Nuzzle Afar, A Network Installation by FUJIHATA Masaki
November 25 - December 6, 1998
|(c) FUJIHATA Masaki|
The ICC was host to an exhibition and events as part of Nuzzle Afar, a network installation by FUJIHATA Masaki. FUJIHATA is presently artist-in-residence at the Institute for Visual Media of ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, or the Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe), Germany. Nuzzle Afar, which he created while at ZKM, was unveiled for the first time in Japan at this exhibition.
FUJIHATA created Nuzzle Afar for the surroGate_1 exhibition at the ZKM's Institute for Visual Media (November 1 to December 6, 1998). Since it is network-based art, FUJIHATA planned from the outset to present the work at remote locations simultaneously with its presentation at Karlsruhe. In particular, the attempt was to hold Nuzzle Afar exhibitions and net events in several locations through cooperation by DEAF98 (the Dutch Electronic Art Festival 1998) in Rotterdam, the Open Research Forum at Keio University's Shonan Fujisawa Campus, and the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria.
The work's title suggests two contradictory images: participants snuffling out each other and coming closer together, yet remaining apart. The design of a space in which two physically distant people could receive such sense impressions was the main idea behind this work, which was in fact built as a shared virtual reality environment that multiple participants can access from separate locations.
For two participants, the same interface is set up at two locations: a control panel, with trackball and microphone, and a screen [Photo 1]. The participant manipulates the trackball to move his or her virtual body, or avatar, forward or backward, left or right [Photo 2]. Images of the participant's face are captured by the camera in real time and mapped on the avatar, so that one can recognize another party in a remote location. The avatars can meet and, if they draw close enough, converse through the microphones on the control panels.
In addition to these basic features, Nuzzle Afar includes elements not to be found in earlier shared virtual reality environments. These include a "trace function," which allows one avatar to follow the tracks of another avatar, an "affinity sphere" that forms when two avatars bump up against each other, and a "memory plank" that remains as an objet in virtual reality as a record of their encounter in their unique affinity sphere.
Given the time difference, participation at the ICC was usually limited to connections between two terminals in the ICC. But, since the ICC stays open until 9 p.m. on Fridays, it was able to hold two "Net Events" as well.
In the first, on November 27, a talk by the artist was also given. FUJIHATA himself gave a detailed explanation of his intentions in creating this work and its background, while showing videos of the exhibition overseas. While talking about the thrust of this work metaphorically, as "creating a telephone for the future," he also demonstrated specific directions in which he is now moving. While the overseas connection was frequently interrupted by frustrating problems with the router in Europe and with the circuits, the experience suggested that ICC's continuing support for experimental ventures such as this will have even greater significance in the future.