Tina Gonsalves - Chameleon - prototype 7 - Lighthouse - Brighton - 14 March - 28 March 2009
This is a fascinating exhibition, in the sense that it is a successful collaboration between art, science (neuroscience)and technology. Curated by Helen Sloan of SCAN, the art doesn't merely 'illustrate' the science, but plays a significant part in developing a creative application of the knowledges of neuroscience and mind reading technology.
Tina Gonsalves is interested in the effect our emotions have on one another, a crucial part of human interaction. In 'Prototype 3' - 'Understanding emotional algorithms' or 'mimicking emotional contagion', Gonsalves explores how two people, a man and a woman, can seem to relate emotionally, when in fact they don't know each other and were filmed separately, after being asked to talk about 'different emotional states'. This artificial relating was partly programmed by neuroscientist, Chris Frith, and the effect of the two video portraits, hinged together and displayed on a table, was supposed to convey 'emotional entanglement'.
Perhaps it is the case that we construct a narrative of what is going on emotionally, automatically, even when those two emotional responses don't actually coincide. Personally, I read them as two separate emotional responses, placed side by side, but I could see how Prototype 3 related to Prototype 7, in terms of engineering an artificial interaction based on emotional responses.
In 'Prototype 4' - 'Searching for Meaning', there was a projection of a continuously scrolling online chat dialogue. 'wefeelfine.org' was mentioned in the text about this prototype, and feelings were 'harvested' from the net in a similar manner for the Chameleon project. I can only think that this informed Gonsalves in terms of analysis of the emotional communication factors involved, between men and women, and types of emotional state and concern. Linking Chameleon to the net in this prototype, also helps to give contextual purpose to the piece.
The way these early prototypes were presented in the gallery, made it a bit unclear in terms of their contribution to Prototype 7.
'Prototype 7' consists of 'video portraits' of the same man and woman projected onto the wall. These projections were rather large, which made them seem intimidating, and the 'emotions' they expressed somewhat unnerving. The participant was invited to stand on a spot marked X, in front of one of the projections, and begin a 'dialogue', using facial expressions captured on camera, with the video portrait. The 'mind reading software' would then analyse body language and create a response from the video portrait.
If you smile, then the response is happy - 'so happy to see you'. If you look angry, then the portrait responds by recognising the anger. If you laugh then the person laughs back. I was impressed by one of the interactions, as the software recognised, as expressed by the portrait, that there had been a recent death affecting the participant. This was in fact true, and that was a very unnerving moment.
The Chameleon Project has ten stages, resulting in the final work, an immersive multi channel video interactive installation that 'probes and reflects the emotions of the audience, attempting to implicate them into an emotional drama'.
The overall effect was one of managing and 'reading' emotional information flows and communication, while at the same time being quite an intimidating but cultural use of the power of neuroscience and technology.
Victoria Halford & Steve Beard