IMERSA: final project proposal

Coming to the US has been a huge challenge for me, not only for all that it means to leave everything and everyone I know behind, but because my country is in a very difficult situation, and it seems impossible to create true empathy in the people around me. No matter how much we all try, there is something that gets lost in our living experiences and will never go through.

I’ve been carrying a shade of fear and anger in my eyes, and I run around desperately trying to find someone that mirrors this feeling. I need to share. I have to. But we are all looking in the same direction, running around desperately trying to find someone that mirrors our fears and angers, and therefore we never face each other. I am tired, I stop, I look around, I finally find you.

We are so grateful for being together here, but still, it was never this hard to connect. Every word has a thousand unspoken words behind them. I look into your eyes and I see the infinity that separates us. We try to find a way to reach each other, but we get lost in the moving topography. It is frightening, but its colors and textures are so fascinating that we just let go. I give up the words, and you do too. We stare into our shared infinity, we dive.

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For this project, I would like to explore the implications of this experience of reterritorialization in relation to an image that has been crossing my mind for the last few years:

An open door. Inside, there’s only dark. You get in, and feel a black curtain separating you from the rest of the space. You touch the heavy fabric until you find a way through. You pull the curtain to discover a huge open space full of colors and lights shining on thousands of pieces floating all around in a delicate motion. That vision, though, only lasts a fraction of second – the time it takes for you to open the curtain. Right after, a bright white light fills the room while the whole structure falls to the ground. You stay there for a while, and then leave, hearing the structure putting itself back together once you go through the curtains.

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Scaling that down to what would be possible to do in the time frame I have for this project, I want to propose an experience of building intimacy through eye contact between the audience and the piece.

There is a hexagonal black box standing on the corner. You can’t see what is inside it, so you come closer. It’s just a mess of translucent materials inside a mirrored space, it doesn’t seems to work. You make a movement to leave, and before you go you believe to have seen an LED blinking. You look back at it. A soft noise starts to come out, and you can see it follows a colored dot that is floating around. You keep trying to identify changes in the space, and slowly the translucent pieces start to move. The sound intensifies, and the light gets gradually colorful. Someone near you steps in to look at what you are seeing, and everything stops to move. You look at the person, and suddenly the box blacks out, and all the pieces fall back into the middle of the space.

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IMERSA will consist of four parts: space, sound, light and interactive mechanism. The physical part is going to be a hexagonal wooden box, painted black in the whole outside. Inside, there will be a six sided funnel, closed by a hexagonal base. In each corner, there will be a pulley supporting a thread attached on a motor in one side, and to the box’s support on the other side, both out of sight. On the strings, there will be a net of wires and glass beads that will shape the sculpture when the strings are pulled by the motors. A camera will be attached to a hole in one of the sides, so the piece must be placed on a corner, with the camera facing the open space.

For the light, the main part will be done by projections, though I am not sure where the projector will be. Originally, I wanted to work with the projections coming from the top, and LEDs on the bottom and sides, but it shouldn’t look like the light is coming from anywhere outside the box, so depending on how the glass beads respond to the light, it is possible that the best option is to put the projector inside the box, facing up across the clear hexagonal base. The projections will be designed in p5 as black and white, high-contrast geometric shapes in subtle movement, so that the beads can reflex/refract the light in different colors.

The same way, the sound should be clearly coming out of the box, so the speakers will be inside the box, and I’ll do some tests to see if it should also be facing up, or if it should be facing out, so the materials will have wholes to let it come through. The sound itself will be a clear growing set of notes that start very soft and grow into a consistent and harmonically rich chord, and a few layers of whispered words.

The interaction will be created through eye tracking via camera. When a single person looks at the piece for a few seconds, it slowly starts to respond by pulling the strings to bring the glass web up, projecting light, and sounding. When the person stops looking at it, the projections and sound stop, and the motors run in the opposite directions, throwing the glass pieces back to the base hexagon.

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Resources:

– Gaze tracking library WebGazer.js;

– The work developed by Dan Oved in “Presence”, using Eye Tracking for Everyone;

Visual reference mood board;

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