Handsight Software: Gideon May & Richard Holloway
Production: ZKM Karlsruhe with co-operation Ars Electronica, Linz. 1992/1993

All three elements in this interactive installation are metaphors for the eye: a hand-held "eyeball" interface or round Polhemus sensor that tracks hand position; a transparent sphere with an iris-like opening for the hand; and, beyond it on the wall, a round projection of an eye. Once the visitor penetrates inside the empty transparent globe with hand-held "eye," the projected eye on screen opens into a virtual world. Hand motions are translated instantly (i.e. in "real time") into a moving-point-of-view like an "endoscopic eye," [endo= within, e.g. capable of penetrating an interior space] exploring a virtual world, the 3-D anamorphic representation modelled on the inside of a "passion jar." The narrow-necked bottle of the 19th century Hungarian folk art original contains as if miraculously the tableau of a crucifixion scene. These material objects immersed in the jar have been transformed into brightly coloured, spherically distorted geometric shapes "inside" the eye or virtual world. Anamorphic perspective produces precipitous spatial relationships, quite unlike "real" space.

Handsight - instalacja

While the late 19th century viewer of the spiritual realm in the passion jar had to be content with looking through the glass to foster imaginary access to the sacred scene, the distinctive feature of late 20th century virtual environments is the penetration of the gaze inside "worlds that are otherwise inaccessible by virtue of their two-dimensionality, scale, solidity, immateriality, or imaginariness." (Morse) What is an ordinarily inaccessible interiority or psychic space of transcendence has been transformed into an externalised virtual space that can be entered and explored. In the photographic imagination, the eye is a surface on which both exterior reality and interior subjectivity can be reflected (see Blum). In this interactive environment, the "endoscopic eye" or virtual camera is inducted symbolically into the mind itself, not in order to reveal some objective reality, but to display parts of a symbolic system laden with historical and personal resonance. Once entered, this virtual space becomes larger than its apparent container, seemingly monumental, offering a subjective point-of-view onto precipitous declines and vertiginous shifts of position governed by the visitor's own hand.

The layout of the installation makes the interaction between the sensor or "interface," the sphere within which it is active and the on-screen events transparent in a way that an "immersive" virtual environment that collapses the three eyes into one point-of-view obfuscates. (With the head-mounted display of virtual reality, for instance, the position of the sensor, the active area and the virtual world all overlap.) Using the hand to "see" leaves the emptiness of the material sphere that is the counterpart of the on-screen world open to view. The eye within an eye within an eye is like a mise-en-abyme or metaphor for an irrational space based on incorporation. Handsight offers a metaphor for perception of a virtual realm that is not matched to the physical world, but rather is a view of the "mind's-eye" or of externalised imagination. At the same time, it exposes the logic of this construction rather than participates in the illusion. In this way, the piece both offers and deconstructs interactivity.

The artist's conception began with the interface or "eyeball" in virtual space as a metaphor for perception, also incorporating one suggestion made by Peter Weibel of ars electronica. Programmer Gideon May, assisted by Richard Holloway, produced the software that would link the interface with the 3-D computer graphics on-screen. The bottle, a family heirloom, was chosen for its value as an ethnological object that evokes belief by giving it a visual representation. The bottle that offers access to a transcendental realm that is sealed in time and otherwise inaccessible inside the jar is an historical and material analogue of an intangible and disembodied realm given perceptible form in a virtual environment.

Agnes Hegedus
Born in Budapest (HU) 1964. Lives and works in Kalrsruhe (G).

studies of photography, graphic design and video
at the Hungarian Applied Art Academy, Budapest (HU);
studies of video at the Minerva Academy, Groningen (NL)
studies of video at the AKI Art Academy, Enschede (NL)
diploma in Monumentale Voormgeving at the AKI Art Academy Enschede (NL)
Institute fur Neue Medien, Frankfurt, (G);
Stiching Fonds voor Beeldende Kunst; (NL)
artist-in-residence at the ZKM Kalrsruhe

Prizma Prize for Computer Art, Hamburgische Kulturstiftung
Honorary Mention at the PRIX ARS ELECTRONICA, Linz

[ to the top ] ... [ LAB 7 ]