue to explore the work. This is a basic requirement of any artwork. The presentation will outline the relation of Fugitive to previous spatial interactives. The computational and hyper-narrative structure of the work will be explained, as will the dimensions of interactivity. Pragmatic issues of vision system and motion control design will be discussed. Video and diagrams will be shown.