RiverRun


The RiverRun exhibit was initiated by River Home research project which is a collaboration between First Nations artists Margo Kane and Russell Wallace with SFU’s Interactivity Lab researchers Kenneth Newby, Aleksandra Dulic, Christoph Runne.

Presented at:
Interurban Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2004

River Run is a situated media, interactive public artwork, placed in a neighborhood in Vancouver that is somewhat of a singularity.

This page features two installations that were presented as a part of the RiverRun exhibit:

One window reveals what is hidden beneath the surface—the flow of life’s circle—the salmon returning to the exact place of their birthplace after a long life in the Pacific Ocean. They reveal themselves in the moment of their struggle to survive and repeat themselves again.


Second window show an animation of leaves and words falling like in autumn. Leaf is a character and the audience itself takes on an unwitting role as animator. The leaves and words are ‘animated’ by people passing by the gallery window from the street, their movement initiates ‘wind’, which moves them in the virtual space. The words represent all the missing women who have disappeared from the streets of the downtown east-side neighborhood in Vancouver over the past twenty years. A ‘gust of wind’, created by the passers-by, is swirling the falling autumn leaves and conflating them together with the names of women whose remains were found on Pickton's farm. It invites passengers to think for a moment about the reality of downtown Vancouver. The wind is like a magical voice spoken for women that now live only in memories.

To quote the Downtown Eastside Community Website: "It's been described as the poorest postal code in Canada, and its problems with crime, homelessness, and substance misuse have been topics of national discussion. But the Downtown Eastside is also a community rich in history, architecture, and diversity." One of the most troubling events in the recent history of this neighborhood is that over the past 10 - 15 years dozens of women have disappeared from this neighborhood. http://www.missingpeople.net/vancouver_missing_women.htm

The video was projected on the floor-to-ceiling windows fronting the street outside the gallery, which were treated with a special “glass etch” plastic coating to make them suitable for rear-screen projection from inside the gallery. The projections were made continuously 24 hours per day for the duration of the exhibition. This was intended to provide an “illumination” of the neighborhood for its many inhabitants—many of whom are living on the street and are awake through the night.

The leaves projected on one set of windows had a video camera focused on the sidewalk in front of the window. As passersby walked in front of the projection the camera sensed the amount of movement and animated the cluster of leaves with its virtual whirlwind, dispersing the cluster. In an effort to make a dialogue with the downtown east-side community and the hosts (the Interurban Gallery) a text component was integrated into this work in the form of a sequence of names of the many missing women who have disappeared from the streets of this neighborhood over the past twenty years.

A physical model based on Newtonian physics (particle velocity, gravitation, viscous drag) was used to animate a set of virtual objects in the form of autumn leaves in various shapes and colours. The input from the video camera-based machine vision system acted as a continuous control of a “wind” that animated the leaves in a virtual space. The sensing system provided a measurement of movement magnitude and direction that controlled the virtual wind as it blows the leaves in a vortex rises or falls in proportion to the strength of the wind.

The effectiveness of this interactive technique made itself apparent in both the directness of the control of the virtual objects by the gesture of the audiences, as well as the poetic quality of the content and its relation to the core themes cycles of birth, death and renewal as well as the relation of human to the natural world.