A REMAKE OF STUDIO 3 from ‘pourquoi pas toi?’ at the pompidou centre, The room presents visitors with two juxtaposed IMAGES OF THEMSELVES. On one side, the computer erases everything that is unchanging, so that the forms of visitors emerge from a grey emptiness only when they move. On the other side, what moves is erased and only those who stay still will appear in the image, along with the room’s interior.

To persuade people to stand still for a few moments (after everything we had done to persuade them to move!) we had set up a musical instrument at the end of the studio. It was a Theremin, an electronic instrument invented by a Russian inventor of the same name in the 1920s and re-edited by Moog. It is played without contact, by moving your hand close to two antennas to change the pitch and volume of a continuous humming sound. Our objective was to focus the attention of the visitor on the instrument long enough for the camera to capture them (the computer filtered moving things out of the image so a person could only appear after several seconds of perfect stillness. In the first weeks the installation seemed to make little impact, most people moving through too quickly to appear. But as the exhibition progressed there were more and more teenagers loitering behind the Theremin. Each of them would approach the instrument, grab hold of the vertical antenna with both hands (producing a high pitched squealing sound) and watch their image appear on the wall. After a period they would let go (perhaps because they couldn’t stand the noise), step away from the instrument and watch their image fade away.

The invigilators (who couldn’t stand the noise either) spent weeks trying to persuade the kids not to touch the instrument. They even put up a polite notice explaining how the Theremin should be played without contact. But to no avail. For the rest of the show, the Theremin squealed as teenagers holding onto the vertical chrome bar appeared out of the greyness, and most of them went away believing that touching the antenna produced the image.

I tried it myself a couple of times. It worked.

Extract from In the Works (Gandon Editions)

Denis Connolly

Interactive Video Installation


Dimensions : variable

Year : 2008