nedjelja, 3. lipnja 2012.

Blast Theory - Vrh interaktivne umjetnosti

Blast Theory (Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr i Nick Tandavanitj), iz Brigtona, jedna je od najjačih momčadi interaktivne umjetnosti. Dakle da vidimo što se događa na križanju performansa uživo, videa, instalacije te korisnika mobitela i interneta diljem svijeta. Naravno da se pritom propituju interaktivnost i socijalno-političko-ideološki aspekti tehnologije, interaktivne zabave i življena u svijetu zasićenom medijima i informacijama. 
Igre koje se istovremeno događaju u virtualnom i zbiljskom gradu, navode vas da se intimno povežete s potpunim strancima... itd.
Evo nekih njihovih projekata:

The goody bullet

The Goody Bullet is an SMS game for up to 400 players that lasts for three hours.
A group of tourists are visiting an underground government bunker in the Welsh mountains. As the climax of the tour, you get to eat dinner in the huge ballroom hewn out of the rock. Disaster strikes when the massive metal doors of the room are locked from the outside and everyone is trapped. Unrest turns to panic when a tourist falls dead at their table. Then another, and another. Work out who is doing the killing and, for god's sake, save yourself.
To begin you select a small plastic figurine from a purpose built metal table, choosing from names such as Cutty Hugh, Edible Jenks or Meat Buttons. Your figurine is then moved onto the game table and you are given a badge to wear which shows your figurine's name.
As you join the game your character is sat at a table with three other players. You can send text messages to the other people at your table and chat with them. Or you can move to another table.
As the evening progresses unease descends into panic. The Maitre D' is forced into ever more extreme measures to keep order. If you call him to your table to make an accusation against another player, he will orchestrate the kangaroo court and, almost without fail, deliver the summary execution. As each death takes place the figurine slides through the game table to its grave. A video projector shows who is playing and each new death in the style of a disaster movie credits sequence. A few times each hour all players get messages about the unfolding events giving them clues and the aim of the game is to save yourself and identify the murderer before time is up.
The game is visually engaging, very quick to join and is designed to be played in a party atmosphere. It prompts conversations, allows strangers to chat to one another via SMS and develops a rich set of interactions in the virtual world of the game alongside the actual conversations in the room.          Video

Invisible Bullets

Invisible Bullets is an installation/performance that was first performed in Hoxton, London in July 1994 as part of the Fete Worse Than Death. Commissioned by Joshua Compston of Factual Nonsense (but never paid for) the work was performed for two days alongside Leigh Bowery's Minty and The Raincoats.
The work has since been shown in a pedestrian precinct in Nottingham and in a bank in Hildesheim in Germany.
Looking at the current obsession with crime reconstructions; the piece features exploding bullet hits courtesy of a film special effects company.
Lasting up to 10 hours per day the piece re-enacts a murder again and again, each time changing the method of presentation: sometimes performed casually in balaclavas, at other times psychotically in underwear.
Throughout a figure bearing a clipboard takes measurements and builds up graphs on the wall detailing the variations. A floor of sand and two video cameras record the movements of the participants.
Drawing on references ranging from O.J. Simpson's glove to the transcript of a Mafia trial, Invisible Bullets is performed in an enclosed box which is 7m by 7m. The audience walk up onto a platform to look in on the performance.
The piece, which has six performers, features a commissioned soundtrack by Bristol-based dance band Statik Sound System.
A short video was made of the Hildesheim presentation and has been exhibited in galleries including the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin.
"Invisible Bullets has been shown in London and Germany.Their concentration and stage personas are riveting. They have wit and intelligence and a keen eye for the kind of composition and structure that keeps the contemporary mind in close attention."  Live Art Magazine


You Get Me is a documentary game played between Mile End Park and the Covent Garden in London. It was commissioned for Deloitte Ignite, a weekend festival at the Royal Opera House from 12-14th September 2008, curated by choreographer Wayne McGregor. It is a work about understanding, mediation and place. It uses the internet to connect two sites that although they are only five miles apart geographically are separated by a much larger cultural gulf.
Following in the tradition of previous game projects such as Uncle Roy All Around You and Day Of The Figurines, You Get Me uses a game structure and then stretches it and extends it. It is an exploration of whether a game can be a conversation and whether technology bridges or reinforces social divides.
The development of the work was supported by Caitlin Newton Broad who visited a huge range of community groups, colleges and arts organisations in the East End to invite young people to a series of workshops at the Urban Adventure Base over the summer of 2008. Eight people were chosen to work on the project: Jack Abrahams, Hussain Ali, Tendai Chiura, Ivan Neeladoo, Fern Reay, Rita Ribas, Rachel Scurry and Jade Laurelle Stevens.
Matt, Ju and Nick worked with them to create personal geographies. Each of the eight explored important places or events in their life and formed them into a map; some were tight logical areas (Rita’s was arranged around the swimming pool in which she had nearly drowned) while others were more freeform (Hussain linked his home with key places in Bangladesh). And from these maps a critical question about their lives were brought to the surface. These questions came to be the animating force of the work.
Visitors to the Opera House play on the internet. The front page reads,
“Welcome to You Get Me.
This is a game where you decide how far to go.
At this moment a group of teenagers are in Mile End Park. Each one has a question they want you to answer.
Pick a person and their question. Choose carefully because you only get one shot at this. And the others you didn’t choose will then try their best to knock you out.
Here they come...”
Visitors choose from one of the teenagers (known as runners) based on a picture of them and their question. Rachel asks “What is your line between flirting and cheating?”, Jack wants to know, “Would you employ me?”. You hear a story from that person (Jack describes jumping the barriers to Southend and pissing in a cup on the back of the rail replacement bus) and are dropped into the game.
By navigating your avatar through a virtual Mile End Park you can find your chosen runner while avoiding the others: if one of the others get too close you are knocked out of the game.
In this first stage your goal is to listen to the personal geography of your runner over the walkie talkie stream. As you learn more about them their question begins to deepen and make more sense. You then track them down and type them an answer to their question. If they don’t like it, they throw you back: you need to listen to more of their personal geography and come up with a better answer.
If they feel that your answer is intriguing the runner invites you for a private chat. They switch to the privacy of a mobile phone and call you; in turn you can type them messages. A night time photo of the park slowly zooms to reveal the person you are talking to as a pixellated presence on a distant pathway.
This one to one exchange allows them to get your direct input into their life. They have framed the most important question in their life at that moment and they want your opinion. Hussain, for example, is wrestling with leaving home and asks you how you did it: does it get easier over time? Are all parents so obstructive and incomprehending?
Once you have finished your conversation they take a picture for you. The last thing you hear might be “This is Fern. It’s 3.45 in the afternoon on Friday 12th September. I’m near the canal with the Pallant Estate behind me and I’m taking a photo for you. You get me.” As you leave the Royal Opera House the photo arrives on your phone.
The work extends Blast Theory’s focus on the social impacts of mobile communications technologies. Whereas previous works such as I Like Frank and Day Of The Figurines bring groups of strangers into spaces that are both social and ludic as equal participants, You Get Me makes eight individuals the agents of the work. It makes listening, learning and understanding the core mechanics of a game.
The piece comments on the disparity between the culture of the Opera House and the wider London community in which it is situated; it bridges the existing divide while emphasising the limitations of attempts to do so using technology or culture. 

Prof Tanda's Guess-A-Ware is a mobile phone game that invites players to take part in experiments on their environment and reflect on the impact they have on it. Through a series of quizzes and activities players learn about their carbon footprint and find ways to reduce it.
Prof Tanda lives on your mobile phone and alerts you 2 or 3 times a day to play with him. Play sessions last between 2 and 10 minutes and involve activities such as answering questions in a quiz, performing a task for Prof or doing some activity with the people that you're with at the time.
Prof appears as a small graphical character. He speaks through speech bubbles; inviting players to respond to instructions, select answers from multiple choice questions or enter text into forms to interact. He combines serious questions with playful ones; showing interest in your opinions about film stars and facial hair as well as energy use.
Over the course of the game, Prof aims to provide an amusing diversion and give context sensitive information to the player; in particular, environmental information and advice relating to that player and their activity at any given time.
Prof uses two techniques to workout context and present user sensitive information. First, he builds up a profile of the player over the course of a number of sessions. This profile is established through explicit questions to the player, for example: Do you drive a car? Do you have children? Do you like facial hair?
Second, context is established within a specific session through a combination of explicit questions to the player and by guesses based on a users profile and cell logging data gathered from the phone.
As Prof builds a fuller picture of the player he aims to give increasingly tailored activities and feedback. The goal is to take advantage of the mobile phone to catch people in specific contexts and equip them with the knowledge to allow them to make informed choices about how they live.
Prof Tanda was developed as part of the Participate Research project with the Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University and British Telecom. For more details about the Prof Tanda’s Guess A Ware visit the Participate project website.

Research Papers:

Professor Tanda: Greener Gaming And Pervasive Play Download

Guess A Who, Why, Where, When?: The Visualization of Context Data to Aid the Authoring and Orchestration of a Mobile Pervasive Game  Download


Flypad is a site specific work for the Public Gallery in West Bromwich, using augmented reality to create a thrilling, collaborative experience that combines game play with interaction, joyful goofing about with a visceral sense of the blur between real and virtual space.
The work has 11 terminals arranged around the central atrium of the gallery. Each is equipped with a monitor, a motorised pan-tilt camera and a footpad interface in the floor.
Visitors create avatars which they're able to fly around the atrium using the the footpad. The camera tracks their position as they fly; crashing into other avatars, learning new moves and collaborating together to attain perfect grace.
By holding on to other avatars, visitors can stay in the air for longer, mutating with the avatars they hold on to. As the game progresses, visitors become hybridised: from a group of individual and separate bodies emerges a social body in which everyone’s form and identity is partly moulded by those around them.

Rider Spoke is a work for cyclists combining theatre with game play and state of the art technology. The project continues Blast Theory’s enquiry into performance in the age of personal communication. Developing from works such as Uncle Roy All Around You (2003) the piece invites the audience to cycle through the streets of the city, equipped with a handheld computer. They search for a hiding place and record a short message there. And then they search for the hiding places of others.
The piece continues Blast Theory’s fascination with how games and new communication technologies are creating new hybrid social spaces in which the private and the public are intertwined. It poses further questions about where theatre may be sited and what form it may take. It invites the public to be co-authors of the piece and a visible manifestation of it as they cycle through the city. It is precisely dependent on its local context and invites the audience to explore that context for its emotional and intellectual resonances.
In keeping with much of the group's work Rider Spoke has a high threshold for the audience: you must be willing to cycle, alone at night, through the city. And this sets the stage for a very personal and intimate form of participation. Instead of "User Generated Content", the artists' have approached the project as inviting "Publicly Created Contributions".
The audience can take part either either on their own bike or borrow one supplied by Blast Theory. Following a short introduction and a safety briefing you head out into the streets with a handheld computer mounted on the handlebars. You are given a question and invited to look for an appropriate hiding place where you will record your answer. The screen of the device acts primarily as a positioning system, showing where you are and whether there are any hiding places nearby. The interface employs imagery drawn from Mexican votive painting, sailor tattoos and heraldry: swallows flutter across the screen to show available hiding places, prefab houses indicate places where others have hidden.
Once you find a hiding place (a spot previously undiscovered by any other player) the device flashes an alert and the question. The question is one of a selection authored by Blast Theory that asks you – alone, in an out of the way spot – to reflect on your life. You then record your answer onto the device. Each hiding place combines two properties: the physical location and the electronic location as reported by the device and, for this reason, position itself is slippery and changeable. This is especially true as the University of Nottingham has designed and built a system that uses WiFi access points to determine the position of each rider.
The other aspect of the game is to find the hiding places of others. When you find one, the device alerts you to stop and then shows you the question that that person answered and plays you their answer. The recordings that people make are only available in this context: played to a player, alone, in the place where they were recorded.
As you roll through the streets your focus is outward, looking for good places to hide, speculating about the hiding places of others, becoming completely immersed into this overlaid world as the voices of strangers draw you into a new and unknown place.
The streets may be familiar but you’ve given yourself up to the pleasure of being lost.

Day Of The Figurines is set in a fictional town that is littered, dark and underpinned with steady decay. The game unfolds over a total of 24 days, each day representing an hour in the life of the town that shifts from the mundane to the cataclysmic: the local vicar opens a summer fete, Scandinavian metallists play a gig at the Locarno that goes horribly wrong while an occupying army appears on the High Street. How players respond to these events and to each other creates and sustains a community during the course of a single day in the town. From the Gasometer to Product Barn, the Canal to the Rat Research Institute, up to 1,000 players roam the streets, defining themselves through their interactions.
Day Of The Figurines continues Blast Theory's enquiry into the nature of public participation within artworks and within electronic spaces (here, through SMS). It uses emergent behaviour and social dynamics as a means of structuring a live event. It invites players to establish their own codes of behaviour and morality within a parallel world. It plays on the tension between the intimacy and anonymity of text messages, building on previous projects such as Uncle Roy All Around You, I Like Frank and the award-winning Can You See Me Now?
The centrepiece of the game is a vast model town - installed in a public space - created using silhouettes of buildings, cut and folded from the metal table top. Each of the 1,000 players is represented by a small plastic figurine which is moved by hand every hour for the duration of the game.
To begin the game, players are invited to create their own figurine: to name it, answer questions about its past and how it is represented to other players. They then see him or her placed in the town. Thereafter participation in the game is via mobile phone. Players receive a minimum of one text a day updating them on the progress of their figurine and are invited to make increasingly challenging decisions over the fate of themselves and other players in response to deteriorating circumstances. Players can join or leave the game at any time. One of the key aspects of this new form of artwork is that it is situated within players' daily lives and can be accessed at any time.
Although players aren't required to return to the board after setting off their figurine, curiosity might lead them to revisit the space to observe the changing topography of the town. Regular visitors to the venue are able to eavesdrop on player activity via video displays. A website during the game gives information about the town and allows players to read a history of their day so far. It also gives news of events that are currently happening and hints at events that are to come.

I Like Frank 
In March 2004 Blast Theory premiered the world's first 3G mixed reality game, I Like Frank in Adelaide, at the Adelaide Fringe.
I Like Frank took place online at and on the streets using 3G phones. Players in the real city chatted with players in the virtual city as they searched for the elusive Frank. Whether playing on the streets or logging from around the world, players built relationships, swapped information and tested the possibilities of a new hybrid space.
The game invited players to search for Frank through the streets of Adelaide. Online Players moved through a virtual model of the city, opening location specific photos of the city. One photo revealed the location of a hidden object. Online Players then had to enlist a Street Player to go to that location and retrieve it. In the Exeter Hotel, in a pool hall and in saddle bags on bicycles were four different postcards each with a question for the Street Player to answer such as, 'Who do you think of when you feel alone?'Once an Online Player had achieved this they entered a new virtual Adelaide saturated in red where Frank was waiting in a photographic 'Future Land'.
Street Players received messages onto their phones that reveal that the creator of the game and Frank spent time together in Adelaide in the past. By walking through the north eastern part of the city Street Players followed in their footsteps. The game culminated with an interaction with a glimpsed figure at 'Future Land', a leafy sunken atrium between four mirrored office blocks. Via a video call on their phone they were invited to answer the question on their postcard and address it to an online player.
'I didn't find Frank in any kind of embodied sense, but his trace encouraged me to be a tourist in my own city and to keep seeking out those individual and uncommon details that struggle for recognition within the everyday experience of public life.' RealTime magazine, No.60, April/May 2004

Uncle Roy All Around You
Uncle Roy All Around You is a game played online in a virtual city and on the streets of an actual city. Online Players and Street Players collaborate to find Uncle Roy's office before being invited to make a year long commitment to a total stranger.
The city is an arena where the unfamiliar flourishes, where the disjointed and the disrupted are constantly threatening to overwhelm us. It is also a zone of possibility; new encounters.
Building on Can You See Me Now? the game investigates some of the social changes brought about by ubiquitous mobile devices, persistent access to a network and location aware technologies.
The following text describes the work in June 2003 at the world premiere at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. The work was changed significantly in subsequent presentations .
The Game
Street Players buy a ticket and then are shown to the registration desk. They have their photo taken and hand over all their possessions: phone, purse, bag, loose change, etc. The Street Player receives a unique code, which they enter into their handheld computer thus triggering the 60 minute countdown to begin.
Having been told they must meet Uncle Roy within 60 minutes, Street Players take their handheld device out onto the streets. Their device shows a map and the names and positions of Online Players. The map can be dragged around to show other areas and can zoom in or out. A button marked: "I'm lost" is always available. Once outside, they receive a message from Uncle Roy. It says:
"Meet me in the park by the lake. I've marked your map with the location. Click on the "I'm here" button to confirm you've arrived and I'll come to meet you." A red dot indicates the meeting place.
Online Players are moving around a virtual city which correlates exactly to the real city. They too are sent on a mission to meet Uncle Roy. They can view photos of the real city by going to the corresponding location in the virtual city and clicking on an icon. Initially they can chat with other Online Players but cannot see or contact Street Players.
When the Street Player first declares their position (by clicking "I'm here" on the handheld computer) their avatar appears in the virtual world at that location. Their card becomes visible to Online Players: it shows their name, their photo and a brief description of their clothes.
Selecting a Street Player's card allows the Online Player to send private messages to the Street Player. The Street Player can record audio replies or ignore these messages. Only the most recent audio message from each Street Player is available: a new message 'overwrites' the previous one. Potentially every Street Player and every Online Player can be in contact: social interaction governs how this actually happens.
After the Street Player arrives at the first location, Uncle Roy sends another message. It says: "There's something I want you to do for me. Start heading north into the West End. I will contact you as you go."
When the Street Player declares their position, Uncle Roy replies with context specific directions, e.g. "Pay no attention to the street cleaner with long gray hair. Find a dead end and follow it." After a time these directions become less context specific and more direct, e.g. "Go to 12 Waterloo Place and ring the bell marked Roy".
Online Players can assist Street Players by matching photos and Uncle Roy's comments and then passing relevant information to the Street Player, e.g. "The door to Uncle Roy's office has a metal grille". 
The Office
When the Street Player arrives at the Office they ring the buzzer. The glass door slides open and gives them access to the deserted office.
Inside the room is an architect's desk, a chair and the rest of a typical executive office of the 1970s. Radio 4 comes from a Roberts radio. A blood red vinyl chair sits on the thick brown carpet. Black metal shelves hang on the dark olive green walls. A model of the surrounding city made of Post It notes sits on the desk: on a monitor nearby is an Augmented Reality display showing the Post It note city populated by all current Street and Online Players.
Online Players are informed that the Street Player is in the office and are invited to join them. Once in the virtual office, they see the Street Player on a live web cam. They are asked a series of questions culminating in: "Somewhere in the game there is a stranger who is also answering these questions. Are you willing to make a commitment to that person that you will be available for them if they have a crisis? The commitment will last for 12 months and, in return, they will commit to you for the same period."
If they agree, the Online Player is invited to enter their postal address. Once they have completed the questions they 'enter' the office and can see the web cam showing the Street Player.
On the desk is a postcard with "When can you begin to trust a stranger?" printed on it. Via the handheld device Uncle Roy asks the Street Player to answer the question and keep it with them as they walk outside to a nearby phone box. 
Once the they are in the phone box they receive a call instructing the Player to get into the back of a white limousine parked across the street.
A man gets into the car and asks the Street Player the same series of questions that the Online Player has answered.
If the Street Player agrees to make the commitment to a stranger then they are paired with an Online Player who has also agreed. As the Street Player is dropped off at the ICA, the postcard is posted to an Online Player who has given their address.
Meanwhile the Online Player emerges from the virtual office back into the virtual city. Their experience has no definite end: they can choose to chat further with Street Players, to go into the office a second or third time or to log out. 


Can You See Me Now?
Can You See Me Now? is a game that happens simultaneously online and on the streets. Players from anywhere in the world can play online in a virtual city against members of Blast Theory. Tracked by satellites, Blast Theory's runners appear online next to your player on a map of the city. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guide the runners in tracking you down.
With up to 20 people playing online at a time, players can exchange tactics and send messages to Blast Theory. An audio stream from Blast Theory's walkie talkies allowed you to eavesdrop on your pursuers: getting lost, cold and out of breath on the streets of the city.
Can You See Me Now? draws upon the near ubiquity of handheld electronic devices in many developed countries. Blast Theory are fascinated by the penetration of the mobile phone into the hands of poorer users, rural users, teenagers and other demographics usually excluded from new technologies.
Some research has suggested that there is a higher usage of mobile phones among the homeless than among the general population. The advent of 3G (third generation mobile telephony) brings constant internet access, location based services and massive bandwidth into this equation. Can You See Me Now? is a part of a sequence of works (Uncle Roy All Around You and I Like Frank have followed) that attempt to establish a cultural space on these devices. While the telecoms industry remains focused on revenue streams in order to repay the huge debts incurred by buying 3G licenses and rolling out the networks, Blast Theory in collaboration with the Mixed Reality Lab are looking to identify the wider repercussions of this communication infrastructure. When games, the internet and mobile phones converge what new possibilities arise?
These social forces have dramatic repercussions for the city. As the previously discrete zones of private and public space (the home, the office etc.) have become blurred, it has become commonplace to hear intimate conversations on the bus, in the park, in the workplace. And these conversations are altered by the audience that accompanies them: we are conscious of being overheard and our private conversations become three way: the speaker, the listener and the inadvertent audience.
Can You See Me Now? takes the fabric of the city and makes our location within it central to the game play. The piece uses the overlay of a real city and a virtual city to explore ideas of absence and presence. By sharing the same 'space', the players online and runners on the street enter into a relationship that is adversarial, playful and, ultimately, filled with pathos.
As soon as a player registers they must answer the question: "Is there someone you haven't seen for a long time that you still think of?". From that moment issues of presence and absence run through Can You See Me Now?. This person - absent in place and time - seems irrelevant to the subsequent game play; only at the point that the player is caught or 'seen' by a runner do they hear the name mentioned again as part of the live audio feed from the streets. The last words they hear are "Runner 1 has seen ______ _______".
Proximity and distance exist at five levels within Can You See Me Now? Firstly, any game of chase is predicated on staying distant from your pursuer. Secondly, the virtual city (which correlates closely to the real city) has an elastic relationship to the real city. At times the two cities seem identical; the virtual pavement and the real pavement match exactly and behave in the same way. At other times the two cities diverge and appear very remote from one another. For example, traffic is always absent from the virtual city. Thirdly, the internet itself brings geographically distant players into the same virtual space. It also enables those players to run alongside the runners as it streams their walkie talkie chat. Fourthly, the name of someone you haven't seen for a long time but you still think of brings someone from the player's past into the present: their name is spoken aloud by a runner on the distant streets of the city and exists for a seconds before fading into the ether. Finally, the photos taken by runners of the empty terrain where each player is seen are uploaded to the site and persist as a record of the events of each game. Each player is forever linked to this anonymous square of the cityscape.
With the advent of virtual spaces and, more recently, hybrid spaces in which virtual and real worlds are overlapping, the emotional tenor of these worlds has become an important question. In what ways can we talk about intimacy in the electronic realm? In Britain the internet is regularly characterised in the media as a space in which paedophiles 'groom' unsuspecting children and teenagers. Against this back drop can we establish a more subtle understanding of the nuances of online relationships. When two players who know one another place their avatars together and wait for the camera view to zoom down to head height so that the two players regard one another, what is going on? Is this mute tenderness manifest to anyone else and should it be?
And alongside these small moments, there is a louder and more forceful set of interactions between runners and players based on insults, teasing, goading and humour. These public declarations seem to happily coexist with the private moments that appear marginal to the casual observer. Yet, this demotic discourse also can surprise: the online players understanding that the runners are tired, cold, struggling with the environment on the street can become a powerful emotion.
A player from Seattle wrote: "I had a definite heart stopping moment when my concerns suddenly switched from desperately trying to escape, to desperately hoping that the runner chasing me had not been run over by a reversing truck (that's what it sounded like had happened)."
"A crucial feature of Blast Theory projects is the ability to extend user and audience affect outside the game - rather than delimiting our consciousness to the sterotypical and virtual, the gameplay pushes us to understand aspects of ourselves, our communities and social responsibility. This is partially achieved by the very visceral gameplay - in CYSMN? the players and gameplay self-generate affects of pursuers and pursued. ... It was encouraging to see Blast Theory awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica, which has in the past lauded some commercial, apolitical projects." RealTime magazine, Dec03/Jan04 

Desert Rain

Desert Rain has become a significant work in the world of performance and new media. It is a game, an installation and a performance placing particpants in a collaborative virtual environment and sending them on a mission into a virtual world. In a world where Gulf War images echo Hollywood images, where Norman Schwarzkopf blurs into Arnold Schwarzenegger, Desert Rain looks for the feint line between the real and the fictional.
Standing on a footplate and zipped into a cubicle, each of the six team members explores motels, deserts and underground bunkers, communicating with each other within the virtual world . . . a world projected onto a screen of falling water. You have 30 minutes to find the target, complete the mission, and get to the final room, where others may have a very different idea of what actually happened out there.
"one of the most complex and powerful responses to the first Gulf War to be produced within the sphere of theatrical practice." Gabriella Giannachi, Virtual Theatres
Desert Rain uses a combination of virtual reality, installation and performance to problematise the boundary between the real and the virtual. It places participants in a Collaborative Virtual Environment in which the real intrudes upon the virtual and vice versa. It uses the real, the imaginary, the fictional and the virtual side by side and juxtaposes these elements as a means of defining them.
The piece is influenced by Jean Baudrillard's assertion that the Gulf War did not take place because it was in fact a virtual event. Whilst remaining deeply suspicious of this kind of theoretical position Blast Theory recognise that this idea touches upon a crucial shift in our perception and understanding of the world around us. It asserts that the role of the media, advertising and of the entertainment industries in the presentation of events is casually misleading at best and perniciously deceptive at worst. As Paul Patton says in an essay about Baudrillard, "the sense in which Baudrillard speaks of events as virtual is related to the idea that real events lose their identity when they attain the velocity of real time information, or to employ another metaphor, when they become encrusted with the information which represents them."
In this sense, while televisual information claims to provide immediate access to real events, in fact what it does is produce informational events which stand in for the real, and which "inform" public opinion which in turn affects the course of subsequent events, both real and informational. As consumers of mass media, we never experience the bare material event but only the informational coating which renders it "sticky and unintelligible like the oil soaked sea bird".

"possibly the most technolo-gically ambitious art installation ever made." The Times, 10 May 2000

This reference to the "oil soaked sea bird" as an icon that stands in for the reality of an oil spill (and which, in effect, distracts attention from and even masks entirely the real complexity and significance of the events surrounding an oil spill), gives a direct example of the ways in which these processes affect us every day.
While these ideas form the backdrop to Desert Rain the piece is not intended to be a demonstration of this theory merely to accept its significance in informing our view of the relationship of the real to the virtual and especially in its assertion that the virtual has a daily presence in our lives.
Indeed we also have a great interest in those who have coruscatingly attacked Baudrillard's ideas as "absurd theses" which are "ill equipped to mount any kind of effective critical resistance".
The role of the cinema, particularly Hollywood, in this process is also important. As a vehicle for dreams, aspirations and fantasies, films play a major role in affecting our self image and as a source of inspiration.
The key motif of the individual overcoming all odds to triumph is a touchstone for our culture and has an impact on real life. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Norman Schwarzkopf both exemplify certain aspects of leadership, for example, and each draws on the attributes of the other.
Desert Rain therefore attempts to bring visitors to a new understanding of the ways in which the virtual and the real are blurred and, in particular, the role of the mass media in distorting our appraisal of the world beyond our own personal experience.
On arrival, six visitors at a time enter a small antechamber. They are given a magnetic swipe card of a person they must find. They leave their coats and ags and put on hooded black jackets. The visitors are then lead in total darkness into the next space. Each visitor finds themself standing on a foot pad. In front of them is a rain screen, 4 metres across, which provides a surface of fine water spray which holds the projected image of a virtual world. The visitor begins alone in an American motel room.
Reaching the apparent safety of an underground network of bunkers and tunnels, the visitors come face to face with performers, fragments of the Gulf War and each other. If they successfully find their target a performer emerges through the water screen and hands them a magnetic swipe card.
The final virtual space is a vast underground hangar containing a floating field of numbers, all of which are estimates of Iraqi casualties. As the visitors push their way through the densely packed numbers they reach the exit. Only if all six visitors escape together has their mission been a success.
Having left the virtual world and crossed through the water screens, the visitors find the exit corridor is blocked by a large pile of sand. Having climbed up the sand and down the other side they reach the final room of the installation. The walls of the final room are full scale photographs of the walls of an English hotel room. The room contains no objects apart from a magnetic card reader and a monitor cut into the wall exactly where the television is in the hotel room.
As each visitor swipes their card, their target appears on a monitor sitting in the very same hotel room. Each of the six targets has had their life changed by the Gulf War in some way: as a soldier, a journalist, a peaceworker, an actor or a passive spectator. They talk about their relationship to the events, their proximity to them and how 'real' it felt. On leaving, the visitors collect their coats and bags. At some point later they will discover a small bag of sand concealed in their coat or bag. The bag contains approximately 100,000 grains.
one of the most successful and advanced digital performances of the late 90s... a seminal experimental production fusing the technological complexity of hard science skills with a truly original artistic vision.” Steve Dixon, Digital Performance

In 1998 Blast Theory launched a lottery in which the winners had the chance to be kidnapped. Ten finalists around England and Wales were chosen at random and put under surveillance. Two winners were then snatched in broad daylight and taken to a secret location where they were held for 48 hours.
The two winners were Debra Burgess, a 27 year old Australian working as a temp and Russell Ward, a 19 year old from Southend working in a 24 hour convenience store.The whole process was broadcast live onto the internet. Online visitors were able to control the video camera inside the safehouse and communicate live with the kidnappers.
During the run up to Kidnap, a 45 second video - the Kidnap Blipvert - was shown at cinemas around the UK. The Blipvert carried a freephone number, allowing people to register their interest.
"My view of the performance was clouded by the terror, frustration, boredom and fury that dominated my 24 hours in captivity. Then again, maybe that was the point of it all. Certainly, no other performance I have ever seen has brought about such intense extremes of emotion." Journalist Stephen Armstrong, The Sunday Times, 5 July 1998, following his kidnapping.

Fixing Point

Fixing Point is an audio walk about Seamus Ruddy made in collaboration with electronic musician Clark. It is a Faster Than Sound commission for Aldeburgh Music in Suffolk. The Maltings focus on a programme of classical music in an idyllic rural setting. However the area has a strong military history with experimental installations at Orford Ness and an American nuclear base at Bentwaters.
Building on these contexts Blast Theory conducted an interview with Anne Morgan about her brother Seamus Ruddy. He was killed in 1985 by members of the Irish National Liberation Army in Paris. His body has never been found but is believed to be in a forest in France. He is one of a number of victims who disappeared and relatives are still anxiously hoping to find news of their loved ones. Anne speaks movingly about Seamus and what it is like to wait 26 years for news that never arrives.
To take part in Fixing Point you walk to a wood wearing headphones connected to a smartphone. The screen shows a map of the area and audio recordings are hidden in the wood. You explore the wood to reveal the recordings and learn more about Seamus. Each recording is also marked by a metal fixing point which is screwed into the ground leaving a galvanised steel ring visible above the surface. Blast Theory Associate Artist Jon Sutton created the Android application.
This work was premiered on 28th May 2011.      Video

A Machine to see with

A Machine To See With is a film where you play the lead. There are sceenings every 15 minutes. You sign up online and hand over your mobile phone number. On the day, you receive an automated call giving you the address you need to go to. Once you arrive on your allotted street corner your phone rings. From there a series of instructions lead you through the city. You are the lead in a heist movie; it’s all about you. As you move from hiding money inside a public lavatory, to meeting up with a partner in crime and onwards to the bank, the tension rises. It’s up to you to deal with the bank robbery and it’s aftermath.
The project is a Locative Cinema commission from the Sundance Film Festival, 01 San Jose Biennial and the Banff New Media Institute. It was created January and September 2010 and premiered in San Jose on 16th September. The work has three ideas running through it.
It is about cinema. The artists thought about the city as a cinematic space and considered how screens might be inserted into the streets or carried through them. Their approach was to think of our eyes as the screens themselves: as Chris Hedges says in The Empire of Illusion, “we try to see ourselves moving through our life as a camera would see us, mindful of how we hold ourselves, how we dress, what we say. We invent movies that play in our heads.” One of the starting points was Made In USA by Jean-Luc Godard and the novel from which he stole the story, The Jugger by Richard Stark. The book is a classic of arid compressed noir. Godard took the story as a springboard for a commentary on the Vietnam war, mixing trashy violence with contemporary politics. The title of the work is taken from Godard’s script for Pierrot Le Fou in which Jean Paul Belmondo’s character says, “my eyes are a machine to see with”.
It is about the tyranny of choice and consumerism. The work uses an open source piece of call centre software called Asterisk and thus employs automation to create an ostensibly personalised experience. Adam Curtis’ film Eight People Sipping Wine In Kettering explores the rise of focus groups and marketing based on desire rather than need. Robert Reich’s book Locked In The Cabinet explores one aspect of this process in detail as Bill Clinton attempted to get re-elected against the odds in 1996 and set up a large call centre in Denver to poll thousands of swing voters every day. Aspects of these polling questions crop up in the work during a section that presumes to create a psychological profile of each participant.
It is about the financial crisis. With the attempted robbery of a bank at its heart, money is a recurrent part of the work. It contrasts the agency of a film star, of a protagonist in a heist movie with the reality of the financial crisis since 2008. It places the adrenaline rush of revenge against the steady impotence of citizens confronted by global capitalism.
“This is not a personality test. This is A Machine To See With. The ending is up to you.
In 8 seconds I will hang up. You will not hear from me again.

Ulrike and Eamon Compliant
Ulrike and Eamon Compliant is an ambulatory work commissioned by the De La Warr Pavilion for the Venice Biennale.
For the first time since Desert Rain (1999), this project is based on real world events and is an explicit engagement with political questions. Participants are invited to assume the role of Ulrike or Eamon and make a walk through the city while receiving phone calls. The experience culminates with an interview in a hidden room. 
A description of the work in Venice
The work starts in Palazzo Zenobio where you enter a wooden room, which has air holes drilled into it, and pick up a mobile phone. There is a screen on the wall showing video of an interview – the interview is live and you can faintly hear the conversation the two people are having.
To begin you press dial on the phone: on the screen a phone starts to flash. A person walks into shot and answers it, telling you to put on a pair of sunglasses. They ask you whether you would like to be Ulrike or Eamon. They tell you to leave the gallery and walk outside.
They guide you onto a bridge and then hang up.
Over the next thirty minutes you receive a number of phone calls that lead you through the city, engaging you as either Ulrike or Eamon and prompting interactions. One call invites you to nod your head and to say whether you are a decisive or a hesitant person. You walk off the bridge past the pharmacy and onto the next bridge. When instructed to do so you raise your hand to your head; then choose a passing stranger and give them a name. You are guided from the second bridge, alongside the canal to the tatty grass area in front of the barracks.
Once you lay your sunglasses on the bench, the next call asks you what you can do for the people around you. Your route leads past the high red wall of the barracks into tight graffiti covered alleys and out into the expanse of the square. You wait by the well before heading to the water’s edge to make your decision on whether to hang up and head home or to stay on the line and go to the room where questions get asked. If you go on, you are led to the final bridge and from there to the dead end alley where an interviewer is waiting in the distance.
As you approach, they head inside the tiny, ancient church and into a wooden room identical to the first one in the gallery. There are two chairs and a mirror on the wall where the video screen was. The interviewer invites you to sit down and asks you their first question: ‘What would you fight for?’ They do not refer to you using the name Ulrike or Eamon. Over the next few minutes they explore whether you would kill. They may ask, ‘what would you do if people came into your area and killed your friends and neighbours?’ or ‘are your beliefs rational or emotional?’ They probe for the inconsistencies in your stance and the gap between your ideals of social engagement and the reality of your lifestyle. The last question they ask is ‘are you a hesitant or a decisive person?’
You are then led out of a hidden door at the far end of the room, around the back of the mirror, where it becomes clear that it is a two-way mirror. You are invited to wait for a while to watch as the next person comes in and sits down to be interviewed. Then you step back into the alley outside the church.
A book is available about this work containing the full documentation and essays by Richard Grayson and Matt Adams. A DVD is also available.


Day Of The Figurines is set in a fictional town that is littered, dark and underpinned with steady decay. The game unfolds over a total of 24 days, each day representing an hour in the life of the town that shifts from the mundane to the cataclysmic: the local vicar opens a summer fete, Scandinavian metallists play a gig at the Locarno that goes horribly wrong while an occupying army appears on the High Street. How players respond to these events and to each other creates and sustains a community during the course of a single day in the town. From the Gasometer to Product Barn, the Canal to the Rat Research Institute, up to 1,000 players roam the streets, defining themselves through their interactions.
Day Of The Figurines continues Blast Theory's enquiry into the nature of public participation within artworks and within electronic spaces (here, through SMS). It uses emergent behaviour and social dynamics as a means of structuring a live event. It invites players to establish their own codes of behaviour and morality within a parallel world. It plays on the tension between the intimacy and anonymity of text messages, building on previous projects such as Uncle Roy All Around You, I Like Frank and the award-winning Can You See Me Now?
The centrepiece of the game is a vast model town - installed in a public space - created using silhouettes of buildings, cut and folded from the metal table top. Each of the 1,000 players is represented by a small plastic figurine which is moved by hand every hour for the duration of the game.
To begin the game, players are invited to create their own figurine: to name it, answer questions about its past and how it is represented to other players. They then see him or her placed in the town. Thereafter participation in the game is via mobile phone. Players receive a minimum of one text a day updating them on the progress of their figurine and are invited to make increasingly challenging decisions over the fate of themselves and other players in response to deteriorating circumstances. Players can join or leave the game at any time. One of the key aspects of this new form of artwork is that it is situated within players' daily lives and can be accessed at any time.
Although players aren't required to return to the board after setting off their figurine, curiosity might lead them to revisit the space to observe the changing topography of the town. Regular visitors to the venue are able to eavesdrop on player activity via video displays. A website during the game gives information about the town and allows players to read a history of their day so far. It also gives news of events that are currently happening and hints at events that are to come.As participation is central to Blast Theory's projects, great emphasis is placed on the audience and focus is on the experience. As the group's work has become more complex this process of assessing what is happening and why is of increased importance.
In June 2005, a 24 day public test was hosted at Laban and the group's studio. This involved testing interfaces, trialling varied types of content, exploring narrative, critiquing the semiotics within the work ("What metaphors are operating and in what way? Should we be aiming for clarity or ambiguity?") and tracking the routes through the work in chronological order. Ethnographers from the Mixed Reality Lab worked on the evaluation of this process which informed the project's development.

10 Backwards

10 Backwards was a 70 minute performance combining live and pre-rendered mixes of video projected either at end of a traverse stage. Toured throughout the UK and in Europe during 1999, the performance used a narrative as a way of looking at ideas of the future.

A woman travels ten years into the future. Within an hour of arrival she is sucked back to the present bearing an illness in which she suffers from non-stop deja vu. Amidst flash guns, video landscapes and early techno, she sets about fighting her condition. A video documenting the performance and CDROM which elaborates on the original ideas behind the work are currently available.

Their latest production, 10 Backwards, is an exploration of deja vu... Most of us experience deja vu from time to time, but can only imagine what it must feel like if taken to an extreme reailsation. Forcing common-place speculation into a piece of brutal reality is what makes Blast Theory so exhilarating. Metro Life, 11 May 1999 

Something American

On a stage 12m wide and 2m deep stands a bulky middle aged man in a New York cop's uniform. In a crisp American accent he speaks about the thrill of the force and his sexual fantasies. He even shows us his five favourite explosions.
This is a man at ease with himself.
Behind him a panoramic screen starts to flicker into life. Slide and video projections of cartoons, headlines and vast American landscapes spread right across the stage. Layers of icons, footnotes and speech bubbles build up into a constantly mutating electronic billboard.
As Something American develops, the cop sheds his layers of pretence. He opens up, breaks down and falls away. As he does so other versions of America come through; sometimes in tiny moments, at others in a flurry of activity and pumping music. Three performers talk about boxing and Rock'n'Roll and Remote Viewing. Then the talking stops and the UFOs arrive.
Punctuated by loops and samples from Sugarboat the show looks at what America represents for us through the eyes of one man. For him, and maybe for us, it is an endless landscape of hope and violence.
Something American won the Barclays New Stages Award in 1996 and toured the UK and Germany.
"In this latest piece, which should win new fans for the brash young performance company Blast Theory, the idea of observing something from a distance using a combined imaginative and psychic process becomes a metaphor for our relationship to America. There is nothing coherent about the way you experience Something American, but its slash and paste, comic-book, pop culture approach belies the underlying rigorousness that consistently challenges all certainties about cultural identity. Very loudly." The Guardian, 30 October 1996

So, err...

Commissioned by the Live Art Development Agency as pat of their ten year anniversary.
The recording you hear is of a phone call made in September 2009 as part of You Get Me, a mixed reality game commissioned by the Royal Opera House. Jack is talking to a player of the game about his future. The video is of a rain storm on the motorway between Taichung and Taipei.

TRUCOLD is a video work shot at night on the streets of London and - during a heavy fog - in Karlsruhe in Germany. The work comes out of Blast Theory's interest in physical displacement, amnesia and time travel and ties directly into other urban projects Can You See Me Now? and Uncle Roy All Around You, focusing in on the city at night and the gaps between what is real and what is fictional. The group are interested in the power of the viewer or participant to fictionalise their surroundings and to experience things which are not really there. Lengthy shots with a fixed camera unveil the passage of time on the landscape. By partially erasing the ephemeral passage of traffic and people, the video presents the urban fabric as monolithic, expansive and subject to minute shifts that might otherwise pass unmarked. While superficially absent people are in fact constantly present on the margins: a running man appears as blur, another is briefly reflected in a marble column.
The work also plays with the limits and effects of technology: while reminiscent of time lapse techniques, the footage is in fact unfolding in real time. Shot on mini DV the shutter speed has been slowed to one third of a second in order to be able film in such low light. The video is filled with digital artefacts as the camera struggles with the conditions: pixellation, streaks of anomalous colour and lens flare. Some images seem computer generated. The act of image capture itself is bordering on entropy.
The city appears empty, open, receptive to meaning and yet there is attendant threat caused by that very absence. Both the quotidian and the mythic exists alongside one another.
TRUCOLD was made for the Biennale of Sydney in 2002 and was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It has since been featured in a number of exhibitions and film and video festivals in Europe, Asia and the United States.

"...but of all Blast Theory's works on display, it is the simplest one that resonates the most. Remindful of Philip Glass' and Godfrey Reggio's film "Koyaanisqatsi", [TRUCOLD] features dramatic footage of nighttime inner-city scenes, but slowed down to a mesmerizing pace. In these scenes, the city streets are void of pedestrians. The only movement is from the pulsating headlights of slowly passing cars or the shimmering streetlamps that are strangely reminiscent of Diogenes' flickering lantern, which he carried with him as he roamed ancient Greece in a futile search for an honest man." Pittsburg Live, November 2003     Video


Viewfinder consists of a video projection offering a view of a video camera on a tripod in a domestic space.
In front of the video projection stands the actual camera and tripod. On the video projection one can see shelves, books and - partially obscured - two people on a bed. By approaching the video camera and looking through the viewfinder the visitor can see a close up view of the activity on the bed. Filmed continuously over 24 hours using a time lapse technique Viewfinder juxtaposes the everyday with the pornographic. Referencing web cams and reality television, the piece poses questions about mediation, self reflexivity and the voyeuristic impulse.
Viewfinder premiered at the LISTE01 Young Art Fair, in Basel, Switzerland where Blast Theory were invited as special guests.
Thanks to plug-in for inviting and organising the showing and the support of the British Council.


The group’s biography is here.

Blast Theory on Vimeo

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