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A spatial projection installation
Being DigitalCommunicationThe BodySpaces

Onism is a spatial installation that explores the duality of the meaning “being digital” whilst being human through the inability of lidar scanning to capture data from reflective or transparent surfaces such as water.

The experience of “being digital” is of fluid multiplicities while the “human” experience in its physicality is more singular, and we were interested in the screen’s surface as an entry and boundary between physical and digital worlds, the simultaneous presence and absence that occurs in the liminal space of the screen, and the act of touch as the attempt to create physical connections with information and stimuli presented and bounded by the screen.

We as humans can currently experience the world beyond our bodies through the screen, which we try to connect with through touch but the screen itself is a material block. Technology such as lidar scanning is the bridge between physical and digital through screens, and wearable technologies such as glasses are currently being developed with the ability to scan and augment our physical realities. This technology works through laser light beams which are sent out through a screen, measures distances, and feeds that data back into the screen. It doesn’t work with reflected surfaces such as water as the light beams refract and absorb into the surface.

This installation creates a correlation between the idea of screen and the surface of water as the interface between physical and digital spaces, and we express the tension of that in-between liminal space between these states through “onism”, which is the feeling of frustration of being stuck in one body due to an awareness of how little of the world you will experience.

In this installation we project moving images of the surface of water which are reflected off of multiple parallel transparent and movable hanging sheets, which are meant to occupy a space from ceiling to floor. Participants are encouraged to walk in the space and interact with the sheets, while the projected images are layered on them, they see their shadows in the layered screens. The light rays from the projections bounce off the sheets, and the participants can see multiple refracted shadows of themselves, as well as see other participants within their shadows, but cannot physically interact with any of this beyond the interface of the screen.

Installation in situ, depicts transparent sheets and a human shadow in the lower right hand corner
Launch Project
A photo with an included launch link of video documentation of our installation.
Two different installation designs
Installation DesignsDesigns for possible outcomes from Xiaobo Bi
Canary Wharf at twilight depicting light reflecting off the surface of the water
Canary WharfPhotographic research by Alexander Van Der Byl