Portrait One

Luc Courchesne

Portrait One ,
Co-workers & Funding
  • Portrait One, 1988-90
    360 × 332
Marie, a French-speaking Montrealer in her thirties played by actress Paule Ducharme, appears to be lost in reverie. You may try to get her attention: when selecting "Excuse me..." on the display, Marie suddenly stares at you; then, selecting "Do you have the time?", "Are you staring at me?" or simply "May I ask you something?" starts a conversation that will develop according to visitor's curiosity or Marie's moods. The encounter may be cut short due to a lack of tact or interest, or it may develop into intimate considerations about love in the context of a virtual relationship. The conversation may be conducted in French, English, German, Italian, Dutch or Japanese. In all languages except for French, Marie's answers are subtitled.

Portrait One explores portraiture in the age of hypermedia and virtual reality. After the painted portrait synthesizing the author/model experience into a single image, and after the photographic portrait capturing the instant, the hypermedia portrait looks at the subject to capture, this time, fragments of behavior that will be used to reconstruct the mechanics of conversation. In hypermedia portraits, the visitor's point of view and attitude becomes an intrinsic part of the work as the encounter between the artist and the subject is re-enacted.

(Luc Courchesne)
  • aesthetics
    • interactive
    • narrative
    • tactile
    • visual
  • genres
    • installations
      • interactive installations
  • subjects
    • Art and Science
      • dynamical systems
    • Arts and Visual Culture
      • portraits
    • Media and Communication
      • communication
Technology & Material
The installation requires a Macintosh computer equipped with a serial port (originally a Macintosh SE/30), a touchpad, a Pioneer LD-V 8000 laserdisc player, a 27" video monitor and a pair of amplified stereo speakers. The monitor is encased facing down in an arch-like structure above a pedestal housing the computer/touchpad. The pedestal is also use to position the glass reflecting plate at 45° directly underneath the video monitor. The authoring/delivery software was developed on HyperCard and can be played on MacOS 6.8 or later. The NTSC video sequences totaling 30 minutes are stored on a single CAV laserdisc.

Visitors use a touchpad to move the cursor about the computer screen and select questions from imposed lists. The questions are HyperCard buttons sending commands to the laserdisc player via the computer's serial port. Video sequences from the laserdisc are displayed on a monitor facing down above a tilted glass plate positioned at eyelevel. The viewer looking into the glass plate sees a reflection of the video image (virtual image plane) through which the text (set of questions) from the computer screen is visible. The characters have been recorded on a black background; once reflected on glass, the video image thus looses it's edge and the characters appear as ghosts inhabiting the real gallery space.