Interactive Art for Office Workers
Peter Luining Designs Installation for the "Bruggebouw-Oost" (The Hague)
The Bruggebouw-Oost (Bridge Building East) is one of several buildings
built over the highway leading into The Hague from the direction of
Rotterdam. It houses the Department of Justice, with the Council for the
Judiciary on the first two floors and the Administrative Affairs
Department on the remaining three floors of the section overlooking the
highway. Artist Peter Luining designed an installation called
BGO_MUI*5 for this part of the building, consisting of five LCD screens
in black frames mounted on the walls at eye level on all five floors. At
first glance, these interconnected screens, all of which display the
same image, look like small paintings.
A Dialogue of Forms
The LCD screen on the second floor is positioned just in front of the
elevator. At first, it seems to be an abstract picture: five colored
set in an area of grey rectangles against a uniformly tinted background.
As I approach, the squares are blinking, and as soon as I touch
one, the image shifts. As I start moving the squares around with my
finger, they change in size. I create bars and larger fields and place
square at the edge of the screen. This prompts a response from someone
who is at another screen on one of the other floors: suddenly a
large rectangle moves across the screen, partly undoing my composition.
As we take turns moving the squares, we participate in a strange
kind of dialogue, which at one point threatens to deteriorate into a
minor skirmish as we keep superimposing our squares in the same spot.
It is an alienating game, played with anonymous others somewhere in the
building, an exciting Mondrianesque form of communication in
which compositions continuously change in unexpected ways. Adding to the
suspense, each action causes a different sound to be heard in
the room. These sounds are at first difficult to make out: footsteps,
shuffling noises, the clattering of cutlery. It makes this dialogue in
and colors all the more intense, as if though something were being
emphasized, or rather questioned, depending on the sounds.
Compositions of Sound and Image
Peter Luining (b. 1961) is a multimedia artist who lives and works in
Amsterdam. Many of his works can be found online at
www.ctrlaltdel.org, and he is well-known for his "Click Club" project.
He was introduced to computers as a philosophy student. He
became fascinated with the animation possibilities of programs and
programming languages. His painter friends taught him to look at
compositions in a new way, adding depth to his works and turning them
into something more than mere digital designs. He builds "sound
engines," small software scripts based on Java and Flash, executable
programs to create audiovisual compositions in which it is up to the
users themselves to discover the possibilities, so that they are both
observers and in control of the ongoing experiment at the same time.
We meet up in Peter’s studio, a disorderly fifth-floor apartment. He
sits at his computer terminal, frantically operating the keyboard,
conjuring up blinking, flickering and hesitatingly static compositions
and filling the room with strange electronic noise. We talk about his
Bruggebouw-Oost project. Luining: "The building’s straightforward
architecture and high-tech aspect suited my work very well. At first,
installation was designed to feature three screens on the sixth floor,
and two more at the elevators on the second floor. It seemed like a
good composition to me, one that would match the general plan of the
building. Since one of the elevators is used only by people who work
on the top floors, where the Administrative Affairs Department is
located, the people at the Council for the Judiciary would be left with
one screen, the one facing their elevator. But when during our first
meeting it became clear that this was not going to be a static work of
but an interactive one in which people could actively intervene, the
employees’ original skepticism turned into great interest, and they were
eager to participate. So I changed the composition to make the way the
screens were distributed better for everyone."
Building a Bridge
"Because of the communication possibilities it creates, the installation
builds a bridge between the separate departments. The
communicative aspect of all forms of interaction is what lies at the
core of my work. That is what makes the Internet so fascinating. This
artwork is a miniature network within a single building but essentially,
it’s the same thing. The screens initially depict an abstract view of
building from the side, in which the five squares in their original
positions indicate the location of the screens within the building
colors of the squares are based on the first five colors — except white
— of the 256 colors used in a lot of software, the primary colors being
red, yellow, and blue, followed by gray and pale blue. I used green as a
general background color. Each square is linked to electronically
distorted sounds of traffic, footsteps, rain, birds and the Department’s
canteen, depending on the screen’s location within the building. The
more you enlarge a given square, the louder the sound is played back.
The speakers are unobtrusively hidden in the paneled ceilings. The
multilayeredness of the artwork lies in its almost infinite variation of
sounds and images. The space above the building and between its
supporting columns represents the sky and constantly changes in color,
in accordance with our climate and successive seasons, shifting
between various shades of blue and gray. It even becomes dark at night.
This work of art is a permanent feature within the
Bruggebouw-Oost, free for all employees to play with."
Dutch text first published in Smaak, June 2002, Vol. 2 #7, pp. 36-7.
© 2002 by Lans Stroeve (text) & Levien Willemse (photography) and Smaak
English translation © 2002 by Pieter Bijker
Further links on BGO_MUI*5:
BGO MUI*5 net version
BGO MUI*5 construction kit