City Obscura

“City Obscura” is an interactive video installation which deconstructs and then reconstructs the urban space and architecture of the city of Judenburg, and was exhibited in July 2004 at the “Liquid Music” Media Art Festival in Judenburg, Austria.
A wide range of different shots of the city’s architecture, people and crucial places awaits the visitor’s eye. When the spectators start to move in front of the video screen, their movements get tracked and these gestures trigger a process of mingling the digital data streams of the videos itself.
You can see the pixels as tiny bits and pieces of coloured blobs, like a snow storm, revolving around your own shadowy figure on the video screen and following you wherever you go within the installation. The recipients can be seen as planets which have a gravitational force on the videos.
When the visitor stops to move around and stands still, the whirring pixels start to compose themselves again to the video shot the visitors have already seen before they started to walk around – but slightly changed.
For example, one of the original videos shows us the view of one of the main streets of Judenburg, cars passing by, residents walking off doing their daily shopping. After the deconstruction through the gallery visitors, this video emerges again out of the chaotic data streams – but now the river of Judenburg – the Mur – is running through this main street, water instead of asphalt. A new utopia of Judenburg has developed.
So this points out quite obviously that the artists only worked with footage they found in and around the city of Judenburg. This was one of the main goals they had to achieve to stress one central thought concerning urban architecture:
It is always the residents who create the architecture they are using daily. But there are not too many people who realize the important role they play in generating the infrastructure and atmosphere they are living in and what they can do themselves to make it either better or more functional or worse.
This installation attempts to allow people to play with their own surroundings, and this process should lead to a critical consideration of their home town’s images and to a reflection of the good and bad parts of the place they are living in.
The installation also emphasizes that there is always more than one possibility to design urban space. Architecture grows through the interactivity of its residents - so the real process in everyday life is analogue to the way the installation works.
The mixing of the video’s digital data streams has its equivalence in the “Brownian motion”. – The more movements are generated, the more the particles begin to chaotically move.
This principle of chaos and order builds the basis of “City Obscura”. The Second Law of Thermodynamics can be seen as a consequence of probabilities, which is our metapher for our work. After deconstruction and reconstruction a new, a different structure arises.
On the residents of Judenburg, this installation had a very subtle impact as they knew both, the original video of course, but also the new parts of the altered one, and so they saw different parts of their home landscape in a flawless, but newly changed entity, according to the principle of déjà vu.
Out of this déjà vu-effect, the artists create a new consciousness of the city in the heads of their spectators and support a critical occupation with something, that was, before, taken for granted and which was, until now, seen as something well-known and established and unchangeable.
The main aim of “City Obscura” is so to show a city – and this can be any city – in its flexibility and mobility. Stand-still means there is no chance to change and no possibility to alter the future. And this installation tries to show us – with its particular interactivity mode – that it is us, the residents, who can feel free, and who have the power, to alter the infrastructure we have to deal with daily, but also to get a different perspective on things we perhaps don’t appreciate anymore as we see them day by day.

Exhibited at Liquid Music 04