It is quite hard to imagine that it was only within the past century that man has truly been able to eliminate the barrier of physical distance. About 150 years ago, when someone packed up and left, you say goodbye, cry for awhile, and move on with your lives. When a cowboy runs off into the sunset, he leaves everything behind – perhaps never seeing or hearing from family and friends ever again. Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming is a work that highlights the bridging of physical gaps through a projection on a bed that is virtual occupied by the artist.
The performance is set up in two spots, one in an exhibit wherein visitors may interact with the projection, and another is set up for the performer at a distance, in this case, about two houses away. The performer gets to see what happens at the other site, while they too get to see the performer, projected onto a bed. In a sense, the exhibit acted as a cybercafe – a gathering place for people from different parts of the world. However, the scope is much smaller in this sense – rather than groups of people working only, it only allowed for one from one end, and preferably one from the other as well. Guests can interact with the projected figure as they choose – most guests seem to want to touch the performer, but cant, due to it being a projection.
The lack of touch paired with such a vivid and lifelike image puts touch at the focal point of interaction. This highlights the duality of web communication – that we are together, yet also far apart. Perhaps touch would not be in as much focus if the exhibit was set up differently – on a different surface? In a different, less intimate setting? Similar projection techniques have been used to great effect in performances, bringing virtual characters to life in the physical world.
With the bridging of physical distance, and the linking of cultures and peoples online, often times it is hard to remember the duality of that connection, the idea that the other is still not exactly the same as us, even if we feel connected online, whether through social media, video calls, forums, IRC channels. The duality that is highlighted, intentionally or unintentionally, by Telematic Dreams is something that we should all keep in mind when interacting online.