“The Cube v.2.5 3.5”
“The Cube v.2.5” is an interactive installation that links tangible and digital reality, utilizing customized hardware and physical computing.
A digital cube, which incorporates visual images of my artwork or other creations, is projected on the wall. A physical cube sits in front of the projected display. When patrons move the physical cube, the digital cube moves in sync. As patrons interact with the installation, they realize they have truly become part of its digital world when they spy a realtime image of themselves on one side of the digital cube.
The initial idea for “The Cube” came to me during one of my countless ponderings on the meaning of reality. What is a being? What is the difference between a digital and physical being?
Digital technology has expanded our concept of what constitutes “reality”, but we still distinguish and separate tangible objects from digital reality. We view the digital realm as a fantasy world that we can control.
While playing with the developer tool X code, I had the idea of creating a tangible object that would control its digital counterpart. I would utilize commercial objects readily available on the market, but use them in a very different way from that originally intended by the manufacturers.
Why a cube? We are surrounded by cuboid shapes – rooms, cubicals, buildings, etc., etc. These shapes contain life inside; I see in this shape a reflection of inner life, the inner reality – yet another dimension to explore. Ok, that and I had a really cool red box from an online store.
Developing “The Cube”
A wireless controller immediately came to mind – the ultimate symbol of our control over fantasy and digital reality.
My first obstacle came when I realized I was going to have to use a software I had never before touched – Quartz Composer. Solution – read, read and read some more. Then test, sleep, dream about Quartz Composer and talk to my patient wife about how to prototype a patch in five minutes.
Next problem – for some obscure reason, my computer did not want to synchronize to a bluetooth chip in my controller. Solution – I purchased a bluetooth adaptor that was supported by my operating system.
Synchronization complete, I moved immediately onto the next problem. I wanted to change the controllers battery to a lithium battery so it would last longer – very important detail when an installation is on display for an extended period in a museum or gallery. This switch had the unfortunate consequence of burning down my entire controller. My theory is always that if I don’t try crazy ideas, I’ll miss some very creative solutions. In this case, I had to buy a new controller and accept the limited life of regular batteries (for now . . .)
Success! I had the project up and running. My next problem came up during exhibitions. Patrons would drop the physical cube with the customized controller inside, result = broken controller. This had a fairly easy solution which involved encapsulating the controller in styrofoam and a larger box. I am happy to report this worked and I have not had to buy new controllers for a while!
When I started working with performers, I decided to incorporate this project in their performance (see video at bottom of page).
Excerpts from The Cube Performance in NYC: Performed by "The Circuit"
Performers: Heidi Kirchofer & Joel Melendez of Matica Arts, Edwin Olvera and Jade Soto