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Paul Sermon, "Telematic Vision," 1993

Paul Sermon is based in Manchester, England and has a history of creating vivid and captivating media art projects, often in collaboration with Andrea Zapp. “Telematic Vision” created in 1993 connects two remote parties with each other via a live video connection. The arrangement consists of two blue sofas at different locations, each facing a television screen. Above the television is a video camera capturing the scenery. Both video images are mixed together in real-time via blue-screen technology and sent to both tv’s simultaneously. The occupants of both sofas see themselves appearing on their television screen being surrounded, or even “sat” upon, by the occupants of its remote counterpart sofa. This social piece is about interaction, dialogue and inviting individuals participation.

Areas: telematic art. immersive, dialogical, communication, interaction, engagement, social behaviour, persona, empathy,

The immediate physical space stays behind while the participants are drawn into the telematic space of the mixed scenery appearing on their tv screens. 1 The unusual situation of sharing close - though virtual - physical closeness to total strangers while not being constrained by conventional spatial restrictions leads to a significant change in social interaction. Participants can invade the virtual social space of such a stranger and break the conventional, social and spatial rules in this new situation. They can for example “touch” or interact with the representation of the remote person, and it depends on the spontaneity of the other individual how she reacts to this invasion of private space. This live pictorial representation creates a new social space, a telematic space which the participants inhabit and interact in. The arrangement leads to playful, vivid, non-verbal interaction among the sofas occupants and their remote parties. Sound is not necessary in this work as the body and gestures suffice for interaction. Although the interaction takes place in telematic-space it is a work about physical space, social space and the human body.

Here, there: Transformation and Spatiality: Telematic Vision: Two live video sources are digitally transformed. Both parties receive identical video streams. The spatial separation is more important than the geographical location as such. The interaction is spatial, no physical objects have to be handled. The crossing of the two lines suggests that the connection facilitates a synchronous and simultaneos dialogue and not two one-way connections. The dotted lines indicate that a transformation is applied, in this case a digital conflation of the two different sceneries to a single one. The two remote locations are merged into one virtual one allowing for novel interactions and communication playing with our perceptions of space and social conventions.

In “Telematic Vision” participants leave their immediate, physical space behind and focus their attention upon the screen. They meet the other party in a shared, virtual place which has different spatial characteristics than traditional, physical spaces do. The act of communicating with the other party is the essence of this work which is created by its visitors. The communication is synchronous and simultaneous; in that the participants can interact with each other, together and at the same time.
“Telematic Vision” has been selected as a typical example of Telematic Art. It was chosen among the many classical Telematic Art pieces as it illustrates telematic technology in an application of communication art, where the process of communication among participants becomes the work itself. If there are no visitors present at one of the locations - there is no artwork. In his book “Telepresence & Bioart” (Kac, 2005) Eduardo Kac describes this property as “dialogical.” Another example illustrating Telematic Art was Goldberg’s “Telegarden,” a garden which can be remotely accessed via the Web and where remote participants, one at a time, would tend plants via a robotic arm over the Internet. Yet, in “Telegarden” the collaborative aspects stay behind its tele-present conceptual intent which essentially aims at questioning the realism of the distant scenery from an epistemological point of view.
The magic of the piece lies in the way it allows participants to playfully interact with each other by breaking socio-cultural conventions of communication. The setting allows this to happen in an excusable harmless way. The diagram cannot capture the liveliness of the interaction or captivating social characteristics of the piece, but in focussing on mostly technical aspects it can allow to compare technical setups and similarities of otherwise incomparable pieces.


1. In the respect that participants are drawn into the virtual space of the screen the piece loosely resembles Myron Kruger’s “responsive environment” “Videoplace” from 1969. Here participants playfully interact via gestures with augmented visuals using their own physical shadow (Wilson, 2003, 735).


last update: 1/7/02008 0:53

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