Elie Zananiri
Sara Bremen

Camera Obscura: The Gates

Camera Obscura: the Gates creates a unique look into one’s daily world by providing a different perspective of an everyday experience. Originally intended for the north lobby of the Bronx Museum, this version of Camera Obscura, The Gates, is adapted specifically for the ITP Winter Show.


Site-specific: Augmentation, Affinities, and Frames

Camera Obscura: The Gates (ITP Winter Show version) creates a unique look into one’s daily world by providing a different perspective of an everyday experience. A live feed from outside the 721 Tisch building is taken via a small webcam. The image is manipulated and re-projected onto the shades of a window bank of the fourth floor. What the viewer on the fourth floor sees is a series of thin lines that seem to follow her movement. If she stands still long enough, the line opens up like a gate to reveal the scene from down below. After she moves away, the gate quickly closes until the next visitor approaches.

Camera Obscura: The Gates introduces no new content but rather re-presents the daily world. The piece attempts to explore this liminal space between noticed and unnoticed, between daily and heightened, in a very direct manner. A visitor to the show might see something new about the surrounding sidewalk after seeing it projected onto a window. Not only is the sidewalk repositioned to be four flights up, but also the windows take on a new capability and insight. In addition, because the projector is positioned behind the viewer, her own silhouette is thrown against the window, too, at once placing her inside the scene and a special kind of relationship is established between the viewer and the people revealed on the sidewalk.

Our intention is to provide an experience wherein a visitor sees herself inside an everyday world distorted and in an unexpected location, whereby we will create of moment of interest in and awareness of daily surroundings that will potentially last beyond the interaction. Camera Obscura: The Gates brings together ideas of attention and a re-awakening of daily life.

Camera Obscura was originally intended for the North Lobby of the Bronx Museum. In that location, the projection is visible to both museum visitors as well as passers-by and, in addition, speaks to the relationship between those different groups of people. There, the projection is simply a running, though distorted, live stream. At ITP, we are able to implement the "Gates" feature which not only adds to the fun of being able to interact with a projection, but also throws the user's shadow into the scene, re-creating a different kind of relationship between the viewer and the passers-by.

Camera Obscura: The Gates is intended for most visitors to the ITP Winter Show. The interaction is straight-forward and requires only that a visitor pass by and notice. When the silhouettes appear, there is a mirror-effect that would absolutely appeal to kids. We wrote the application in openFrameworks and employed camera tracking which would appeal to those interested in programming.

User Scenario
A visitor passes by the bank of windows and notices a small line of light following her. Intrigued, she stands in front of the line, hoping to figure it out. She is rewarded with a scene from downstairs on the sidewalk, where she had just been. She sees herself, in silhouette, as part of this scene. She watches the sidewalk scene and sees something little she hadn't noticed before, patterns of other walkers, the way taxis turn around the corner, how groups of people flock together, and she carries this tiny little discovery throughout the rest of the show and into the next time she finds herself on the sidewalk.

Ideally, the projection would be on a row of windows. In this way, we can use the existing architecture of the fourth floor to emphasize the idea of re-presenting the daily world our project suggests. We were thinking of the windows in the main lobby, the windows in the lounge, or the glass wall outside the conference room, in the hallway in front of the lockers.

How interactions for "visitors" need to be clear and direct and how the formal and aesthetic elements of a piece can enhance the theory behind it.