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Passages - Fiammetta Ghedini, Elvira Todaro, Haakon Faste

November 19 - 24, Fort de la Bastille

The "Passages" installation will be composed of several physical elements in space and will be open to the general public. Primarily, the installation is divided into two main spaces/rooms. The "interior" room contains an immersive virtual experience and motion capture system, in which a user V0, wearing a haptic interface device (glove), expressively interacts with an abstract haptic environment as his/her motion is recorded. After V0 leaves the room, a computer connected with the haptic device calculates the trajectory of her gesture, transforming it into a tangible line or surface: virtual shapes "built" by users would remain "tangible" for everybody wearing the haptic device. V1, the second user, enters the room and, wearing the haptic device, is able to "feel" the invisible line/surface outlined by user V0 and to continue building upon it during her time in the space. The experience will emphasize not what is seen or touched, but rather the perceptual experience itself. This idea builds on a technique used by the surrealist avant-garde known as the "cadavre exquis" ("exquisite corpse" in English); it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase or draw something on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his or her contribution. The "outside" room contains a theater-like space with chairs from which the audience can observe a realtime digital interpretation of the activities occurring in the interior room.

The title "Passages" is a reference to the unfinished work "The Arcades Project" ("Das Passagen-werk" in German, "Le Livre des Passages" in French) by Walter Benjamin. "The Arcades Project" consists of a huge collection of fragmented writings especially concerned with passages, a typical Parisian architecture consisting of a walkway covered by a succession of vaults. These passages were full of meeting places, shops and é, and represented the hub of the city-life in the 19th century. In his meditation on passages, Walter Benjamin adopted the concept of flânerie (meaning to stroll, to walk in a leisurely way, to wander). This concept was first used by Baudelaire and later inherited by many of the artistic avant-garde of the 20th century, especially the Surrealists. These artists transformed the concept of flânerie into a creative methodology aimed at achieving artistic inspiration, even in an artistic performance itself (as in the Situationist dérive or psychogeography). For Walter Benjamin, urban observations can be exploited as an analytical tool, and perception achieved by means of walking and exploring: under the passages, understanding and expression are mediated by the enactive act of the flâneur. In the same way, in the installation Passages enactive perception and action are gathered in the hand's gestures, mediated by the glove. "Passages" also refers to the traces left by the actions of each user as they interacting with one another over time and create a landscape of motion.


Passages and Enaction

"Passages" can be considered an Enactive Interface in every respect, since it incorporates gestural interaction designed to mediate information. Users have access to information (the recorded gestures of other users) thanks to the active use of their hands/arms. Bodily movements (users "drawing" with their hands/arms) are transformed into data, acquired and stored by the computer, and re-acquired from other users through the act of "doing". The installation creates a split between bodily explorations and the senses of hearing and sight by creating two separate environments (the "inside" and the "outside", the inner and outer space of perception) that communicate with each other through a computer mediated system. By means of the visualization system the "outside user" can experience the visual metaphor interpreting the "inside user's gestures; but upon entering the room, the user is induced to track down and continue previous users' gestures by means of her own enactive perception and action.


Specialised in art history in relationships with new technologies, Fiammetta Ghedini is currently working in the management team of PERCRO Laboratory in Pisa, Italy and is part of the Art and Robotics Group in PERCRO. Fiammetta Ghedini has a Master Degree in Art & New Technologies and a Bachelor's Degree in Literature and Art History. Since July 2006 she is collaborating with the Management Team and she is part of the Art and Robotics Group in PERCRO Laboratory. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Paris 1 - Sorbonne.

Elvira Todaro is PhD Student on Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna of Pisa working in the field of Innovative technologies for cultural heritage at the PERCRO Laboratory, directed by prof. Massimo Bergamasco, in Pisa, Italy. Her design experience spans graphic design, typography, corporate identity development, digital video, advertising and digital media design. Her work is included in the 2007 Biennale di Cinema di Venezia, and recently she worked as a graphic designer and Communication workshop assistant for the Communication Lab, a Communication Degree Course of the University of Pisa. Prior to this, she worked as a Videomaker and Graphic Designer at Emage multimedia lab, of Grazia Neri, a well-known Photography and video company in Milan. For Emage she was videojournalist Reporter for Corriere della Sera, assistant producer for the Filmmaster society, and assistant editor of backstage television spots for Lavazza and Tim. She worked on projects including interfaces for various consumer products, video, DVD and CD-ROMs for such clients as Alessi, RAS and Cagiva. She won a first award (1999), at the competition "Il mobile in valigia" Politecnico di Milano, Go, Industrial design Magazine "Interni", with her product "Flash". She now enjoys working in Tuscany on projects of cultural design, and development the territory and small reality. She especially likes projects trying to reach targets such as social integration, economic development and urban regeneration trough arts and cultural growth, and to attend events concerning cultural information and communication. Her research interests in the PERCRO Laboratory are in the field of Innovative technology for cultural heritage, in particular, preservation, fruition and communication design for cultural heritage (Virtual Architecture, Virtual Museums, multisensory interaction in Virtual Museum Exhibitions and Digital Libraries).

Haakon Faste is PhD Student at the PERCRO Perceptual Robotics Laboratory at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy, focusing on virtual experience design for cultural heritage networks. He shares his time between Italy and the United States. Haakon studied both studio art and physics at Oberlin College, and has worked for over 12 years in the fields of visual art, product design and virtual reality. His work has appeared in many prominent American and European exhibitions including Galapagos Art Space and Studio 59 in New York City, La Biennale della Toscana and Palazzo Vivarelli Colonna in Florence, Italy, and the XI Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean in Athens, Greece. He recently finished a major public commission for the City of Mountain View, California. Before beginning his PhD, he was an interaction and software experiences designer with IDEO Product Development in Palo Alto California. In this capacity he led design strategy, implementation, technology innovation and IP strategy on creative projects for some of the world's most innovative corporations, including Toyota, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Intel and Cisco Systems. During this time he also assisted as Juror for the ZeroOne International Festival of Digital Arts / IDEO residency program in San Jose, California, and "IDEO Selects: Works from the permanent collection" at the Cooper-Hewett National Design Museum, which opens this summer in New York. Prior to IDEO he worked with clients including Rolling Stone, the Whitney Museum of American Art and DavidBowie.com. For several years he also worked at Fakespace Laboratories designing virtual reality hardware devices for clients including Ford, NASA Ames and Los Alamos National Research Laboratories.

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