"StalkShow" (2003) a public space project by Karen Lancel.
The StalkShow deals with threat of unsafety and isolation. It invites the audience to provide this threat with a personal face and space; to show both its horror and its beauty.
A backpack with laptop/touchscreen is carried through public spaces. Being surrounded by the audience you are invited to touch the touchscreen and to navigate through an archive of texts about threat of unsafety and isolation. The texts are derived from the Internet, written by people living in isolation, like a prisoner, a nun, a pilgrim, a digipersona. By webcam and wireless internet connection, your live video portrait appears together with the text on a large projection screen in the same public space. Your 'watching' face watches the (watching) audience.
The StalkShow makes connections between social experiences in the virtual and in the physical space. The StalkShow uses the Internet as a social space and inquires the involvement as well as the alienation in this social space.
The StalkShow is both a a social event and installation. It is an interactive, interdisciplinary project, built from several elements: backpack, text, video image on projection screen, wireless internet connection, location, mobility, interface, experience of the audience. The audience consists of a surrounding and watching audience in public space, and users / participants. Together, these elements form the StalkShow.
The StalkShow exists of a wearable backpack in which a laptop with a touchscreen is built. Through the frame in the backpack the audience can use the touchscreen. When touching the touchscreen, the user sees video image and texts.
The texts contain mental images and experiences of unsafety and isolation. They have been selected from dialogues generated by the project Agora Phobia (digitalis). In this project people were invited to make statements about 'personal strategies for dealing with a social space'. These people were living (un)voluntarily in isolation, like a prisoner, nun, pilgrim, someone suffering from agoraphobia, digipersona.
By touching the screen the user makes these statements visible. The statements are connected in a labyrinthic hypertext structure. By navigating through the hypertext, the user generates his own montage of strategies.
Video Image by webcams
To the projection screen as well as to the backpack, webcams are attached. The two webcams are cross-linked between projection screen and backpack:
The webcam at the projection screen records the image of the audience in public space: the people, their interaction, the waiting, the physical manifestation of personal territoria. This image appears behind the text on the touchscreen (in the backpack), touched by the user.
The webcam on the backpack records the face of the user of the touchscreen. This face is being projected live behind the text on the projection screen.
The user sees himself 'watching' through a text-window. He 'watches' through a social-psychological frame of mind which seems to have a life of its own; showing statements about unsafety and isolation which he seems not to be able to control. The statements of other people are linked to his own image. His 'watching' face watches the (watching) audience.
Threshold spaces and transit zones.
Video Image on Projection Screen
The texts made visible by touching the screen are projected on a projection screen. This projection screen is located in the same location as the carrier of the backpack. The information on the touchscreen-laptop is sent to a server by wireless internet connection.
The wearable backpacks are being carried through public space by assistants.Both the changing residencies of the backpack and the navigation through the texts offer the user changing, temporary possibilities for a relation with the surrounding audience.
Together with the digital interface on the touchscreen the experience of the physical body plays an important role in the interface in two ways: a) body of the backpack-carrier and b) surrounding audience.
By touching the screen the user starts a tactile relation with the back of a stranger carrying the backpack. He enters the intimacy of the body of the stranger. Generating alertness and attraction for the user, the intimacy and the tension of the body play an important role in the interface.
The user is being surrounded by (watching) people. The presence of these people, watching the user in action at the touchscreen in the backpack and watching the action on the big screen, is part of the experience of navigating through the texts on the touchscreen.
The project was co-developed by Karen Lancel and V2_Lab during June and July 2003.
Interaction designer: Enric Gili Fort (E), Programmer: Simon de Bakker (NL]), Project manager: Lobke Hulzink (NL).