Toni Dove

Spectropia ,
Co-workers & Funding
commissioned by the 1994 Next Wave Festival
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A work in progress , is an evening-length interactive media performance performed by two players with the the participation of audience members. Spectropia can also be presented as an interactive installation for two viewers at museums, festivals and public spaces. A version will be created for home interaction using a combination of DVD and internet delivery.
Spectropia, an interactive movie shot on digital video, is a time travel drama set in the future and in NYC 1931 after the stock market crash. It uses the metaphor of supernatural possession to explore new constuctions of subjectivity and the disorders brought on by consumer culture and emerging technologies. Unlike traditional movies, Spectropia is “performed” interactively (by trained performers and ordinary viewers) using a unique mix of motion sensors, speech recognition and synthesis, and vocal triggers. Players assisted by trained performer/tutors can spontaneously unfold dialogue between characters based on physical cooperation, speak to characters and have them respond, navigate through cinematic spaces, move a character’s body, and alter and create the soundtrack.

The story opens in a time reminiscent of the late 18th century, but strangely inverted, as if seen through a looking glass of dimly remembered and mutated images. We are in the future in England, 2099, a world of artificial surfaces where knowledge spans only a person's experience and recorded history is forbidden. This culture of consumption floats on islands of garbage; saving anything is punishable by law.

Spectropia, a self-taught archeologist in her early twenties, is addicted to the illegal activity of collecting artifacts from the past. She seems to live, partly by choice, in an environment devoid of human presence. Her companion, a Duck, is a garbage collector based on Vaucanson's famous 18th century automaton. He is part robot and part computer animation with a human voice - it is unclear whether he is Spectropia's creation. The Duck runs a black market business in retro objects.

Driven by a half-remembered family history, Spectropia analyzes garbage with a scanning machine of her own invention. The machine reads objects and translates their history into lifelike simulations that she can enter and that respond to her voice and movement. Confused by subconscious yearnings, she is drawn to images and detritus from New York City in the early part of the century. This leads her to William, a young man from 1931, just after the Great Crash. As her interest in William escalates into obsession, she collects his faded belongings with such intensity that she conjures him up. He is a short circuit in her overheated machine - a black and white ghost, caught out of the simulation and superimposed over the baroque trappings of the future. William has a problem and Spectropia returns with him to the past where she finds herself in the body of one Verna de Mott, an amateur sleuth. Things heat up as the couple struggles over love and money, plagued by supernatural events with freudian overtones. The tension between repression and revelation drives the narrative forward to its climax, in which economic disaster is only partially averted, romance is both thwarted and rewarded, and Spectropia returns to the future with a new understanding of her own past.
  • genres
    • installations
      • interactive installations
      • performative installations
    • performance art
      • multimedia performances
  • subjects
    • History and Memory
  • technology
    • interfaces
      • body sensors
        • speech recognition
Technology & Material
Cinema-scale screen 16:9 aspect ratio, three scrim panels on each side of scrim.
One G4 laptop, two G5 towers connected via an ethernet hub, one panasonic MX50 switcher attached to the laptop with a USB serial adapter. Four interactive floor buttons attached to the computer using an I-cube unit with Midi connection and power supply. Overhead video camera attached to laptop computer using a video convertor box. Video convertors coming from tower computers to video switcher. Wireless microphones attached to laptop for speech recognition. Audio mixer from tower computers to four self-powered speakers. Three video projectors for main screen and side scrims. Will require PA system for large hall. Software is proprietary. Roger Luke DuBois designed the software using Max, MSP and Jitter software and David Rokeby’s Soft VNS.
Exhibitions & Events