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An interactive installation that allows participants to navigate and overlay virtual panoramic photography of sites in the Caribbean along economic borders, migration patterns and vectors of desire.

Utopian project conceived with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 2001

FIELD WORK:

1. We identify Caribbean sites that share geographical and historic features but have intensely different socio-economic realities. The first two sites will be Sabana de la Mar in the Dominican Republic and Aguadilla in Puerto Rico, along the shore of the Mona Channel.

2. The production team goes to Sabana de la Mar and points a very powerful light beam across the channel towards Puerto Rico. The light is a tightly focused 7,000-watt xenon bulb not unlike those used in searchlights or lighthouses, except here the beam is static. The light is placed on the street quietly and swiftly, without warnings, fanfare, publicity or show. The set-up is intended to be low-key and last only one night.

3. As passers-by approach the scene, we will take half a dozen panoramic shots with a special digital camera. The captured scenes will show people, the light beam, the channel, the street, the surrounding buildings, cars, etc. These pictures will be converted into cubic QTVR immersive panoramas.

4. Voice interviews will be recorded with local residents. The interviews will be informal and discuss themes like migration, economic conditions, displacements of family and friends. The interviews will seek to emphasise personal stories, —people’s hopes and fears in relation to the other site across the channel.

5. The production team will go to Aguadilla in Puerto Rico and perform exactly the same tasks described above. The only difference will be that the light beam will be pointed towards the Dominican Republic.

6. Once the fieldwork has been completed the material will be edited and programmed in Rafael’s studio in Montreal.

INSTALLATION:

The installation takes place in a closed darkened room, with an ideal size of 6 x 5 x 4 metres and a minimum size of 5 x 4 x 3 m (length x width x height). On the wall that is perpendicular to the entrance there is a projection screen measuring 3 x 4 m. Five or six metres away from this screen, hanging from the ceiling, are two small LCD projectors each connected to a Macintosh G4 computer. Both projectors beam their images to the same screen.

Two projectors mounted on ceiling. Resulting image is an overlay of two sites. Podiums with 3D sensor to navigate virtual panoramas

In the centre of the room there will be two white podiums, about 1.2 m high. Each podium has a cylindrical sensor for three-dimensional navigation (this is basically a computer mouse that allows the participants to move in a virtual world). One podium has the label “Sabana de la Mar, República Dominicana” and the other one the label “Aguadilla, Puerto Rico”.

As participants move the sensors the images are navigated separately, creating a ghost-like aesthetic. Inside each podium is a Macintosh G4 computer connected to a projector, to audio speakers and to the 3D sensor.

The screen shows two photographic panoramas at the same time, that is, two sites overlaid one on top of the other. The panoramas are presented using QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) technology, which is a well-established format for visualising virtual spaces. When a participant on the Aguadilla podium turns the 3D sensor to the left automatically the Puerto Rican scene turns left, and vice versa. If the 3D sensor is pushed forward the corresponding panorama will zoom-in and if the sensor is pulled the image will zoom-out. In this way two people can “navigate” the virtual scenes in real-time and define what spaces and characters from each scene will be made to coincide in the representation. The result is a virtual folding of the two spaces.

As participants navigate the virtual scenes, relatively quiet voices from the interviews can be heard. The voices of people from both places are sometimes mixed, but there are also many silent sections so that the result is sparse and elegant. The movements of the sensors trigger the sound so there are no repetitive loops and no linear pre-programmed narratives.

The only common element in the two panoramic scenes is the “alien” presence of the bright light beam. This vector serves as a compass that allows participants to orient and disorient the representations. The light beam is also an artificial element that helps the piece to decline any pretension of documentary objectivity or naturalism. The beam can have a large number of interpretations, all of which are welcome, from facile associations with mystical deliverance to the violence of military anti-aircraft surveillance.

The piece departs from coincidences, disorientation, economic disparity, migration patterns, longing, historical paradoxes, solidarity…but always reminding us that it is a fake and stubborn exercise…this is why the light beam is so important: to “virtualize” the real sites that are being reconstructed virtually in the exhibition.

TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS:

The piece will use the new QTVR technique known as cubic mapping, which was released by Apple computer as part of the recently released QuickTime version 5. To see samples of this virtual tool please download QuickTime 5 at http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/

Once it is installed in the computer visit the following page, where you will find many examples of virtual environments captured with panoramic photography

http://www.apple.com/quicktime/products/gallery/

This piece will use 3D positional sound, hotspot recognition, 3D sensors for navigation and other advanced techniques. However, for this piece the technology is only a vehicle to achieve a conceptual and aesthetic effect and not an objective in itself. For this reason most of the equipment will be hidden from view, which also helps in terms of maintenance.

The navigation of the virtual worlds is easy to understand when a participant holds a sensor: no guides or personnel are needed to explain the piece. The sensor is quite sturdy and withstands moderate abuse from the public. Unlike multimedia or netart pieces that are designed to be seen individually on a computer, this installation provides a more collective, theatrical experience. One or two participants can control the virtual worlds at any given time but several people can experience the piece through the large screen projection.

Since the interviews are conducted in Spanish, the voices will be transcribed and translated, and presented as a booklet available at the gallery space.

Two full days should be reserved for setting up the piece. Striking will take two to three hours.

CREDITS:

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer / Alanna Lockward: Production

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer:  Direction, images, programming

Alanna Lockward: Curator, field research, catalog

Conroy Badger: QTVR Programming

Ana Parga: Image retouching

————————————————–

The following are other borders to include in the project. In Spanish.

FRONTERAS DEL CARIBE UTÓPICO

Doblando Dade County

Miami / Puerto Príncipe / Camagüey

Doblando la Virgen de la Altagracia

Higüey / Puerto-Príncipe

Doblando la Ruta del Esclavo

Salvador do Bahia / Dakar / Lagos

DOBLANDO LA VIRGEN DE LA ALTAGRACIA

Sublimación de una frontera

(Puerto Príncipe-Higüey)

La Hispaniola es uno de los tres casos en el mundo donde una misma isla es habitada por dos repúblicas independientes de bases culturales distintas. Haití es la primera república independiente del Nuevo Mundo y la primera república negra del mundo.

Los dominicanos fuimos ocupados 22 años por Haití (1822-1844). Es decir que nuestra independencia no fue de los españoles, vencidos por los invasores haitianos, si no de nuestro vecino país. En 1937, el dictador Rafael Leonidas Trujillo ordenó “limpiar” la frontera de presencia haitiana con una masacre cuya cifra exacta nunca podrá saberse (los cálculos más tímidos hablan de un cuarto de millón). Tradicionalmente se conoce que la “estrategia” para identificar a los haitianos era pedirles que pronunciaran la palabra “perejil”. La “r” francesa los delataba. Hay dos obras fundamentales sobre este tema, El Masacre se pasa a pie, de Freddy Prestol Castillo ,dominicano, y más recientemente, Cosecha de huesos, de Edwige Danticat, haitiana. El río Masacre, línea divisoria natural entre ambos territorios, originalmente Artibonito (Artibonite, en creóle), fue rebautizado coloquialmente en aquella trágica ocasión.

Ambos pueblos comparten una aversión tan reseñada como extemporánea. Sin embargo, un símbolo se levanta poderoso sobre esta realidad: La Virgen de la Altagracia, patrona oficial de la RD y extra-oficial de Haití (la oficial es la del Perpetuo Socorro, pero su devoción local no le da ni por el tobillo al de la dominicana). A pesar de esta contundente realidad, que documenté en un reportaje de televisión en 1997, nadie habla nunca sobre esa devoción compartida, sobre ese territorio de comunión que para mí ha sido el resguardo de que una situación tan explosiva como la que se vive desde hace más de 200 años en la isla, no haya tenido peores consecuencias. La Virgen nos cuida y no nos damos cuenta.

Doblando La Virgen de la Altagracia consistiría en la proyección de la modesta iglesia dedicada a ella en Puerto Príncipe, sobre la fachada de la imponente Basílica suya en Higüey, RD, a pocos kilómetros de Sabana de la Mar.

Esto inspirado en la obra de Rafael Lozano-Hemmer “Emperadores Desplazados, Arquitectura relacional 2”.

Estaría combinada con el concepto de sombras proyectadas del Canal de la Mona. Es decir que la luz tendría un tratamiento distinto pero el fin sería el mismo: recrear en una habitación ambas realidades.

DOBLANDO DADE COUNTY

Tres fronteras en Miami

(Miami/Camagüey/Puerto Príncipe)

Para evitar la polarización típica (Miami Vs. Cuba) del acercamiento a la realidad caribeña de Miami en esta pieza se integrarán tres componentes: Cubano en la isla/ Cubano en Miami; Haitianos de Cuba/Cubanos de la isla Haitianos en Miami/Cubanos en Miami. Se podrá reconocer en este construcción la enorme influencia de lo haitiano en la cultura cubana en general, ampliamente documentada en numerosos estudios de Casa las Américas.

DOBLANDO LA RUTA DEL ESCLAVO

La nueva frontera

(Salvador do Bahia/ Dakar / Lagos)

Para García Márquez el Caribe se prefigura en la narrativa de William Faulkner. La caribaneidad es un estado mental, no geográfico. Según el pensador martiniqueño, Edouard Glissant el Caribe es la metáfora de la criollización del planeta, entendiéndose como un espacio en donde cada colectividad convive con su otredad en total armonía. Brasil es el estado más caribeño de América. Esta pieza es el corolario del proyecto donde se asumen y proyectan al máximo dichos postulados.

Se creará la nueva frontera, la del reconocimiento de la otredad sin abandono de su identidad propia, en este pieza que conjugará la ruta del esclavo hacia el Nuevo Mundo con el reciclaje de dicho trayecto que regresa a Africa e influye en su producción cultural y sus cambios políticos. Dicho fenómeno es ampliamente documentado en diferentes ensayos de la exposición The Short Century, Independence and Liberation Movements in África, curada por Okwui Enwezor. El aporte del pensamiento de los caribeños Marcus Garvey y Aime Césaire es fundamental para la ideología de la Negritud, en la que se inspiraron los movimientos liberacionistas africanos.

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