The Dreamer is alive. My new illuminated sculpture summons the spirits of Albert Einstein and other free thinkers, speaking to us from across space and time. Their faces appear on a translucent mask through the magic of rear-projected video, which brings them to life as if they were right in front of you, as shown in the video above.
The Dreamer’s face keeps transforming, showing fleeting characters and images, evoking memories and ideas that can move us and transform our lives. My goal is to make us more aware of how characters like these can influence us and change the way we perceive the world around us.
The effect is surreal, and this art piece seems to be breaking new ground. Special thanks to my Pataphysical Studios friends Jean Bolte (a.k.a. Dr. Figurine) for first suggesting the use of talking head videos, to Geo Monley (a.k.a. Dr. Geo) for the gift of vacuum forming at Tam Makers, and to Freddy Hahne (a.k.a. Dr. Really) for requesting that we conjure up Dr. Einstein!
See more pictures in our Dreamer photo album.
This interactive art piece will be presented in different ways:
• as part of the Time Machine we’re building at Pataphysical Studios (see photos above)
• as a stand-alone exhibit in art shows and galleries
• in large street performance during public events
• in short videos on the web.
I’ve been prototyping The Dreamer for a few months now, and this interactive art project is coming along really well. I started by projecting photos against blank party masks, then creating clay sculptures of flattened faces, vacuum-forming them, and rear-projecting videos of talking heads inside our new translucent plastic masks.
We are just getting started on this project, so we don’t have final specs yet. We will add them here soon, after we’re done experimenting with our first prototypes. The small AAXA P2B projector we’re using seems to work best about 24″ away from a standard 6″ wide mask. And the mask’s illumination varies based on your viewing angle, so we may want to make it rotate a bit from left to right, using a motorized turntable, as shown below.
To show what the Dreamer is thinking, our next prototypes will display images of people and nature, sparking different moods, each represented by a different color, as shown below.
The Dreamer’s emotions can be shown with different colored lights, such as: red for anger, orange for fear, yellow for happiness, green for surprise, blue for sadness, purple for love, for example.
You can change the Dreamer’s worldview by pressing buttons to make him/her more happy or sad, angry or kind, fearful or curious (like social media emoticons). In response, the Dreamer’s head lights up with different colors and facial expressions, as these emotions are activated in his/her mind.
This kinetic sculpture can give us a glimpse at what goes on inside our heads, as images of our lives pass by, fleeting like clouds in the sky, colored by our moods. The Dreamer’s quiet face keeps transforming, responding to new images and emotions with images and sounds of its own.
As times goes by, we see the interplay of the forces that drive us: anger can turn into love, sadness into joy, fear into curiosity. And we can learn how changing our emotions can transform how we view the world.
We started by experimenting with medium-size heads (8-inch high), to develop the characters and their interactions. These versions will be shown in toy theatres (about 2 feet square).
Future versions could let us open the Dreamer’s head to see the characters that lurk inside and drive her emotions. These characters could be moved or replaced at will, to change the influence they have on the Dreamer. For those versions, we can adapt the customizable robot kits we developed in our Maker Art classes.
In the next phase, we could create larger versions of the Dreamer for street theater performances, in public settings such as marches or fairs. For those larger version, we could re-use the same trailer we built for the Art Float, which could support a large puppet as high as 8-feet tall.
We can create fun interactive experiences with the Dreamer as a focal point. In “Share Your Dream”, we would invite you to become the Dreamer for a moment, and project your own face inside its head. You would then tell us about your dream and we could record you on video.
The Dreamer invites us to better understand how our emotions make us perceive the world in different ways. It can show us how to replace our destructive emotions with a more positive outlook.
Learn more on our planning page: http://bit.ly/dreamer-plan
In previous experiments conducted in summer 2016 by Fabrice Florin and Jean Bolte, we attempted to bring characters to life by projecting videos of human faces onto ‘life casts’. For these first tests, we projected some of Fabrice’s interviews with Jean’s daughter Natalina and our friend Mark Petrakis onto the David Bowie and Sean Connery life casts, as well as on a plain mannequin head and mask.
We think we can apply this projection mapping technique to the Dreamer project by combining full face projections with images of what the characters are thinking. For the Time Machine, we can project re-enactions of historical figures, against masks or heads set in a dark box behind of the Time Machine’s porthole. Opening the porthole would reveal an animated face from the past or future, which would speak to you for a moment, across time and space.
Here are some of our observations from those first tests:
• this technique works well to bring characters to life
• it creates the illusion that you are seeing a real person
• aligning the faces from the videos with the life casts can be tricky
• we may need to hold the actor’s heads to keep them aligned while we shoot
• getting the eyes, nose and mouth to match may require adjusting the video as well
• some interesting expressions come out when the faces are not perfectly aligned
• people can be made to look older or younger, depending which cast you use
• when the face looks straight at the camera, you really feel that it is talking to you
• some facial expressions work really well, like shifting eyes left and right
• some interesting effects can be created by speeding up the footage, as in Max Headroom
Findings from these first experiments have informed the Dreamer’s development. Shifting from front-projected life casts to rear-projected translucent masks has opened up new ways to make it all work in a small space.
This article was updated on Dec. 27, to add a video and photos of our first working prototype.