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Jeffrey Shaw, Dennis Del Favero

T_Visionarium was created for the UNSW iCinema Centre’s Advanced Interaction and Visualisation Environment (AVIE), and it offers the means to capture and re-present televisual information, allowing viewers to explore and actively edit a multitude of stories in three dimensions. For T_Visionarium, 28 hours of digital free-to-air Australian television was captured over a period of one week. This footage was segmented and converted into a large database containing over 20,000 video clips. Each clip was then tagged with descriptors-or metadata-defining its properties. The information encoded includes the gender of the actors, the dominant emotions they are expressing, the pace of the scene, and specific actions such as standing up, lying down, and telephoning. Dismantling the video data in this way breaks down the original linear narrative into components that then become the building blocks for a new kind of interactive television.

Two hundred and fifty video clips are simultaneously displayed and distributed around AVIE’s huge circular screen. Using a special interface the viewer can select, re-arrange and link these video clips at will, composing them into combinations based on relations of gesture and movement. By these means the experience of viewing the television screen is not so much superseded as reformatted, magnified, proliferated and intensified. It is the experience of this new kind of spatial connectivity that gives rise to a revolutionary way of seeing and reconceptualizing TV in its aesthetic, physical and semantic dimensions. To use the T_Visionarium apparatus is not to view a screen or even multiple screens, but to experience a space within which screen imagery is dynamically re-formulated and re-imagined.

T_Visionarium actively and ongoingly explicates television but most importantly, it engages the domain in which it operates. Here, media is not an object of study but a material landscape in which we are component parts. T_Visionarium is a useable technology that locates us within a mediascape and makes us actutely aware of its operations, uncovering a televisual vocabulary of gesture. Stripped of its conventional narrative context, the aesthetic, behavioural and media qualities of television become strikingly apparent. And by affording us an active involvement T_Visionarium hones both our awareness of and our dexterity with this media.

In essence, it is not so much a tool that delivers control of a mediascape but a mode of inhabiting our surroundings: a sphere of pure and endless mediality. In this and many other ways, T_Visionarium is a moment in the history of media: post cinema, post narrative, new media, but at the same time, a major study in television and an embodiment of a new, media aesthetics.

Jill Bennett

(Cf: Jill Bennett, T_Visionarium : A User’s Guide, ZKM/UNSW Press, Karlsruhe/Sydney: 2008)

T_Visionarium, Video Documentation, 2004 – via Vimeo 
T_Visionarium, iCinema Centre, 2008. Documentary with voice over – via Vimeo 
T_Visionarium, Short version, iCinema Centre, 2008 – via Vimeo 
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