An interaction

"A squat little gramophone box sits on a plinth. With its cyclop's eye of a lens, I can see it has been modified into some form of viewing machine. A winding handle in its side encourages my engagement. I look through the lens and into a dark space, on turning the handle a circle of blue appears and then two little creatures pop into view on either side; continued turning increases their size and spirals them into a sexual tryst. I turn the handle backwards and the urchin hops on top."



Mutoscope: What the Biologist Saw was created for a Waterman's Unleashed Devices exhibition and was a response to the theme of 'hacked and modded machines'.

It takes inspiration from proto-cinematic machines, including the titular mutoscope and zoeotrope. The piece references the 'What the Butler Saw' drop-card machines of the 1900s and their promise of licentiousness. The reference to 'Biologist' in the work's subtitle also introduces ideas of discovery, investigation and control.

Mutoscope is our first physical art object and represents a development of our research into intuitive interaction and modding. With its hand-cranked digital animation, this interactive work establishes an interface between the analogue and digital.


Technical description

Hardware · Mutoscope, netbook, adapted mouse

Software · Flash

Nature of interaction · handle-driven

A modified gramophone box with lens attachment, houses a netbook. A clock winding handle set in the side of the box is internally attached to a mouse wheel allowing the winder to control an interactive animation which features two of our creatures; the Starfish and the Urchin. By rotating the handle at different speeds and in different directions, the user is able to control the tempo and outcome of the passionate embrace.

The creatures are constructed from a collage of the artists' body parts and the Mutoscope from a collage of old machines.

The intuitive nature of the interaction means that all ages can enjoy the work, winding the handle and peeping through the hole. We plan to build more interactive devices like this in the future, perhaps for multiple users.

A new version of this piece adds kaleidoscopic pentaradial effect.