They Watch is an immersive art installation with virtual characters literally watching visitors. Several duplicates of the virtual characters – one man, one woman, and both portraits of the artists – surround and interact with visitors, who are tracked as they move about the physical space, and even projected into the virtual space. Years of research and development with game-technology have resulted in a 360° audio-visual environment, exploiting a 15-meter-wide panoramic screen and a 32-channel sound system. The subtle collaboration of the real and virtual agents and environments conflate to engender a hybrid space where the observer becomes the observed.
Figuratively wearing a virtual camera causes the on-screen characters to approach and to retreat, analogously altering the soundtrack; characters that, as visitors will come to discover, are aware of their presence. They watch. Visitors’ movements activate visual cues and affect the characters’ spontaneous, unscripted behaviors, so that the installation’s visual and sonic compositions are uniquely influenced by the visit. The piece becomes a composition in movement whereby non-linear blends of real and virtual force visitors to consider perspective, agency, and the distinction between authentic and imagined as They Watch.
Open Monday – Saturday from 12 PM to 6 PM (longer if public events are happening in the building)
On Tuesday, November 17 @ 7:00 PM, EMPAC will host Full Immersion: an exceptional panel of international artists, engineers, and producers representing the evolving field of works created for the 360° panoramic screen
Workspace Unlimited (2001) founded in Belgium by Thomas Soetens (1972) and Kora Van den Bulcke (1972) is an international collective that is at the forefront of media art, creating some of today’s most compelling virtual worlds and interactive installations. The collective’s projects engage with the territories that emerge when physical spaces intersect with the enlarged public sphere of electronic networks and immersive technologies. Workspace Unlimited is frequently invited for lectures and presentation and has been commissioned to create original large-scale works and site-specific installations by leading media art institutions and festivals such as the Museum of the Moving Image (New York), the new center for Experimental Media and Performance Art Center (New York), the V2_Institute for the Unstable Media (Rotterdam), LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Gijón, Spain), the Society for Arts and Technology (Montreal) and Elektra. The collective’s work has been highlighted in numerous publications, including Space Time Play (Birkhauser 2007) and Interact or Die! (V2_publications 2007). In addition to the artistic practice Workspace Unlimited also initiates research projects and workshops in collaboration with an international network of researchers, art institutions and universities.
They Watch - 2009
Produced by Workspace Unlimited vzw
Commissioned by EMPAC
Art direction and production:
Thomas Soetens & Kora Van den Bulcke
In collaboration with Matt McChesney, Patrick Bergeron, Rene Morel, Marie-Eve Provincal, Hans Samuelson, and Marije Baalman.
With the support of The Flemish department of Culture, the Flemish Minister of Innovation, the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF), IWT, IBBT.
Special thanks to Kathleen Forde, EMPAC team and RPI, Wayne Ashley, Steve Van Anden, Innobec Technologies, SkuadStudios, 20Q.net, Stoffel Debuysere, Sandeep Bhagwati, Chris Salter.
The panoramic screen environment was developed by Jeffrey Shaw; ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany; iCINEMA at UNSW, Australia; and EMPAC. The frame for the screen was engineered and manufactured by Huib Nelissen, The Netherlands.