"Artificial Changelings" (1998) is an interactive movie by Toni Dove, shown during the IFFR98.
A romance thriller about shopping, Artificial Changelings is the first in a trilogy of responsive movies. It is presented as an installation in which one person at a time uses body movement to interact with sound and images. Viewers can take turns either as participants or spectators. The story opens in Paris at the end of the 19th century and travels to an unnamed future through interactions with two female characters. Artificial Changelings brings the movie off the screen and into the room inviting viewers to engage with characters in an immersive environment. It is rich with multi-layered imagery and has a stunning score by composer Peter Scherer.
Artificial Changelings begins with Arathusa, a 19th century kleptomaniac with self destructive tendencies who suffers the constraints of Victorian society. The thrill she receives from stealing is erotic. She dreams of Zilith, a woman of the future, who is both real and imagined. Zilith is an encryption hacker searching for invisible enemies and drowning from lack of focus in a futuristic landscape. She is also a dreamer - and a voyeur obsessed with power. Each woman meets a man who will play a greater role in the next part of the trilogy. Artificial Changelings is a unique statement on how consumer economy, from the Industrial Revolution to the present, shapes identity.
The installation consists of a large curved rear projection screen suspended in a room with four zones delineated on the floor in front and some chairs for a small audience. Non-interactive narrative sequences frame the experience at beginning and end. The body of the piece contains multiple segments that offer the audience an opportunity to have a responsive experience with the characters and environment.
The viewer steps into a pool of light in front of the screen and enters the interactive zones. When close to the screen you are inside a character's head; back off and the character addresses you directly; back off again and you are in a trance or dream state; and back off once more to enter a time tunnel that emerges in the other century. Within the zones, movement causes changes in the behaviour of video and sound. There are body, speech and memory segments - each with different behaviors. The characters become like marionettes with unpredictable reactions based on the movement of the viewer in front of the screen. Body movement will dissolve images, shuttle forward and reverse on the time line, trigger frame loops, and change speed and color, as well as dissolve between segments and create superimpositions. Movement close to the screen will produce intimate revelations, close-up images and whispered sounds. Movement away from the screen will create memories clouded by layers of time, transparent images, and washes of sound. The sound environment and emotional tone of the piece are altered as well by the nature of a viewers' movements within each zone. Different viewer responses will produce different aspects of content and affect.
It premieres at the Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) on January 29th and runs daily through February 8th, 1998.