In discussing experiential art, Courchesne poses an interesting question: ‘What metaphor could help integrate technology and content so that visitors would be drawn to engage immediately with the work?” He decides that the human face, a portrait, is the way to reach the viewer.
I think we are all interested in the stories of other human beings. Reading, and/or storytelling told through cinema often teach us how to understand others, how to put ourselves in others circumstances. Sometimes stories get at emotional truths that are hidden in our day to day interaction with those around us.
Watching both Portrait One, and Family Portraits, the feeling is at once of both intimacy and loneliness. It felt similar to going to a fortune teller, who can “read” a person, and then respond with what that person is looking for. The way that the digital portrait character looks away at the end of the interaction added to a feeling of sadness as I watched. Courchenes notes that “one ironic measure of success felt by visitors with the character in Portrait One has been how long can one carry the conversation before being 'dumped".” Yet, for it’s time, this work was new and amazing, as witnessed by the participants gathering around the exhibition at the end of Family Portraits. Courchenes concludes that [at the time of writing], the full potential of interactive digital art and storytelling had not yet been achieved. However, I think that Courchenes’ work, which was steeped in inquiry about both technology and human interaction, was a milestone in getting there.
A contemporary piece of digital storytelling that interests me is Laurie Anderson’s Chalkroom. In the video about the making of Chalkroom, which was a collaboration with Hsin-Chien Huang, Anderson speaks about her initial reluctance to work in VR, about her dislike of the typical imagery found in VR, and her disinterest in what she saw a gaming platform. But with urging and technical help from Hsin-Chien Huang, she created an ethereal and visually beautiful environment for telling stories. Rather than using a character, or a portrait, as in Courchenes' work, Anderson uses text, spoken word, and images. The viewer becomes the character in the story as they move through the "rooms". Anderson says that the stories are deeply hidden, but they are there if one searches for them. This piece is a compelling integration of visual art, language, technology, and sound. I think that even a person who may have mixed feelings toward experiencing VR, or considering it as art, would be moved by Chalkroom. There is currently an installation of the piece at MassMoca, which I hope to visit and experience.
Courchesne, L. Experiential Art: Case Study. January 2002.
Courchesne, L., Portrait One (1990)
Courchesne, L., Family Portrait (1993)
Anderson, L., Chalkroom (2017)