Sleeping Obstacles
Kassandra Wellendorf & Simon Løvind 2010
Interactive sound- and video installation
Exhibited at Skive Kunstmuseum 2010

Project description
Sleeping Obstacles is a sound- and video installation on the theme of intimacy and offending against private space. It reacts on the movements and positions of the spectators around it.

Video documentation

In a very dark room a video is projected down onto a bed with a blanket that is formed as if there is an actual body lying underneath it. The video projection shows a sleeping man, who has the very same blanket around him. On the bed close to the floor are placed several infrared sensors. When the exhibition guests move around the bed, it has a direct effect on the body language of the sleeping man. As their movements activate the sensors the spectators unknowingly trigger different body movements and reactions that express the unpleasantness of the spectators disturbance of the sleep. As an effect the inner voice of the sleeping man is heard. In his half-sleep he mutters about how he can sense, that something or someone is present in the room– disturbing his sleep, crawling into his dreams or staring at him. All of which prevent him from sleeping. The sentences are seamlessly organized in three different emotional states. Surprise, Fear and Anger. In addition there is a fourth category of sentences, which is only triggered if someone stands close to his head - at which point he starts to address the spectator directly. Which kind of feeling he speaks with, is related to how many people that are present in the room and how much movement there is going on around the bed. The bigger the disturbance of his sleep the more angry he becomes.

In creating the installation our goal has been to create an experience of breaking someone else private space. Sleeping is a very private act. When you go to sleep you loose control and are unable to protect yourself from other people. Unlike the viewing situation in a cinema where “suspension of disbelief” creates a strong sense of reality this work uses a sculptural strategy in order to create a different type of reality effect. In building the installation we have increased the filmic illusion by sculpting the form of the body in the bed and having the blanket both physically and virtually present at the same time. It is as if the sleeping man is present in the same room as the spectators. Of course the spectators knows that he is not, but the senses tricked by illusion and there is a creeping sensation of bodily presence that is hard to get rid of. This combination of a spooky presence of the videobody and the feeling, that the spectators own bodily presence affects the videobody create a play with illusion and visibility which makes the spectators aware of their own part in the installation - and of the viewing situation as such. This awareness - and the impossibility of maintaining an illusion of invisibility as a spectator - is not always pleasant. The videobody expresses discomfort in being observed and exposed, but this is at the same time mirrored when the spectator realizes their direct role in creating his discomfort, leaving them exposed to themselves and to the other people present.

We wanted to create a space of reflexion and ethical awareness triggered by this breaking of private space. We want the spectators to ask themselves: Am I doing something wrong? Should I stay or should I leave? Even though they might feel slightly unpleasant by intruding, we also tempt them to stay and explore the installation by presenting a mysterious presence and thereby ending up internalizing the conflict between intrusion and curiosity in the spectators themselves.

Technical description
The technical and physical setup of the installation is in a dark room, minimum 4 x 4 meters. In the middle of the room stands a stylized standard sized bed 200 x 90 cm with a blanket shaped after a lying body. Four speakers are installed in the walls of the room and two more speakers are installed in the bed. A full HD video projector is installed in the ceiling, projecting vertical at the bed. Underneath the bed in a hidden plinth is embedded computer equipment, sound interface, speakers and sensors. The plinth contains: A Macintosh computer, a multichannel sound hardware interface, two speakers, an Arduino microcontroller, 6 PIR sensors and 3 infrared distance sensors. Sensors are connected to an Arduino microcontroller, which sends commands to Max/MSP/Jitter running on the Mac Computer. Max/MSP/Jitter controls and synchronizes video and audio by playing video and sound separately, allowing seamless forward and backwards play of video at dynamic speed rate, in a way so that the video continuity is never broken and to insure that voice- and foley sounds are synchronized with the dynamic video playback. Video playback is never jumped or frozen, leaving he subtle effect of the projected man always being present and breathing.

Through the four speakers integrated in the walls are played quadraphonic sound, following the mood or inner state of the projected man and thereby related to his reactions to the visitors. This leaves a feeling of entering his mental dream world. The first speaker integrated in the bed plays the inner voice of the projected man giving a clear feeling that the sound comes from his head. The second speaker, placed underneath the blanket plays accurate foley sound, giving presence to the projected body when it turns.

Supported by:
Danske Filminstruktører
Danske Dramatikere
Dansk Skuespillerforbund
Statens Kunstfonds Tonekunstudvalg
Institut for Kunst- og Kulturvidenskab KUA