Four walls of a space are “painted” with video projectors into a single photo-realistic 360° landscape representing a public garden. The space, set in Montréal’s Mont-Royal Parc, is visited by real and virtual characters. Although the virtual characters appear free to come and go in the garden, real visitors will need help if they wish to walk in and explore it. To do this they have to make contact with one of the virtual characters by selecting, using voice or touch, questions or comments from imposed sets. Questions, for example, about where they are, what else is around, and where they can go will engage them in a conversation leading to some form of relationship. The exchange may be cut short with everyone going back to their business or it may reach a point where visitors will convince a character to lead them somewhere. In this case, visitors are pulled through the landscape after their virtual guide and the whole room appears to move in one direction.
The dialogue between the guide and the visitor or group continues and defines the progression through the space. Because real visitors are using virtual characters to steer their way through the space, the nature of the visitor”s relationship to the character will define the space—physical or metaphorical—that can be accessed. There are several possible destinations or outcomes. Visitors may simply be abandoned somewhere along the way if the connection to the character they have chosen is broken, or they may reach a destination: a lookout or forbidden boundary.
This journey through space is also a journey through words, meanings, language, and subjectivity. It highlights not only the physical world in which the encounter happens but also the diversity of its meaning and function according to the different visitors. The experience is about communication/discommunication between people with movements through space representing manifestation of its nature; successful forms of communication will offer visitors varied inroads into more remote places.
“Landscape One” is a multi-user interactive panoramic video installation using 5 networked computers with touch pads, microphones, motion detectors, 4 video projectors and 4 laserdisc players.
On the Artist’s Works
The primary difference between traditional art and media and technological art lies in interactivity. The special feature of this new art form is that it does not exist objectively as such, but rather, is completed and becomes an artwork for the first time throught the active participation of the viewer. This is the world which Canadian media artist Luc COURCHESNE explores.
COURCHESNE, born in 1952 in Québec, began his career as a video artist and is currently a professor at the École de design industriel at the Université de Montréal. “Twelve of Us,” a five-minute short in which various people speak in turn about their recollections of the same fairytale, is a video work representative of his early period. Those who appear in front of the camera inadvertently expose themselves, and their psyches are reflected in their expressions. Here we find the beginnings of COURCHESNE’s investigation of human existence and the psyche, a common characteristic of his later interactive works.
In 1984 COURCHESNE turned to interactive video production and created his first experimental portrait piece. He presented “Portrait One,” a full-scale work utilizing the computer in 1990. This works consists of more than a mere collage of filmed fragments. COURCHESNE introduces a method that allows visitors to converse with fictional characters, thereby creating a theatrical space. The skillful arrangement of the analytically constructed tale almost makes one forget that the people who appear on screen are residents of an imaginary space.
The structure of the work becomes progressively complex as it unfolds, moving from the simple format of a single portrait to a compilation of portraits. Four characters appear in “Family Portrait,” which was exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1993. In “Hall of Shadows,” shown at The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 1996, four separate conversations between visitors and a geologist, mathematician, pediatrician, and plastic surgeon develop in stages. The conversations move beyond that of one-to-one exchanges, and the visitors’ interventions effect the group as a whole, which further complicates the structure of the dialogue. The fictional space is more solidly developed in this work. The story ends when the characters realize that they are fictional constructs, thereby negating their existence.
What is important to note about COURCHESNE’s works is that they have potentially many different forms, depending on how each visitor experiences them. For instance, in “Landscape One,” the fictional drama possesses a variety of storylines which the visitor actualizes with a family on a picnic and young people on bicycles. Visitors—those who participate in the creation of the work—do not necessarily have the same experience. Instead, each visitor encounteres a completely different world. The discrete experience of the visitor, as it is remembered, constitutes the artwork. There is no guarantee of uniformity, and the work functions more as an “apparatus” which presents a variety of experiences. Moreover, the work cannot be completed without the participation of the visitor. These special features of COURCHESNE’s works indicate not only the numerous possibilities and potential for development of his work, but also of media art in general.
Concept, script, dialogues, design, direction, and production: Luc COURCHESNE
Casting and direction: Lorne BRASS
Direction of photography: Luc COURCHESNE, Jason LEVY
Camera: Jason LEVY, Pascal COURCHESNE
Sound: Craig LAPP
Set photography: Frédéric CLOUTIER
Direction of video production: Suzanne GOSSELIN
Assistance in video production: Dominique CARMICHAEL, Etienne DESAUTELS, François VAILANCOURT
Video editing: Luc COURCHESNE, Michel GIROUX
Soundtrack: Claude SCHRYER, Luc COURCHESNE
Audio editing: Martin HURTUBISE
Post-production studio: PRIM
Programming: Marc LAVALLÉE, Luc COURCHESNE, Etienne DESAUTELS
English translation: Luc COURCHESNE
Japanese translation: KANAYA Taki
Child: Piali COURCHESNE-LAURIER / Mother: Anick LEMAY / Father: Hugo DUBÉ / Grandfather: Rolland LAROCHE / Friend: Paule DUCHARME / Lover: Stéphane DEMERS / Passer by: Rodrique PROTEAU / Party goers: Robin McKENNA and Joseph KHAIATA / Dog: KATOU
Thanks to: Germain COURCHESNE, KOJIMA Yoko, Mario LALIBERTÉ, Monique SAVOIE, Bureau du cinéma, Ville de Montréal, and Université de Montréal