"When Ghosts Will Die" —Digital Performance
by Steve Gibson (Canada) and Dene Grigar (US)
"When Ghosts Will Die"—a digital performance and an
installation in which participants experience nuclear warfare
by interacting with multi-sensory elements such as sound, images,
light, and text created by motion-tracking technology and computers—explores
these technologies for the development of non-zero sum, "serious
games" that require intense psychomotor activity and raise
affective and cognitive awareness. The artists and programmers
involved in the project include Steve Gibson (U of Victoria,
Canada), Dene Grigar (Texas Woman's University, US), Will Bauer
(APR, Canada), Jim Andrews (U of Victoria, Canada), and John
Barber (U of Texas at Dallas, US). The work is envisioned as
a live performance, game "installation," and video.
Currently in production is the game installation.
The works envisions
a 3-dimensional grid simultaneously within a central
computer and a physical performance space. Each point of this
grid is programmed with sound, music, light, and/or image elements.
Interactors move through this environment and evoke the multi-sensory
elements with hand-held tracking devices as their hands pass
through the programmed grid points—in a similar way a computer
mouse works on a tabletop—and in so doing interact with
these elements through three phases of nuclear proliferation:
1) Disharmony, 2) Destruction, and 3) Disintegration. These three
phases are intended to evoke the first nuclear explosion, the
"Trinity" test, in the Jornada del Muerto (or
"Journey of Death") region of New Mexico, on July 16,
1945, that took place just weeks before the nuclear bombs exploded
over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
These three phases function as
game levels so that when interactors produce a certain pattern
of hand and body movements in the grid, they are taken to the
next phase. The mood of the space is designed to match the level
of the "game" that interactors have reached. Disharmony,
for example, offers melodious sounds and music that increasingly
give way to cacophony, as well as images and video footage representing
growing belligerence. Destruction sees the dropping of the bombs
and corresponding sounds of buildings falling into rubble, to
name one possibility open to interactors. The final stage, Disintegration,
takes interactors to the motif of the work: that the destruction
derived from these weapons will be so complete that even "ghosts
will die," an allusion to Michael Frayn's play, Copenhagen
which sits at the heart of this project. To reiterate the total
disintegration that such thoughtless proliferation can cause,
photographs taken of interactors by the system will be morphed
into ghostlike images, which slowly disintegrate.
Because the installation is a
"serious," non-zero sum game, there are no "winners,"
in the traditional sense. Rather, the installation is meant as
a way to shock interactors into a deeper awareness of the horrors
of nuclear warfare. Politically speaking, the work's message—that
the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction
not only test a country's power but also its humanity—is
a bipartisan one and speaks to artists' "responsibility
to envision alternative futures . . . and shape the way people
think, live, and interact" (Shanken 44).
One or two people can experience
the environment simultaneously, and the experience can last from
five to seven minutes. Audiences are welcome to watch interactors
as they experience the work and will be able to take in the multi-sensory
elements as in a performance since the elements are projected
in the space and visible and audible to all.
For more information about the project, go to "When Ghosts Will Die".
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