New Tower of Babel

1993 Amsterdam, Netherlands

This project was a conceptual plan made as a contribution to the exhibition Seamless Media. It describes a networked installation that develops the technological and aesthetic strategies first explored in Televirtual Chit Chat (1993) and Anamorphoses of Memory (1986).

At the centre of a room there is a large mirror-surfaced cylinder. A circular white surface on the floor, onto which images are projected from above, surrounds the cylinder. In the four corners of the room are tall quarter-circular structures with steps that enable people to climb to their tops. Each structure contains a chair and table, and on each table is a flat touch screen, a stereographic monitor (viewable with LCD shutter glasses) and a six-axis 3-D mouse.

The four persons sitting atop the four structures use the touch screens to view a library of alphabets derived from all the world’s currently spoken languages. Each person can choose any character from one of these alphabets. This then appears on the stereographic screen as a three-dimensional character-object, which the user can freely rotate and move about using the 3-D mouse. The screen image is a shared virtual space where each person's chosen character is co-present and co-active with the other three persons’ characters. This connected image transmits in real time to the video projector, where it is anamorphically distorted and projected down onto the circular screen, and reflected back onto the mirrored surface of the cylinder. At ground level the general audience sees this 360-degree reflection as a virtual anamorphic image showing the composite of the four language characters the persons atop the tall structures are manipulating.