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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Home of the Brain
Monika Fleischmann, Wolfgang Strauss

In the installation "Home of the Brain" by Monika Fleischmann and Wolfgang Strauss, the participant is equipped with an eyephone to explore the imaginary world. Besides visual and acoustic impressions the viewer is captured by the 3- dimensional space.

The theatre of the ancient world had a voice that was heard. In the age of media we feel lost by an excessive amount of information. The new technologies - inspiring so much fascination as they do - must create public places for communication.

"Home of the Brain" stands as a metaphor for a totally new form of public space. It becomes the centre for cultural reflection of the new technologies. The architecture is combined with contradictory opinions and philosophical views, which transform the virtual environment into a symbolic space. We join different standpoints under a common roof - a debate between the most widely diverging views, a symbolic dispute between argumentative spirits.

Four houses are placed around a central labyrinth. Trees of knowledge are invested with ancient characters. It is an archaic world of symbols. A world of archetypes, which resembles C.G. Jung's concept of the collective unconscious. The "world" of philosophers is usually a symbolic space of words and thoughts. We transmit this world into a virtual space by using light, colours, shapes and words. The first four houses in that "Home of the Brain" are dedicated to media philosophers and computer scientists, who deal with technological development or its effects. We tried to express our interpretation of their ideas with the concepts of hope - adventure - utopia and catastrophe which correspond primarily to symbolic colours.

Assigned to Joseph Weizenbaum, the colour green stands for hope. It is the colour between near and far, the colour of nature, it stands for simplicity and for the extravagant.
Associated with Vilém Flusser's ideas, the colour red stands for adventure, for aggression, erotic and love.
Blue is the colour of the boundless, the fantasy, the colour of fairy tales, the colour of utopia, which belongs to Marvin Minsky.
Yellow is light and bright like the sun. It stands for wisdom, but at the same time it is related to poison, to illness, to death, to catastrophe and therefore to Paul Virilio's theory.

We use the cube, the pyramid, the globe, the octahedron as symbols for the philosophers' "houses". They stand as geometrical shapes for the four elements: earth, fire, water and air - as Plato described them. Chains of thoughts twist around the houses or the objects like thin paper snakes.
Philosopher's words can be discerned as tapes of information - as Möbius strips.
In the different geometric objects we will listen to sounds like: Rushing water in the globe, crackling fire in the pyramid, whispering trees in the cube, thunderstorms in the octahedron. If you touch the portraits of the four persons you can see videos about them. If you sit on the philosophers' chairs you will hear some of their statements. Virtual worlds can change their shapes, their colours, their light and their textures. Like alchemists, we can transform the virtual worlds. Covered with textures of fire, water, air or earth – space appears always in a different view.

The first contact causes confusion, it is "unfamiliar" in the virtual space; we must learn anew how to "walk", to move, to see, to feel. The mind goes travelling in the virtual world - we no longer travel with our body. Being able to fly and dive through the ground, going easily through walls, seeing objects from inside - all these experiences were unknown until now. By experimenting with artificial eyes and hands, we gain new experiences with our real eyes, hands and ears. Interactivity and telepresence could be the main items for a new way of perception. With the "eyephone" you find yourself in the phenomenon of a timeless space. There is no aging in this space. The visitor in the Virtual Reality-scenery can choose himself in which direction and in what kind of perspective he wants to view the virtual rooms. He is the actor in a simultaneously timeless and accelerated space. The viewer stands "in" – no longer merely "in front of" the picture. One could say: I am in the picture – I am part of it. You see yourself as though you were looking in a magic mirror. You get the feeling: I watch myself - standing beside or outside myself. At the same time you realize: I am in the picture - therefore I am.

Technical Background
HW: Silicon Graphics, Apple, VLP-Dataglover, Eyephone
SW: Stew, Wavefront, In-House SW