Media Lab Helsinki

Alan01 – a fragile soul in machine limbo

Watch our demo video here!

Alan01 in Man Machines 29.09. – 21.10.2012 here!

Original art work web site: http://mlab.taik.fi/alanonline/

The Alan01 interactive installation investigates associational storytelling and interaction structures, highlighting the patterns of human-machine communication. The work’s primary themes are derived from aspects of Alan Turing’s life, particularly his ideas of machine-based consciousness, and him having been a persecuted homosexual. By choosing these subjects as the main themes of the installation, we have wanted to acknowledge all the people past, present and coming, who were, are and will be treated unjustly in our societies. Turing’s own ideas of computable consciousness serve as a model for interaction design as an artistic expression.

The research production has been in iterative development since Spring 2009 at Crucible Studio. The first installation version was exhibited in the Media Centre Lume, Helsinki, Finland, June-September 2009, and presented as a long paper at ACM Multimedia 2009, Beijing, China, and as the ISEA2009, 15th International Symposium on Electronic Art, keynote presentation case study.

This second version of Alan01 expands the study of interactive, associational storytelling by media-generating algorithms to the 1) content-enhancing mechanical interfaces of digital media 2) fictional content enhancing factual (historical) context and the effect of color in transporting the user psycho-physically in time and between emotions. This version is exhibited at the MoA Festival, the Elefantti quarters of the Helsinki city centre, Finland, 12th May-13th June 2010. It is also planned to be exhibited in the ACM Multimedia 2010 Interactive Art Program at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, Italy, October-November 2010.

An excerpt from the expert evaluation of Alan01 (June 2009):

“The [Alan01] installation offers an eerie fusion of man and machine, animate and inanimate – what artist Pesonen describes as the portrait of ‘a fragile soul in machine limbo’. The visitor is made complicit in the capture and stimulation of this ghost in the machine by the very act of choosing the symbols which bring the heads awake and trigger the videos. The positioning and lighting of Pesonen’s black box, with its glass-coffin-lid window, which acts as container for Turing’s spirit, draws in not only the interactor, but also any other spectators clustered round the cabinet, as their reflections on the glass window into this macabre world become a part of the display.

This ambitious installation addresses a complex topic, experimenting boldly with dramaturgy as well as content and form. It is a genuine work of visual and computer-enhanced dramatic art, reaching high aesthetic standards, with a confident sense of integrity and through-composition, both in subject and medium. Alan 01 constitutes an impressive testament to the creative team, who, from different disciplines, have benefited from cross-fertilisation between technology and art; they succeed in amalgamating their talents to produce a unique and striking piece. Their process and results offer an inspiring model for future collaborative projects.”

Maureen Thomas
Interactive Media Writer/Director and Senior Research Fellow,
Churchill College, Cambridge University, UK