This project builds on the practice-based research and development of a former installation Picnic on the Screen originally developed for the BBC Public Video Screen at the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts. In this new project Paul Sermon and Charlotte Gould have carefully considered the technical and conceptual aspect of the former work, to develop and propose an original site-specific work for the Connecting Cities event URBAN REFLECTIONS, linking audiences in Berlin and Riga. This new installation pushes the playful, social and public engagement aspects of the work into new cultural and political realms in an attempt to ‘reclaim the urban screens’ through developments in ludic interaction and HD videoconferencing. Inspired in part by 3D street art and computer games, the motivation behind this proposal also comes from the historical films of Lumière contemporaries, Mitchell and Kenyon, whose films of public crowds in the 1900’s present a striking similarity to the way audiences react and respond in Sermon and Gould’s telematic urban screen installations. These pioneering fairground screenings of audiences filmed earlier the same day possess all the traits, albeit the latency in processing, of live telepresent interaction, whereby the audience play directly to the camera and occupy this new public space by performing to themselves and others when screened later.
Using a tried and tested telematic concept and technique developed by Paul Sermon, the installation takes live oblique camera shots from above the screens of two separate audience groups in Berlin and Riga, both located on large 40m2 blue ground sheets, which then combines them on screen via a chroma-key video switcher in a single composited image. As the merged audiences start to explore this collaborative, shared telepresent space they discover the ground beneath them, as it appears on screen as a digital backdrop, locates them in a variety of surprising and intriguing anamorphic environments. These backgrounds directly reference their social and cultural setting, containing converged scenes of Riga and Berlin in a 3D ludic game world.
Following Mitchell and Kenyon’s example our intension is to provide the audience participants with the opportunity to direct and change the outcomes of this installation through an open system of interaction. These unique transitory outcomes will rely entirely on the roles and performances the public participants bring to these urban screens and the experiences they choose to live out. Contextualized by their urban and commercial environments and recontextualized by a diverse array of interactive backdrops, our aim is to allow these public audiences the opportunity and agency to reclaim these urban screens. This fluxus happening will include the widest range of urban participation possible, ranging from buskers playing, singing, shouting and dancing to people out shopping, walking, chating, waiting, watching or meeting.