What is there to say?
Does it make a difference if you are not seen, but rather a projection which sees and speaks and hears in your place?
Is the “I” saying “Me” to “It-You” (or its reflection)?
Is it that the one who stands in your place is not free to go where they wish, or that even as you move them “freely” in their mirrored infinity theater that there are borders?
Is it that they can see their wires but know not where they lead?
And what is public space when it is virtual, experienced as an image?
Is it that in the space of the art exhibition there is also a meeting of those who see but are not seen and those who learn to play the game with their projections?
I learned in 1991 that the MBone (a virtual layer on the Internet) had been invented, making it possible to transmit “real-time” video and audio. A networked metaphor would seem to offer a new genre of complexity — were it not for the fact that “here” and “there,” “I” and “you,” and “mine” and “yours” have always been bones in the skeleton of our sense-selves and in our ideologies. I found myself thinking about creating a telematic videoconference among three ventriloquist dolls to ask the question: Could having a voice, having a “body” in this tele-space, create new ground for discovering the metaphors of long-distance impersonation?
In one exhibition space there is a labyrinthine construction. Its inner walls are mirrored. Inside of this space, there are three robot-puppet ventriloquist dolls. In three other locations are darkened spaces, each with a place to sit, a small table with a special controller-interface (an attache case containing a joystick and a microphone), and upon the facing wall a large projected video image showing their robot’s vision — effectively, computer controlled “video-telephones.”
Each robot has a video camera for “sight,” microphones for “hearing.” Each robot is connected, remotely, to one of the other spaces (anywhere on the Mbone). In these other locations, a viewer may see (via the video projection) and hear what the robot sees and hears, can maneuver it with a joystick, while the voice of the remote viewer is transmitted back to the robot, that speaks (like the doll of a ventriloquist) the words of that person. It is then possible for three people to communicate with each other in the hall of mirrors via their respectively controlled robots. Viewers in the public/gallery space with the robots can see over the walls, allowing them to talk with people at the connected distant locations via the robots. Participants are inevitably pressed to regard these questions:
“Which one is me?”
“Am I talking to you or to myself?”
“Am I moving towards or away from the mirror?”
“What are the limits of this space?”
“Am I having any effect on what is happening?”
Through this work, I want to expand my continuing investigations into the sphere of public communications, emptying the work of manifest “narrative” in such a way as to create a form which in itself offers a critique of idealized communication, and yet that induces audiences to orient their own positions in direct relation to “presence,” “otherness,” “media” and “communication.” It was my goal to generate firsthand experiences which could provide grounding for individuals in relation to these so-called “disembodied” forms, and to offer metaphors emerging from my own experiences working within the “public spaces” of the Internet.