British Science Festival, Brighton Palace Pier, 5th to 9th September 2017

Digital Encounters presents a Pier-side showcase of current interactive artworks by Professor Paul Sermon and his PhD students Jeremiah Ambrose and Jane Frances Dunlop from the School of Art at the University of Brighton, with performed contributions from Ann Light, Professor of Design and Creative Technology at the University of Sussex. These digital encounters explore augmented presence, telematic touch and virtual reality experiences in four secluded booths located in Horatio’s Bar on Brighton Pier. Presented akin to Edwardian scientific experiments, they become analogous to how the technologies of film, illusion and clairvoyance first appeared in amusement arcades and attractions on seaside piers. This event represents a panel-conversation between the participants taking part in the form of interactive experiences that will connect and inform creative arts and science themes concerning the body, virtual space, augmentation, performance, and identity, providing participation for an audience of all ages and interests.

Digital Encounters exhibition handout (3MB) PDF

In this interactive 360° film installation, the user becomes a ghost-like viewer immersed in a series of curated moments as their gaze interactions allow them to possess uncanny perspectives of Brighton Pier. The imitation or reproduction of reality is an artistic endeavour accelerated by cinematic immersion. Framed in the histories of the magic lantern, the phantasmagoria used these devices to project apparitions to its audiences. Inverting such practices, Mimesis allows its users to embody cinematic spaces and control their movements through time and space. Amounting to a cinema VRité, this practice turns the user into the proverbial fly-on-the-wall, whilst allowing for the creation of non-linear narratives established by their interactions.

A storyteller haunts a secluded booth: traces of a tale that tangles the real and digital, the mythical and the actual, weave in and out of focus. weaver is a sound and video installation that tracks the threads that twist through the digital and physical world. Inspired by the Greek Myth of Arachne, it uses the story of the fickle Athena and the proud Arachne to explore how information weaves across our contemporary digital networks. In the myth, Arachne is a weaver, a talented and boastful one. Challenged to a contest by Athena, she is on the verge of winning when the god flies into a rage and turns her into a spider. She is cursed to weave a web forever. Metaphors of webs and weaving resonate throughout contemporary digital technologies: textile production provided an early template for computers and ‘the web’ is central to our daily use of the Internet. In this installation, ‘weaving’ and mythology provide a way to consider how digital technologies augment our lives. The myth of the weaver becomes a parable for contemporary efforts to grapple with a digital world. Sat in an empty booth, we hear fragments of the myth and watch images of spiders, hands, and technologies weaving in and out of one another. The result is an eerie installation, in which digital sounds and images interlace a secluded space to the virtual world and its real surroundings. It is a digital myth that haunts the space as fragments of sound and video become entangled with the noise and events space around it.

Whilst our typing hands do not normally have any further role or function other than pressing keys, this installation proposes to turn our webcam chat attention away from our talking head and focus on our hands, located on a shared telepresent keyboard, as a backdrop to a new space of remote intimacy. A space that was once the domain of textual exchanges now becomes the space of performance, abstract poetry, and handheld encounters as a new sensation of being touched by text. ‘Telematic Touched’ aims to provoke an altogether new social networked encounter by simply rearranging our computer peripherals; webcam, projector and screen in an alternative manner. As each person begins to type and chat his or her hands meet and visually mix on this telepresent keyboard surface where dialogues, games, and encounters unfold. Whilst on the one hand it is a completely simple set up it is on the other an entirely new physical encounter; echoing palmist conversations that suggest the convergence of virtual spirits and contemporary digital chat-room environments composited on screen.

Telematic Touched project website