Interactive installation, web app, live video projection & print, 2016
Dan Cotruţă, Alex Mihăileanu

The accelerating technological evolution of the last few years has, almost inevitably, led to the democritisation of photography. The smartphone, which has ben transformed into a tool like any other, has become an extension of our hand, while the ever present camera has changed the way we engage with images. From a simple play of light and shadow, to a landscape or a selfie, photography has become a common (and communal) language; this even extends to the reconstruction of the self, a secondary personality that is malleable in relation to the individual’s purpose and desired position within a given group, especially within the realm of social networks.

Within this context, the relationship between individuals and images is very imporant, especially when we seek to find a method for deconstructing what has become almost routine. What can we classify as unique when „everyone” shares via Facebook the same images: a Starbucks cup, a sunset, a rainbow ...(etc.)? To what extent does an individual react to various „landscapes” and what relationship remains when s/he encouters it again and again from so many different sources?

With the goal of deconstruction in mind, we have created an online application that enables any visitor to generate a completely unique image. We have chosen chance as the basis for this project (an idea that is profoundly Dada), using an randomising algorithm that creates a collage of images taken from real-time, live webcams. Once the visitor loads the application (found at http://popin.ro) a new collage is automatically generated from nine images chosen from over 36,000 webcams spread throughout the world.

The final image is unique firstly through the chance of choosing nine images from the total available and secondly through the random arrangement of the images within the collage. The chances of two visitors receiving the same collage are astronomically small (somewhere in the region of 1 in 9.86 x 1042). Even if somehow the exact same collage were to occur twice, the fact that the cameras update in real time would yield at most a similar, never an identical image.

The relationship between visitor and image extends via the ways that an image can be presented as a final product. On the one hand, the visitor has the option to print the image on the spot, directly from their smartphone; this applies to both the automatically generated image or another that the visitor may generate via a virtual „die roll” for the sake of discovering another collage that brings them greater visual satisfaction. In addition, the possibility of pushing a physical button extends the experience outside the virtual realms and elicits a different type of response.

The printing process offers another outlet for interacting with the image and we consider one of the key goals of the experiment to be the observation of the way that visitors interact with different mediums: on the one hand the aforementioned smartphone and on the other a physical print.

We are particularly interested in provoking different reactions: surprise or joy at the sight of a physical print (or the opposite) and we also seek to create a discussion related to the way people assimilate and interact with digital and physical images. Finally, the visitors are encouraged to contribute to the installation’s final form by affixing the printed image on a wall using a simple pin, thereby constructing a whole from a series of disparate and seemingly unrelated parts.

The final component of the interactive part of the installation is a video projection of the same type of collages, generated completely automatically every 15-30 seconds; this part of the installation has no human input whatsoever. Our intent in this section is to being together traditional and new medias via a projection that cannot be controlled, similar to a mandatory television programme, and to dissociate visitors from the freedom of choice that they have access to in the other two sections.

In relation to uniqueness the final goal is to place this experiment „perpendicular” to current trends in photography by refusing to archive or to produce any type of „edition” (either limited or mass). In the installation’s final phase, visitors are invited to take home one or more of the printed images, either ones they have printed themselves or those from the main installation, leaving the expositional space empty.