Paul Sermon, Steve Dixon, Mathias Fuchs, Andrea Zapp: Unheimlich

  • ©,






    Telematic videoconference performance


Artist Statement:

    Unheimlich is a performance installation for multiple users, linking and visually compositing audience members with live performers in the United Kingdom.

    It’s 1 am in London, but two enigmatic sisters have stayed up late to see you, and to (telematically) greet you with a kiss as you step into their space, in real time, thousands of miles away. Stand back in the darkness and watch the events unfold, or step onto the illuminated blue carpet to meet and talk to the two siblings, and participate in their eccentric games, secret rituals, and compelling conversations.

    Spanning a six-hour time difference, audience participants in Boston are invited into the virtual world of two actors in London. Once on the blue mat, you are visually merged with them on the screens around the space, where you can talk to them, dance with them, ask them questions, or just “hold hands.” Metamorphosing graphical back­grounds surround you, from fantastical computer-game landscapes to mundane English sitting rooms, depending on whether the sisters decide to take you on cliff-hanging adventures, or to offer you some tea.

Technical Information:

    Unheimlich takes Freud’s concept of the uncanny as “unheimlich” (at once familiar, homelike, but also strange, alien, and uncomfortable) as its starting point. This drama uses broadband internet videocon­ferencing to connect audiences and performers in geographically remote locations. Via a system of live chroma-keying, the distant actors are composited within the same telepresent image and share the same stage. Computer-generated backgrounds and virtual environments are determined live and initiate imaginative dialogue and improvisation among the participants and actors.

    The camera image from London is sent to Boston via an H.323 Internet video-conference connection. This image is received in Boston and chroma-keyed with another camera image and an additional computer background scene. The combined video image, consisting of the computer-generated background, the Boston audience mid-ground, and the London performer fore­ground, is then presented on video screens around the blue-box stage in Boston. In order to increase the quality and speed of the system, the return image to London is sent without the original foreground layer, which is then added locally when it is received.

Affiliation Where Artwork Was Created:

    The Chameleons Group, Brunel University


    Unheimlich is financially assisted by the Arts Council of England.