Mirror Site

2005-07

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The Mirror Site series explored the potential of asymmetry in live video links between distant spaces.

Background and Mission

Two-way simultaneous video communication typically relies on the construction of a unified common space, as one finds in a mirror. From either end of a virtual hallway, participants peer down to the other end, connecting formerly disconnected spaces. Such symmetry and synchrony prevail in everyday videoconferencing, but also in works for public spaces from Hole in Space (Rabinowitz and Galloway, 1980) to the Telectroscope linking New York and London (Paul St. George, 2008) or even Microsoft Research’s famously failed Virtual Kitchen experiment (Jancke, et al, 2000).
But is such seamless connection with another even possible, or desirable? How might live video exchange model the sort of asymmetry, imbalance and inequality found in most human interpersonal exchange? Relying on asynchrony, simulation, and a more cubist approach to pictorial space, Mirror Site involves pairs of strangers in live connections that retain difference, disconnect, and distance.
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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
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Mirror Site (Back-to-Back)

Site A: Shapiro Campus Center, Brandeis University

Site B: Siebel Center for Computer Science, University of Illinois

This iteration of the series employs surveillance-type cameras in the creation of a temporal visual link between two university buildings. Plasma screens in two locations switch from their regular programming to a ten minute live webcam connection at :20 and :50 of each hour. Viewers at each location see themselves in the foreground, and the distant space composited into the background, via perspectival alignment. At the very back of each view is visible the plasma display of the opposite location, viewers’ backs to the camera.

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Mirror Site (Converge)

Site A: Times Square, New York City

Site B: Siebel Center for Computer Science, University of Illinois

A large video-wall makes possible life-sized images of passersby. The right side of the screen contains a live view of the onlookers, mirrored. The left side of the screen shows a live webcam view from Times Square, NYC, where tourists stop to call friends and wave over the internet. The two views are paired to create the illusion of a single shared space, inviting interaction where there could be none. Viewers at the New York end of the project appear to be looking back at the viewers in Illinois, when in fact they are looking into the camera to greet friends called the webcam via cell phone.

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Mirror Site (Chat)

Site A: Galeria Hit, Bratislava, Slovak Republic

Site B: C2C Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic

Each gallery featured an identical setup – one table with a whiteboard as surface, two chairs, a projector/computer and networked camera. Each site’s camera caught one half of the table and one of the chairs – video projection combined the two halves to create a joint table for written or drawn communication. The empty half of the table and chairs at each site functioned as a spatial cue for imagining the other without forgetting the absence of the other. The camera and lighting prevented face-to-face connection, revealing only the heads and shoulders, arms and hands while drawing or writing. Users at either site could also choose to “hide” in the unfilmed seat, reaching over to reveal themselves when desired.