An interaction

"I take a torch and shine the red beam at the wall. Suddenly, magically, creatures rise up as though I have sliced through murky water or mist to reveal them - it feels like the torch is a scalpal. The wall falls away - no longer solid - there are hidden depths from which the creatures come, responding to the light. As they wriggle around in their unique way, I experience them as beautiful, like fancy french cakes whilst potentially disturbing."



Animacules was inspired by the 19th century sea life illustrations of Ernst Haeckel and the work of the 17th century Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who invented one of the earliest microscopes. Leeuwenhoek was the first to describe what we now know to be micro-organisms as living 'molecules' which he christened Animalcules. We wanted to create a swarm of fanciful small creatures whose body shapes recall the microscopic life of the sea, ponds and saliva.

This interactive installation belongs to a series of works that explore the theme imagined future human evolution and playfully considers alternative propositions to the cerebro-centric norm. Could an evolution driven by sensual gratification result in a more satisfying existance for humans?


Technical description

Hardware · PC, Webcam, projector, torches

Software · Flash

Projection surface · floor or wall

Nature of interaction · torch-driven

A pool of blue light is projected onto a white disc on the floor. Three torches hang from the ceiling. A creature will occassionally bob up to the surface to attract the attention of anyone not yet engaged with the work. Torch light will draw the many different creatures up from the depths. An active observer can retain a creature for closer scrutiny by continuing to shine light on it.

There are currently over 30 animacules and these have been constructed from video recordings of the artists' bodies choreographed in the multimedia authoring program Flash. The work is front projected onto a white wooden disc on the floor in a darkened gallery space. Torches, attached to the ceiling, can be shone onto the disc and a webcam linked to the software detects light and motion.

Usually this piece is done with fixed projectors onto a wall space or down onto the floor. We have also created a shadow-responsive version and a non-interactive, portable version run on a handheld projector which enables us to move around a space projecting onto objects and the audience.