Surveyor

Here the projected animation shows a man who stands atop a board leaning on a bookshelf. He has binoculars and a log book. He observes and notes. Sometimes he tries to get off his perch, but his attempts are not successful, so he remains contained, surveying.

Made using
Unity3d (unity3d.com/)
Blender3d (blender.org/)

Background

Lawrence Weschler talks about the ideas of Nicholas of Cusa (an early Renaissance mathematician and mystic):

To gain knowledge of God, one should just catalog everything — books, rocks, flowers, human emotions — so that by the end you have cataloged all of God’s creations. So Cusa, who is a mathematician, says: “Well, I suppose that’s a bit like an n-sided polygon inside of a circle.” In other words, you take a triangle inside of a circle, and you keep adding sides to it, and the more sides you add the closer it comes to being a circle. And yet, at the same time, you keep getting further away, because a circle only has one “side,” one line, and here you’ve got a million lines and angles. Cusa was the one to come up with this concept that at a certain point, you have to make a leap of faith–from the n-sided polygon to the circle, say. And that leap of faith is accomplished through grace, which is to say, for free.

This is similar to the theoretical physics’ quest for the “Theory of Everything”. As Margaret Wertheim points out, science is founded on the belief that things are comprehensible and that by the ingenuity of our minds and the probing of ever more subtle instruments we will ultimately come to know It All. But is the All inherently knowable?

In the quantum teleportation experiments physicists ‘teleport’ a photon — or replicate all the physical properties of a photon in a photon in another location. Borges writes about the map that is so detailed that is the exact size of the territory. In his story,the cartographers realize how pointless it became and the effort is abandoned, reminding us of the function of abstraction.

The iPhone app version of Surveyor is a tool for exploration and re-imagining of the urban environment. The devices are used for performative research and public events. The resulting video, writing and images are collected online.

Surveyor is an app for use with a portable mini projector. A projected man surveys his surroundings and catalogues everything around him. He has binoculars and a log book, in which he intermittently writes his notes. The user of the app can direct the gaze of the man, examining the particular site he’s in. The virtual gaze of the surveyor directs the attention of the people around him, be it to other people or to their surroundings. Playful tool of engagement at a distance, it creates a connection between the app user and the people viewing the projection, as they become implicated in the piece. In this case the user is the puppeteer, utilizing the classic performance technique where the eyes of the performer move to where he wants to direct his, and therefore the spectators’ attention. The gaze functions like a telephoto lens, zooming in on a camera shot.

The projection is the entry point for re-interpreting and re-envisioning the reality of urban environment. Used in a public space, the Surveyor becomes a public engagement tool that inspires personal involvement and facilitates public discussion. Activated by the imagination of the viewers, it is a catalyst that lets us see our surroundings anew, wonder what’s behind the walls and reevaluate things by inviting speculation and questioning through storytelling and imaginative thinking.

Work in progress: