An interaction

"I can hear a tapping sound coming from a box in the corner of the dark room. A spiky little creature is making its way around the edge of a circular screen. I pick up one of the torches and direct the light onto its orangey-pink body, it darts away. I play the light in the spaces around the urchin and it starts to spin. Suddenly it jumps, hitting the side and knocking off a couple of spines. I leave it alone, the bright features of the body start dimming to dark blue, then little flashes of fluorescent blue and green pulsate up its legs and spines and it dances."

 

Background

The interactive installation Urchin 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 existence for humans? These works are drawn from distant relatives of ours, the echinoderms; a phylum of simple marine animals.

Designed as a complimentary piece to the Starfish; this is an overtly masculine, small and jerky creature. Visually the male sexual organs predominate and the resulting artwork creates a tension between attraction and repulsion.

The Urchin also references bioluminescence: a creature's ability to produce and emit light through chemical reaction. Bioluminescence is common in deep sea life, where it may be used to camouflage, attract, repel or communicate. We often add realistic behaviours to our creatures in an attempt to create a richer engagement and an increased affinity.

The Urchin visually references chimerical beings, the grotesque and transhumanism.

 

Technical description

Hardware · PC, projector, webcam, speakers, torches

Software · Flash

Projection surface · Lycra screen in urchin box or onto wall

Nature of interaction · torch or ambient light driven

An urchin-human hybrid audibly taps its way round a circular screen fixed in the top of a large white box. Two torches are attached to the box. The urchin responds in a variety of ways to the light. Circling a light beam around the creature will encourage it to spin. Too much light and it will bump into the edges of the screen, possibly knocking limbs off in the process. These regenerate over time. Too little light and the creature will enter a bioluminscent phase, emitting a series of pulsing light patterns.

The artwork has been constructed from video recordings of the (male) artist's body choreographed in the multimedia authoring program Flash, and is rear-projected onto a deformable Lycra screen fixed in a box set in a darkened gallery space. Torches, attached to the box, can be shone at or touched against the flexible screen on which the urchin is projected. A webcam linked to the software detects light and motion, triggering a variety of life-like actions in the creature.

The Urchin also appears in Mutoscope