photos by Franz Wamhof

Sťance Box No.1
1998 - 99
mixed sculptural media, robotics, electronics, computer network, software, digital multimedia
in collaboration with ZKM Karlsruhe, and i3Net

In the version of this work produced for the 1999-2000 exhibition "net_condition", there are two spaces. One space is nearly filled by a stage that is like a box or a large table, with a stepped roof that disappears into the ceiling of the room. The scale of things is skewed. On this electrified stage is a robotic telepuppet (with a video camera and microphones in its head) looking a bit damaged - its head is bandaged and the body is wrapped up - in something of a human form. It is a new form of one of the puppets from my earlier work "where I can see my house from here so we are" (1993-95). The projected digital backdrop of this stage is inhabited by a floating head which is a software agent driven by artificial intelligence. Its role is that of an artificial actor with whom the telepuppet may converse; this agent provocateur has the power of conversation - it understands spoken language and responds in a synthetic voice. It floats in and out of the changing landscape as the one behind the telepuppet speaks with it, coming and going in various disguises - as smoke or flames, people from the past, imaginary beings, or as a frozen corpse - and acting like a speaking fountain given to rhyme, alliteration, and seemingly prophetic speech. In another space, what is seen by the telepuppet is projected to fill a large wall - things in this space are "life-size", including the visitors to the other space when seen by the telepuppet. In the middle of this room is a small table, out of which emerges a human skull. The skull is a force feedback joystick device and it is the means of moving the telepuppet. When the telepuppet bumps into its boundaries, one feels this in the resistance of the skull. The one controlling the movement of the telepuppet in this space has a microphone for speaking with the visitors and with the artificial actor, and this person’s voice is transmitted to the telepuppet and moves the telepuppet’s mouth, like that of a ventriloquist’s doll. These two spaces (and four computers running backstage) are connected on a local network, but they may as easily be in different parts of the world, connected by the Internet. The exhibition of "Séance Box no.1" in this state is an experiment during its development. In fact, it is really not meant, when completed, to be interacted with directly by the public. Rather, the telepuppet is meant to perform in a specific role with an actor controlling it, and, though it is capable of carrying on something like a conversation, the "intelligence" of the artificial actor was written to respond to specific cues in dialog, much as a real actor does. There is also to be an actor who performs in the puppet’s stage space. When the work is completed, these spaces, stages, and figures are to be the setting and props for a performance, titled "Séance".

Text from the exhibition website
Sťance Box No.1 (work in progress): As if it might be a mediumistic being, this networked tele-puppet performs on its stage at the whim of the one who moves it from a distance, and only this puppet master may speak with the ones from somewhere else. The visitors are seen by this puppet-medium, who learns to be the lens for the desires of the audience as they try to communicate with the ever-listening artificial actor. This agent provocateur floats in the image landscape before them, a speaking fountain given to rhyme, alliteration, and seemingly prophetic speech. In this work-in-progress presentation of what will eventually be the setting for two parts of a 3-site performance, the boundaries crossed by voices are the keys to finding messages in the network medium. kf 1999

exhibition history:
ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, "net_condition"; 1999-2000

control interface; telepuppet

Title: "Séance Box No.1 - work in progress"
Artist: Ken Feingold
Software Architecture and Direction: Ken Feingold
Software Development Assistance
    Visual programming and speech synthesis: Gideon May
    Speech Recognition: Adolf Mathias
    ForceFeedback Joystick Server: Andreas Schiffler, Timo Fleisch
    AI development: Ken Feingold, Boriana Koleva, some original functions based on code by Duane Fields
    Embedded applications: Ken Feingold
    Software testing and content implementation: Ken Feingold
Hardware developers: Ken Feingold, Joachim Hund, H. Carl Ott, Armin Steinke
Production Managers: Sally Jane Norman, Heike Staff
Some technologies developed in collaboration with ZKM Karlsruhe and i3net/eRENA (European Network for Intelligent Information Interfaces)
Date: i3net/zkm project 1998-1999

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