Inspiring example of IA: Project “Voz Alta”

Project “Voz Alta” also known as “Loud voices” is done by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. This piece was a memorial commissioned for the 40th anniversary of a student massacre in Tlatelolco, Mexico, which took place on October 2nd 1968. The massacre started as a government led attack to silence student protest against violence exerted by the riot police then. However, under an authoritarian regime, no formal investigation into the killings was ever initiated. This meant that the number reported and the name-list in the official documents were not accurately depicted. (More background of this massacre can be found: Mexico’s 1968 Massacre: What Really Happened?)

Credits: Hector Garcia and Acervo Comite

In this piece, audiences participated by speaking freely into a megaphone right at where the massacre took place. This is then translated as beaming a 10,000-watt searchlight in sequences of flashes onto the top of the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Locals could also tune into 96.1FM Radio UNAM to listen to what the lights were saying.voz_alta_01

voz_alta_24Credits: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Voz Alta, Relational Architecture 15”, 2008.

The voice-as-light projections superimpose public voice onto emblems of national heritage. With the use of sound, it allows the public to negotiate boundaries between historical record and the public collective memory of what actually happened, focusing on it as a mechanism for power. Through the use of these mediums, what “Voz Alta” achieved for its participants was an activation of memory associated with the massacre, and its potential to supplement the incomplete history. Ignoring the fact that some members of public has used this piece for commercial use such as a proposal, this piece is very significant in my opinion because it indicates a development in the politics of the government, what was once condemned is now slowly being overcome and this piece provides an agency for the public to facilitate and participate in this progression.

This is a supplementary video which also speaks of his inspiration for this piece.

Reflections on Marsha Kinder’s Designing a Database Cinema

Upon reflection, the aspects behind designing a database cinema is very different from my initial impression of what it meant. Initially, my impression of a database cinema was basically- information overload. With that, the one main key takeaway I had from the reading was the point on how database narratives actually focused on the processes of selection and combination of the information that lie at the heart of the piece. To me, what really struck me was indeed that in this era, information is readily available at hand and maybe now, it’s not so much how much you know but instead what you can do with the information. Especially placing it into the context of new media, and creating a narrative, the information selected plays an important role in letting the user realised on their own that they are the reader. What I realised in the works that were part of the Labyrinth project were that they required for the users to first be attuned to the technical specification of the apparatus before the user can start composing their own interpretation. Thus, the structure in the works is crucial to the “language” of these works. This sort of engagement might not be the most straightforward as compared to the traditional printed book but thats the beauty of it. In the reading, it describes as its structure as a sort of ‘search engine’, where users have to make their own random choices to piece together information to form their own hypothesis or in this case, their own story. In my daily life, the information that I retain is often the ones I search for myself instead of the ones fed to me. So, if we could feed our stories in these way and leave impressions to truly drive our message across as artists then I say honestly, What a better way to present information!

Example of Projects I think addresses data-base narration or interactive storytelling

  1. Gram-matron
    This piece was done up by Mark Amerika and published onto the WWW in 1997.
    This multimedia extravaganza utilises 2000 hypertext to various forms of media such as audio, videos. By distributing his own narrative content throughout the Internet, he was intentionally constructing an experience in which the reader would experiment and form his own personal literature and interpretation.

    Though this might seem gimmicky in this era where technology is more advanced, in the context when hypertext narrative was just emerging, I personally think this piece is a smart play. This piece draws parallel to choose-your-own-adventure books, which were readily available in the print. However, what I believe made it stand out was the touch of hypermedia with the aid of the Internet. Though ironic to the nature of this piece, with the use of hyperlinks, it creates a more coherent narrative. For sure, what is presented are just random piece of information or visuals, however the flow in which this form of interactivity induces helps the reader create their own story. The conditions created also help the observers relate themselves as readers, which I think is a fairly important point that is often overlooked.

  2. Timescape
    When we had to research on database narratives, I could not stop thinking on this collaboration that was shared with us during Art History a year back. Collaboration between Prof Michael Walsh and Hiverlab in 2017, led to a VR piece which showcases Armenian church in Famagusta, Cyprus. Users can walk around the modest-looking church and click on built-in hyperlinks using motion controllers, which opens up nuggets of information about the church’s history. There is also a time-lapse feature that allows a user to go back in time and observe how the church might have looked at a certain period in its history. This was done in hope of further plans for historical site conservation.

    As a user, you’re immediately put into the spot as an explorer. The subject might be made explicit however, the storyline formed I believe would still be up to your personal interpretation because of the arbitrary placement of information. This works well with the nature of the subject. As an historical site, it is not guaranteed that this place comes with a 12 act story structure to it. Hence, having a story lined up to the random choices a user makes allows for a natural development to the narrative.

  3. Battle for South China Seas
    This is a special interactive report done up by CNN. Its narrative revolves around 6 chapters. Within each chapter, though randomly scattered information, it is stringed together with various visuals. The layout of the reports allows for easy navigation through the progression of the events.

    Even though as this point it might seem as though the readers have no part to play with forming their own stories due to the drastic difference in layout as compared to the previously mentioned pieces, I personally feel due to the nature of the content, seemingly unbiased and relatively fact-based, readers can still form their own point of view to the case presented.