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Video Narcissus

Jeffrey Shaw

A video monitor on the floor faces upwards and over its screen there is a transparent container filled with water. At the center of this container is an opening through which a bubble of air can be electronically released causing the water to ripple outwards in concentric circles. Behind the monitor, a video camera is directed at the face of the spectator who is looking down at the monitor. This camera is connected to a computer which digitally processes the incoming signal in real time so that the processed image of the spectator face is seen directly on the monitor screen beneath the water.

Whenever a spectator moves in front of the monitor, an infrared sensor detects her presence and so a bubble of air is released under the water reservoir causing ripples over its surface. At the same moment a digitally processing of the spectator's face is presented on the monitor which the spectator sees through the reservoir of rippling water. The digital processing of the spectator's own image is such that over a period of a few seconds the image grows outwards from the center of the screen in a pattern of concentric circles. Thus a reflected image of the spectator is generated which extends the metaphor of rippling water. Because this digital image is contructed over a period of some seconds, if the spectator moves her head during this process then radially patterned distortions are created. In this way the spectators interactively play with fleeting concentric deformations of their own reflection.


Software: Gideon May