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Inventer la Terre

1986 Paris, France
Coauthor: Walter Maioli (composer)

Software: Larry Abel
Hardware: Charly Jungbauer, Pathe, Tat van Vark

Inventer la Terre is a site-specific interactive augmented reality installation for La Villette’s museum of science and technology in Paris. Its apparatus is a chrome-plated column that stands on a circular black terrazzo base inlaid with brass signs showing an ancient Hebraic astrological map. The column has a viewing aperture, two control handles, and a pair of loudspeakers. Inside the column there is an optical system constituted by a video monitor, a Fresnel lens and a semi-transparent mirror. Looking through the aperture in the column, the spectator sees a large virtual image projected out into the museum space, an ‘augmented reality’ whereby images are overlaid on the viewer’s glimpse into the museum’s actual environment. Using the handles the spectator can interactively control the rotation of the column and the movement of this virtual image. Sound and image files are interactively accessed from two videodisk players, and the virtual image is generated by the optical display system within the column.

When a visitor first interacts with the installation, the projected virtual image shows a 360-degree panorama representing six different symbolic sites in an imaginary landscape. By rotating the column the viewer can then select any one of these sites, and linked to each is an approximately three-minute video sequence that articulates specific themes identified by that particular place.

The title of this work flags it thematic and aesthetic focus, which is the exemplification of archaic, mythological and esoteric world sciences. The sculptural form of the apparatus conjoins contemporary technologies and the memory of archaic structures such as Megalithic stones. The six symbolic panoramic sites and their respective video sequences articulate specific aspects of this encompassing topic: the totemic world, primal creation myths, astrology and astronomy, sacred geometry, hermetic geography and the creation of fictional worlds in art and literature. Computer graphics, 3-D image synthesis, digital image processing and digital post-production techniques were extensively used to articulate the visual sequences.

Inventer la Terre embodies a museum within a museum. It functions as a totemic repository of sounds and images, an aesthetic archival machine that incorporates mythologies, esoteric cosmologies and archaic sciences that ‘invented’ the world. This interactive installation projects their fragmented memories like ghosts that can be found secreted within the actual space of this museum that is dedicated to the contemporary sciences.

Exhibition Record

1986/3/13 - Ongoing:  La Villette, Cité des Sciences et de l´Industrie, Paris, France