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 squares 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 one 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 forms 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, 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, the 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 just 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 art 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 the building from the side, in which the five squares in their original positions indicate the location of the screens within the building itself. The 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

atelier rijksbouwmeester