"Systems Maintenance" (1998) is an interactive installation by Perry Hoberman.
Perry Hoberman is an installation and performance artist whose work employs a variety of technologies, ranging from totally obsolete to state-of-the-art. It seems that no electrical appliances or electronic equipment, consumer goods or gadgets are out of place in the world of Perry Hoberman. Systems Maintenance is a newly commissioned work. A furnished room and two exact models (one physical, one digital) vie for dominance. Live images of the three rooms are combined into a single video projection. By moving the furniture and viewpoint of each of the three rooms, visitors can match (or mismatch) the components of the rooms as they appear in the projected image. The video projection - in effect a 'fourth room' - becomes the site of some striking confusions of scale as hands, bodies and gadgets mingle in the same hybrid space.
System Maintenance plays with the (dis)continuities of physical and virtual space. The life-size furniture, in rainbow colours, moves on wheels in the centre of the installation on a circular platform. Next to it, on a computer screen, a virtual platform of the same furniture can again be shifted. Thirdly, a doll's house model of the furniture is there to physically adjust on a pedestal. All three spaces are filmed from the same height, position and field of view, superimposed onto a single large-scale video projection. The images of the three rooms are then balanced in intensity whereby it is nearly impossible to visually distinguish between the three versions on the video screen. The installation invites the participant to assimilate all three spaces of furniture, like a Rubick's Cube. Or Conversely mess them all up to find its discrepancies. During its hours of operation, an "Adjustment Team" in monochromatic suits, make endless series of adjustments to maintain order, as the public continually kicks it back into disorder. The spectacle of appearing and disappearing connections between physical and virtual space goes on relentlessly: System Maintenance ingeniously confuses the Spectator's barriers of space orientation by forcing him to interact physically with the models. Pushing, picking up and clicking the furniture as he shoves it, moves it by the mouse or handles it with the tips of his fingers - All mixed on the fourth space of the bedazzling large-scale video screen, where the bed one may have just sat on, now seems to be picked up by a giant hand on the screen...
On the screen it's nearly impossible to distinguish the images of each version's furniture from those of the other models. Until something is picked up, or pushed, or clicked, it is nearly impossible to tell whether it's in the same "world" as you are. The participants are simultaneously inside the room, looking down on it like a chessboard, and interfaced with it. The video projection becomes, in effect, a "fourth room" where hands, bodies and gadgets mingle in the same hybrid space - a confused space that allows us to enter a virtual world - and, more significantly, allows that same virtual world to invade our own. Systems Maintenance is an attempt to come to terms with, and even revel in, the essential nature of interactivity. Rather than locate structures of meaning in ideas of narrative, they are embodied in concepts of behavior - the behavior of the participants and the system itself. The goal is to line up the furniture, but achieving this goal is hardly the point of the piece, which functions equally well whether it is moving toward a state of order or disorder at any given moment. The ultimate aim of Systems Maintenance is to analyze, comment upon, and open up notions of immersion, virtuality and interactivity itself.
Systems Maintenance has been commissioned by Hull Time Based Arts for Photo 98, UK Year of Photography and Electronic Image, and by V2_Organisation / DEAF 98.