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Golden Calf

1994  Linz, Austria

Software: Gideon May

In this pioneering augmented reality installation, an LCD monitor on top of a white pedestal is connected to a computer by a cable running into the pedestal. This LCD screen also carries a Polhemus magnetic motion tracking system that enables the computer to recognize its spatial position and orientation with great accuracy. 

The viewer can pick up and hold this monitor in their hands, and its screen shows a virtual representation of the pedestal with a computer-generated image of a golden calf standing on top of it. By moving the monitor around the real pedestal the viewer can examine this golden calf from above, below and all sides. Thus the monitor functions as window that reveals a virtual animal, which augments and is situated within the real space.

The golden calf itself has a shiny mirror-like surface in which the viewer sees a reflection of the actual venue of the installation. This is a previously digitized photograph of the room that is being dynamically 'reflection-mapped' onto the calf's skin. Only the golden calf’s outer surfaces are modelled in the computer, so that if the viewer moves the monitor screen into the calf's body there are no interior surfaces to be seen, thereby further emphasizing the calf’s immateriality.

In this artwork, the body of an idolatrous object is no longer a corporeal thing but instead the immaterial subject of a mediated process of disclosure. When moving the monitor screen around the pedestal, the viewer performs what can be construed as a ceremonial dance around a technological pilaster that has the power to invoke the illusion of a tangible phantasm.

Exhibition Record

1994/6/21 - 6/25:  Ars Electronica '94, Design Center Linz, Linz, Austria

1995/7/17 - 7/24:  The Interaction '95, IAMAS, Ogaki, Japan

1995/9/30 - 11/5:  Jeffrey Shaw Trigon-Personale 95, Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria

1996/11/7 - 12/5:  Artifices 4, Place de la Légion d'Honneur, Saint-Denis, France

1997/4/27 - 6/15:  Interact!, Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany

1998/11/11 - 12/20:  Anticipation Version 4, Centre for Contemporary Image, Geneva, Switzerland

1999/4/15 - Ongoing:  Wired Worlds, National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford, England

2000/1/28 - 5/14:  Das Fünfte Element - Geld oder Kunst, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany

2002/3/15 - 3/23:  Les Cinémas du Futur, VIA Festival, Espace Sculfort, Maubeuge, France

2002/3/15 - 3/31:  Les Cinémas du Futur, VIA Festival, Le Pass, Frameries, Belgium

2002/5/4 - 9/1:  Iconoclash. Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

2003/12/6 - 2004/2/22:  Cinémas du Futur, Lille 2004, Euralille, Lille, France

2004/10/9 - 2005/1/9:  Invisibile, Palazzo Delle Papesse Museo D'arte Contemporanea, Siena, Italy

2005/10/21 - 11/20:  Command J, X-Space, Kensington Market, Toronto, Canada

2008/10/18 - 11/10:  eArts Festival: eLandscapes, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Shanghai, China

2009/6/16 - 6/27:  Un Volcan Numérique 2, Le Volcan, Le Havre, France