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Cube Culture: The paranoids panopticum

by Hermen Maat

A panopticum can be considered as a situation from which one can visually control ones surroundings. Panopticum is a notion used in architecture, an example would be a cupola-prison with in the center an observation pillar for the guards. In my Panopticum I play with the fixation on control. In our society I experience an increasing fixation on control. At the moment this fixation gets out of control the spectator is invited. Despite the visual-control possibilities there is a shift in reality . 'Control' changes into fear about losing control. From this moment on it looks like your own concoction haunts you. The maximizing of control becomes its own threat. Entering this paradox, you find yourself in the Paranoid Panopticum.

The Installation
The installation consists of a nontransparant privalite-glasswall, 1 meter high 3 meter long, which can change into a mirror. Opposite this wall there is a projection-screen. The spectator walks in-between the screen and the mirror. The mirror is permeable from behind so a video camera can record the spectator. This recorded image is projected on the screen opposite the mirror, as a consequence of this you see yourself looking over your shoulder in the mirror, and also in this image you see yourself looking over your shoulder in the mirror. A mirrored 'live' Droste-effect (ie. video feedback). Within this image there is a story played by actors connected to this situation. The course and the speed of this story are modified by the movement of the spectator in the space between the mirror and the projection. At certain places within the installation the spectator can activate certain 'dreams' and play with these short movies.

Hardware/Software
The installation is controlled by a software product of V2_Lab, called Epic Generator. This is a Java based authoring environment for interactive presentations. The Epic Generator interfaces the following components. An I-CubeX to control transparency of the privalite window (in 6 steps) and to register public (4 movement detection sensors). A videomixer to mix prerecorded video and live video material of the public. Last, two custom build digital video player/recorders based on two low end video cards.

The paranoids panopticum was realized in cooperation with V2_Lab

1999

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