Christa Sommerer e Laurent Mignonneau | exhibition

Eau de Jardin (2004)

“Imagine a circular room, the dado below the wall molding entirely filled with a plane of water scattered with these plants, transparent screens sometimes green, sometimes mauve. The calm, silent, still waters reflecting the scattered flowers, the colors evanescent, with delicious nuances of a dream-like delicacy.”
Claude Monet

Eau de Jardin is an interactive installation that transports visitors into the imaginary world of virtual water gardens. Inspired by Monet’s later Water Lilies paintings and their panoramic setting at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, in 2004 we constructed a 3-sided vaulted projection screen of 12 x 3 meters that forms a triptych. The wide horizontal screens immerse the viewers mentally into a virtual picture of the water garden. 8 to 10 glass amphorae hang from the ceiling of the room; their form reminds one of old Greek or Egyptian transport vessels. They are completely transparent and contain water plants such as lilies, lotus, bamboo, cypress and other aquatic plants. Through the glass one can also see the roots of these plants.

When the visitors approach the amphorae, their presence is recognized by the plants, causing virtual water plants to be drawn on the large projection screens. We used the same sensor technology as in our Interactive Plant Growing installation from 1992. The electrical potential differences (voltage) between the user’s body and the real plants are captured by the plants and interpreted as electrical signals that determine how the corresponding virtual 3d plants grow on the projection screen. For Eau de Jardin we modeled specific water plants that resemble the real plants as lilies, lotus, bamboo and other riverside plants. Additionally, images of the virtual plants are also “reflected” through a virtual water surface, and a merging of the virtual plant imagery with the reflected plant images takes place on the screen. The more visitors interact with the real plants, the more the virtual scene of aquatic plants builds up – all changes in the their interactions are translated and interpreted, leading to constantly new water garden images. Reality-Virtuality Reflection
The virtual pond in Eau de Jardin becomes a mirror of the “reality” of virtuality. Just as Monet succeeded in creating two layers of virtuality by blurring the borders between “real” interpreted plant images and their reflected image in the water’s surface, Eau de Jardin tries to create several layers of virtuality by blurring the borders between real plants, virtual plants on the screen and their reflected virtual image in the virtual water’s surface.

29 SET: 10H00 – 22H00 | Museu das Comunicações

30 SET - 2 OUT: 10H00 – 18H00 | Museu das Comunicações


Phototropy (1994)

Phototropy is a biological expression to describe the force that makes organisms, such as bacteria or plants, follow the light in order to get nutrition and hence, to survive. The interactive installation Phototropy deals with virtual insects that can be fed and reproduced through the light of a lamp, held by the visitor in the installation. The real physical light of a lamp nourishes virtual insects, giving them life-supporting and life enhancing energy. These artificial living creatures struggle for light, follow it and try to reach its focal point. The creatures will follow every movement the visitor makes with the lamp’s beam, in order to get the maximum light nutrition.

An in-house light detection system was developed to measure the position and intensity of a spot of light shone from a flashlight upon a large projection screen. As the user of the system moves the light spot to different parts of the screen, virtual insects appear and follow the light’s beam.

The user can “feed” the creatures with light or eventually even kill them when he or she provides too much of it. The actual position of the flashlight’s beam is communicated to the virtual creatures, which in turn alter their behavior patterns according to the light intensity of the light spot. The operation of this system is very intuitive and natural, since everyone knows how to switch on a flashlight and how to shine light onto the screen.

Light: Source and Danger
When the insects acquire a certain quantity of real light they can start to reproduce by exchanging their genetic information. Two creatures produce an offspring that carries the genetic code of its parents. Carefully moving the lamp on the projection wall (a normal white wall is used as a projection screen), one can increase the insect population within seconds, creating a swarm of flying insects whose movement very much resembles the behavior of butterflies. The life and existence of these insects are exclusively bound to the light source: without light the organisms fade away immediately. When the lamp is switched off or when they do not attain sufficient light, the insects die and float elegantly to the ground.

In Phototropy light is the motor and source for life, growth, reproduction, evolution and movement. However, when insects reach the very center of the light beam and stay too long at the “hot spot” of the lamp, the light becomes dangerous and burns the insects to death. The installation visitor thus have to be careful with their lamp. Although it is very easy to use, the visitors responsibility and care for the creatures is required. If he/she moves too fast, the insects will scarcely follow and will thus have no time or occasion to reproduce. If he or she moves the lamp too slowly, the insects will reproduce rapidly but also reach the center of the beam too quickly: they will burn and die as fast as they were born. The visitors therefore become responsible for their creatures, their evolution and survival.

Phototropy deals with metamorphosis and life. The work links the artificial life of the insects to the real life of the visitors. Real light is used as the connection between real and unreal, or real and virtual worlds. Light is also used as a metaphor for energy and life: most animals and plants cannot survive without it.

29 SET: 10H00 – 22H00 | Museu das Comunicações

30 SET - 2 OUT: 10H00 – 18H00 | Museu das Comunicações


Portrait on the Fly (2015)

Portrait on the Fly (Interactive Version) is composed of an interactive monitor that shows a swarm of ten thousand flies. When a person positions himself in front of it, the insects try to detect his facial features. They then begin to arrange themselves so as to reproduce them, thereby creating a recognizable likeness of the individual.

Posing in front of the monitor attracts the flies. Within seconds they invade the face, but even the slightest movement of the head or of parts of the face drives them off. The portraits are thus in constant flux, they construct and deconstruct. Portrait on the Fly is a commentary on our love for making pictures of ourselves (Selfie-Culture), it has to do with change, transience and impermanence.

29 SET: 10H00 – 22H00 | Museu das Comunicações

30 SET - 2 OUT: 10H00 – 18H00 | Museu das Comunicações


The Value of Art (Unquiet See) (2010)

The Value of Art (Unquiet See) is an interactive painting dealing with the economy of attention and value creation in the art world. It is the first work in a series of works where we buy art work at auction houses and equip them with our sensors technology, to transparently re-calculate their monetary values based on the artists and audiences time and attention.

This particular painting is called Unruhige See (Unquiet Sea), it displays a sea landscape, is painted in oil on canvas, the dimensions are 53x79 cm. It was produced by R. Hansen during the 20th century. On May 18th 2010 we bought it for a total of 425.- Euro. All receipts, our own train tickets and meal receipts were kept and are part of the artwork. We then equipped the painting with sensors that measure the exact time viewers spend in front of it. A small thermal printer is also integrated into the frame of the painting. The initial value of the artwork is set to the exact value of the price we paid for the painting, plus our expenses and working time value. It will appear printed out on the paper at the beginning of the show. At the first exhibition the painting will start counting the number of visitors and the amount of time they spend looking at the painting. The painting will then constantly update and print its value, making the whole process of value creation totally transparent. At the end of the exhibition the artwork will have reached a certain monetary value and can be sold for exactly that price or shipped on to the next exhibition to increase its value even further.

29 SET: 10H00 – 22H00 | Museu das Comunicações

30 SET - 2 OUT: 10H00 – 18H00 | Museu das Comunicações