Paul Sermon: Telematic dreaming
The viewers are invited to a room with a bed (A). Thousand of miles away, another participant lies on the same bed (B), with a camera above recording their movements. These movements are monitored and then projected back onto bed A. The viewers are encouraged to lie down on the bed to interact with the other party. The telematics collaboration of both viewers from different places in an intimate setting of a bed creates a really interesting paradox, which I would further explore below.
Ivan Sutherland’s Ultimate Display, describe immersion as the removal of the physical space and plunging into a virtual world, where one could see, smell, taste, and touch. While Paul Sermon did not achieve full immersion, he managed to bridge the physical presence and the telematic presence through a physical object: the bed. The bed plays a paradoxical role here. It carries the intimate setting of a personal space, however, in this artwork, it also becomes an open space. By inviting a stranger into a bed feels only intimate, and this intimacy is made more real with the physicality of the bed. Through touch, the participants can interact with the bed hiding under the blankets. This makes it more personal as if the other virtual party is intruding your space.
What I felt was very interesting, was how people really respected the image of the other party. During the run of this project, almost no one sat on the image of the other party on the bed. In one case, when one of the projected participants reached a set of keys on the bed. On the other end, the participants actually physically moved the keys out of the way as if the projected image is physically able to take the keys away. It’s very interesting to see how the audience is conscious of the projected parties presence, despite not physically being there. Paul Sermon managed to attain such a deep level of immersion, despite only utilising sight, hearing and touch. I guess one reason, why this worked so well is due to the incorporation of the bed in our reality, the physical space. Paul Sermon doesn’t try to create a virtual world in a third space. In a way, our moral and ethics and sense of realism are retained as we do not “travel to a fictional space”. This makes it more real, more intimate.
Paul sermon also stimulates the first person experience, through the use of entropy. Telematic dreaming has an opened participation to it. There is no pre-programmed route embedded into the artwork. All of the interactions with the artwork is organic and based on the two participants. There is no to little artist interference or involvement in the interaction of the work. The artist role here is to provide the platform: the bed and the projection.
Overall, I think that telematics is a very successful interactive artwork. While it did not achieve full entropy or achieved the Ultimate Display, I think it is perfectly fine. These two concepts itself is very extreme. Achieving the Ultimate Display will raise up a lot of ethic and moral questions. The Ultimate Display calls for a virtual world so real that I could actually feel the pain of dying. This extreme manifesto rings a lot of alarm bell for me. What if someone died in the virtual world and experienced trauma so bad that he is unable to function in the real world. For this artwork, what if the projected image is so real that one participant actually starts getting intimate with the projected image? Is it considered rape if that isn’t your physical body? Even without engaging all of our five senses, Paul Sermon is able to create this “reality” of the other projected party that we respect their space as described above. Today, I think that it is impossible to achieve full entropy in an artwork. Nothing would happen. Leave a blank wall in the museum, it would still be blank after years. There needs to be an input to achieve a response from the audience and ultimately achieving an output. In Paul sermon case I believed that his artwork a substantial amount of entropy. Paul sermon controls the input (interacting with the bed) and the output (the projection). However, the response is organic and is solely based on the participant’s reaction to the work. I believed that is the greatest extent of entropy an artist can ever achieve in a successful work.
Norbert Wiener, “Cybernetics in History,” 1954, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality
Roy Ascott, “Behavioral Art and the Cybernetic Vision,” 1966, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality
Ivan Sutherland, “The Ultimate Display,” 1965, Wired Magazine
Scott Fisher, “Virtual Environments” 1989, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality
Paul Sermon. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.paulsermon.org