Points of View

1983 Amsterdam, Netherlands

Software: Larry Abel
Hardware: Charly Jungbauer, Tat van Vark
Production: Mickery Theater, Amsterdam

    Points of View created an interactive navigable three-dimensional virtual world that was a new paradigm for the aesthetic and conceptual identity of an artwork. Part performance, part video game and part animated Constructivist sculpture, Points of View’s expression had to come to terms with the severe constraints of real time computer graphics systems in 1983 - Apple II’s low-resolution low frame rate monochrome display that only permitted the construction of a 3-D model constituted by a maximum of about 100 straight lines. This was the perceptual space of first generation video games, especially subLOGIC’s Flight Simulator (1983).  

    Points of View was a theatre of signs, with both its stage and actors represented by a 3-D computer-graphics simulation that was video projected onto a large screen in front of a seated audience. Any member of this audience could use two specially designed joysticks to control the action of this theatrical installation. These devices were located in front of a concave projection screen, and originally the installation used a monochrome CRT video projector.

    Utilizing techniques developed for flight simulation, this work enabled the user to interactively move their virtual point of view 360 degrees around the stage, 90 degrees up and down from ground level to an aerial view, and forwards and backwards from a distance to the centre of the stage.

    The depictions of the actors on the stage were derived from an Egyptian alphabet, and each figure was represented as a hieroglyphic character. The chosen constellation of signs articulated world models that expressed an underlying set of physical and conceptual relationships.  

    Up to sixteen channels of sound were interactively linked to the image via the same joystick that controlled the rotational visual movements. Functioning like an audio mixer, this modulated the relative volume of the various voices with respect to the virtual spatial position the viewer took.

    Three versions of Points of View were made.

    In Points of View I, sixteen sound tracks - mostly spoken texts - articulated the visual world model by spatially mapping these sound tracks to four positions on four levels of the viewing semi-sphere. A cosmography of ideological and literary ‘points of view’ was thereby conjugated within the viewing sphere of its inhabitants.  

    Points of View II addressed issues relating to the distress experienced by British soldiers fighting in the Falklands War. Egyptian hieroglyphs were used to articulate a visual and psychological architecture—a hierarchical edifice that mapped the pathology of power and its predisposition to oppression and warfare. The interactive structuring of the sound tracks formed an integral aspect of this installation. Thirteen spoken texts, based on transcripts of the 1983 Congress on Military Psychology in Vienna, were modulated in conjunction with the user’s visual movements so as to elucidate his or her relationship to the artwork’s hieroglyphic semantics.

    Points of View III—A Three-Dimensional Story explored the notion of an open artwork by inviting sixteen people to make individual narrative contributions. These were recorded and interactively linked to a hieroglyphic scenography so that the viewer could navigate between their parallel stories. All the invited authors were provided with the same set of Egyptian hieroglyphs, and asked to build a story that incorporated their identities. In this way, as the viewer navigated the iconographic space, he or she moved between the different narratives written by the contributing writers, which all shared a common reference to the installation’s hieroglyphic identity.

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