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May 22, 2007
Catherine Ikam and Louis Fléri's Digital Diaries 2006/2007, at the MEP in Paris, is one of the trippiest interactive photo/video installations I've ever experienced. On entering this darkened gallery at the MEP, you put on 3D glasses, and suddenly a gaseous orb of images is spinning right in front of you, as if you can reach out and touch any one of them. As you walk around, the perspective changes, seemingly naturally. A universe of "image memories" is swirling 3D like flotsam and jetsam satellites orbiting in all directions. You can control the roll speed and spin, and also pluck one image memory at a time from the beautiful spinning debris. That piece of "memory" (a still photograph, for instance) comes forward and speaks to you, or interacts with you, or plays back its memory: a bit of recorded music, a sound recording of a voice, a recorded testimony — or it morphs into a snippet of video, an image of a dream remembered — or merely a still photograph that vibrates with personality.
I could spend hours in this room. It's like being inside someone else's mind, hearing (and seeing) their memories, without the mediation of their own voice or language or words. It is very direct, yet discontinuous. You have no idea how any of these memories is connected with the others, unless perhaps, if you study it thoroughly, and try to decipher it all as you would with a William Faulkner novel. But I suspect, if you take the time (pleasantly), a richer story will unfold and enter your own consciousness.
There are lots of other magical installations in other galleries here as well. Video androids interact with you, following your movements around a room, mimicking your facial gestures. And in another room, you find pieces of your own face floating scattered in the darkness like some instant multi-perspective video cubism. But for me, Digital Diaries is the A ticket.
Here's some of the background info from the exhibition notes:
'Reality is what refuses to disappear when you stop believing in it'
Philip K. Dick, "Valis"
Since the 1980s Catherine Ikam has been using the prism of technology to revisit the archetypes of our society. Her Fragments d'un archétype and Identité III were two seminal video art pieces. Since 1990 she has been working with Louis Fléri on virtual interactive figures such as Elle and Oscar. Akin to the world of American sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, Catherine Ikam and Louis Fléri are interested in the ambiguous relationships between reality and appearance, the living and the artificial, the human and the model.
This exhibition presents video sculptures, virtual installations, computer-generated portraits, a new video tribute to Nam June Paik, Piano Pieces, and an interactive digital installation in relief entitled Digital Diaries made in 2006-2007. In Identité III the viewer is filmed from different angles using cameras fitted with lenses of varying focal lengths. Each visitor is then faced with his or her own fragmented image displayed live on 9 screens.
You can experience it in person at the MEP 14 March - 3 June 2007