Installation, 2007

Chris Sugrue (US)

As digital technologies have become embedded in everyday life, the line between the virtual and real is becoming increasingly blurred. Delicate Boundaries creates a space that allows the worlds inside our digital devices to move into the physical realm. Inside a computer monitor, a world of organic forms wriggle and flock. When the screen is touched, these small bugs made of light swarm towards the point of contact. This system moves beyond a typical responsive touch-activated display allowing the bugs to crawl out of the display onto the human bodies that make contact with them. They appear to emerge from the computer screen, often surprising their audience as they try to abandon a virtual existence. The magic of this illusion is evident when the viewer permits them to explore their bodies, crawling from one person to the next, interacting with a digital projection in a strangely intimate space.

In Delicate Boundaries the audience finds a playful world embodied with lifelike behaviours, organic motion and responsiveness. It invites the viewer into an illusion where something made out of light could be considered as having substance. This strange world comes to life with video cameras, near-infrared lights, digital projection and custom software. Behind the scenes, image processing techniques are employed to track the audience as they interact. The system attempts to understand where someone touches the screen and where the boundaries of the body exists. The story that emerges within the interaction space becomes about the viewer exploring the boundaries between the virtual and the real, between contact with technology, and with each other. Ultimately, the work hopefully reminds us that, suspect or not, there is still some magic in the way we interact with the world.

Artist's Statement

Delicate Boundaries explores our expectations and understanding of interfaces and interactivity, using reactive visuals and lifelike behaviours to create a playful environment. The illusions occur on several levels: first there is the illusion of the bugs leaving the screen; then through playful interactions, the viewer often projects their own interpretations and experiences. Some say they can feel the bugs crawling on them while knowing it is only light!