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2005 IDAA New Media

Touring with IDAA New Media exhibition

1. VCA Gallery University of Melbourne Australia
28 April - 19 May 2005

2. QUT Ctreative Industries Brisbane Australia
04 August to 04 September 2005

Interactive Installation

Artist/Interface Design: MARI VELONAKI
Software programming: Gary Zebington
Sound design: Shannon O'Neill


Originally trained in performance art, Mari Velonaki has been experimenting with interactive installations that involve engagement with digital characters since 1995. Intrigued by the effect of fascination that projected characters have on spectators beyond the space of cinema, she has been devising installations that engage the audience with her characters in interplays stimulated by sensor triggering interfaces. Many of these installations are inspired by pre-cinema experiments of the 19th century such as magic lantern shows, animated toys, and Theatre Optique. Each of Velonaki's projects has required the development of custom-made technological interfaces.

In Pin Cushion, a digital female character is projected onto a rubber cushion with eight Chinese acupuncture needles embedded in it. From a distance the image appears as a luminous face glowing on the wall with people hovering below it. A spectator/participant has an option to either change the face of the character by touching the needles or abstain from interaction. The range at which the instantaneous morphology the degrading face assumes, depends on the physiological properties of the viewer: surface electrical conductivity, resistance to electrical currents, and the latent charge of the participant's own body. The character's life-span and well-being are dictated by the collective intentions of the participants over the exhibition period.

The installation's digital face is a composite hybrid image, intentionally devoid of any single cultural, social or historical certainty. In the work familiar archetypes are consciously blurred. 'The female body/face, states Velonaki, is often used as a site of essentialism, domination and control. It is often used to represent land, nature and ideas. The concept of homeland, too, is represented as feminine in many languages. In Theresa Cha's Dicte' a Western medical diagram and an Eastern acupuncture chart (which literally display a mutilated body, one cut in half in the name of science) are juxtaposed over a map of the Korea that was divided by the Axis and Allied powers after World War II. The map shows a similarly mutilated Korea, one cut in half in the name of world security, harmony and peace'.[1]

[1] Mari Velonaki, PhD Theses, "Experimental Interfaces: Physical Placement and Participation of the Spectator in Interactive Installation Environments", College of Fine Arts, University of NSW, Sydney, 2003 (Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung (1982). Dictee, Tanam Press, New York; Lowe, Lisa, Unfaithful to the Original: The Subject of Dictee Writing Self, Writing Nation: Essays on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee, Eds. Elaine Kim and Norma Alarcon (1994). Third Woman Press, Berkeley.)