Decode: Digital Design Sensations at V&A (Silja)

Venezian Mirror by Fabrica

Decode exhibition in V&A is a celebration of new digital technology that itself has ability to captivate us. Projected image of a digital tree on a gallery wall, responding to the wind outside evokes more interest than the real trees outside that have always done the same. Why? Is it because it’s new? But there is also the allure of lit screen and moving lights.

Apart from that tree, most works on the exhibition are interactive. There is something about interactive art that injects enthusiasm: it’s partly child-like fascination of “what does this do”, and partly psychological phenomenon that makes us more positive about things we are more involved with, even if the involvement is not out of our choice. While some works were playful exploitments of technology, like Dandelion by Yoke, I felt there was one work in particular that took interaction to a new depth. Venezian Mirror by Fabrica contained of a large screen in a dramatic frame made of angular pieces of mirror, camera and a chair in front of it. As the spectator sat in the chair, his/her image appeared slowly on the screen in black and white. As described by the artists: “Venezian Mirror forces you to slow down, rewarding you with a response only when you linger in front of the camera.” The longer you stayed in front of the camera, the clearer the image became, while the people who had been there before were slowly erased from the screen. It resembled a very slow shutter speed photograph in constant motion. The large scale of the screen and the expressive frame gave the image a certain severity, and the fact that one had to sit still induced a silence. As a result, the look on people’s faces was similar to that of self-portraits; it suggested concentration and introspection, sense of self-discovery. I did not see anybody pulling faces in front of it as they did in front of Videogrid, a work by Ross Phillips, which recorded short video shots and played them back as part of collage on a large screen. Venezian Mirror was about you, the spectator, more than any other interactive work on the show, more than any other interactive work I have seen anywhere, in fact. Several people mentioned that it was “spooky” and images on it “ghostly”. You could not help but feel that your “reflection” on screen showed you more than you normally see in a mirror, that it revealed your soul, or something that you maybe did not expect to see or show in a public place. But it also gave you importance, dignity; you looked like your aristocratic forbearers would have looked like.

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