"Membrane" (2004) is a responsive installation by the art research group Sponge. It was shown at DEAF04.
Membrane is proposing a novel way of communication by gestural interaction. Large sheets of translucent fine metal mesh are suspended in the air space of the exhibition hall and responsive video textures are projected over them. As you walk past the Membrane your image leaves a trail on the screen. The effects change depending on the activity of the people around it, and on the course of time over the hours and days. The Membrane invites the people on both sides of the screen to engage with each other because of how it transforms what each person sees through it.
Two video cameras facing out from the Membrane provide live video feed of passers-by on both sides of the Membrane. Approaching the Membrane, you see a video of people on the opposite side re-projected onto the translucent Membrane material. Your movement perturbs the video of the opposite side of the Membrane that is composited with the video of yourself. By sweeping your hand, you reshape what you see of the other person. The real-time calligraphic video effects vary and include dynamics of water, smoke, shockwaves or particles according to the gesture and movement of the passers-by. Interaction is conveyed by a mediated tangibility devoid of physical touch. Our gestures change our perception of those on the other side of the membrane.
The interface seems to provide a safe distance, which makes it easier to interact with other passers-by. Yet, the membranes are porous: the interaction with other players creates a rich social and sensorial layered context where physical presence and media worlds merge. Though we are not physically touching those we are engaging with, there is definitely a materiality seeping through the membrane. It is exactly this tangibility that creates the sense of an intimate exchange. Due to the increase of virtuality in our quotidian communication, gestures have lost centre stage, yet in Membrane
they play a pivotal role in shaping the responsive media environment: with a swoosh of the hand or a sway of the head we construct our own calligraphic video sculptures.
Harry Smoak, Altanta, USA, creative lead, sculpture.
Yoichiro Serita, Tokyo, Japan, lead visual design, flow design, graphics programming.
Sha Xin Wei, Atlanta, USA, argument, visual design.
Chris Salter, Berlin, Germany, flow design, sound design.
Joel Ryan, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, sound design and programming.
Delphine Nain, Atlanta, USA, visual effects programming.Maria Cordell, Atlanta, USA, visual effects programming.