Delvaux's Dream (1998-99)

From the mid-1990s on, Michael Bielicky leads foundational research programs at the ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe: an interactive 360° environment, named Delvaux’s Dream (1998-99), and a project for Volkswagen in the Autostadt Wolfsburg named Room with a View (2000).

Michael Bielicky - Delvaux's Dream - 1998-1999

Michael Bielicky - Delvaux's Dream - Long Version - 1998-1999

The fall of the Berlin Wall marks the tenth year and the Kosovo war keeps Europe in breathtaking suspense. For the first time since the world wars, 5000 German soldiers have been involved in combat without an UN mandate, with the mission to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The Kosovo war is one of the first planned so called clean wars during which officials begin to speak of collateral damage on media. While bombs and factories are hit because NATO runs out of military targets to achieve their goal to free the population, 850,000 people are on the run. A convoy of refugees will be hit, a bus with women and children. When the Chinese embassy is hit in Belgrade political disaster ensues. Only after 78 days does Yugoslav President Milosevic withdraw his troops from Kosovo - in 2003 the Iraq war will officially last 43 days. The introduction of the Euro currency at the beginning of the year and the unity of Europe are an apparently unattainable hallucination for the struggling at it’s borders.

The cosmopolitans of this world indulge in escapism and take refuge in the Internet, the digital cosmopolis in which common interests rule and tribalistic affiliations can be neglected. 10 million Germans are already surfing the net, the associated social and cultural digital revolution is unstoppable and will also lessen the problem of unemployment in the near future. While the Garden of Error and Decay series algorithmically paraphrases the thicket of global crisis reporting, Delvaux’s Dream is a project that for the first time deals exclusively with the potential of media technology. Created in the luxury of the scientific vacuum of the Institute for Image Media at the ZKM, Delvaux’s Dream is a reflection of the technical possibilities of the mentioned time after the network or rather the time with the network. Presented at the ZKM's first produced@ exhibition, Delvaux's Dream is a cooperation between Orad Hi-Tec Systems GmbH in Germany and Israel, the Nipkov Program Berlin, the DAAD Bonn, the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, the High Tech Center GmbH Potsdam-Babelsberg, Silicon Graphic Czech Republic, Millenium Gate Company Prague, Virtual Reality s.r.o. Brno, MultiGen Inc., Allon Adler, Sony Europe Mobile Phones and ZKM Karlsruhe. Without all of these partners and their input, the project would not have been completed and performed: in particular the 3D modeling by Petr Sarovsky, the tracking system by André Bernhardt, and the software by Gideon May were congenial implementations of the artistic vision within the internationally available, technical potentials. This cooperation network alone is evidence of a network project of particular importance.

In a blue screen environment, the visitor to the produced@ exhibition can wander around and discover a projection surface on the opposite wall that shows him or herself in the middle of a painting by Paul Delvaux. Through the 3D model by Petr Savorsky, the figures move in a pattern and you can even stand behind them and interact with them thanks to André Bernhardt's tracking system. It is interesting that the anticipated feeling of dislocation that should arise among the visitors when “as part of the projected environment they keep track of their own actions in this unreal landscape on the screen” [1] did not occur at all: the exhibition documentation exclusively shows smiling visitors that are apparently moving naturally in and out and within this environment, visitors who seem to enjoy their excursion into the virtual world, a virtual world not defined by wires. The virtual world seems as unreal as it is inviting.

The visitors in the blue screen environment are filmed by a camera and interpreted by André Bernhardt's tracking system. The resulting data is converted in function of the 3D model of the Delvaux painting by Petr Savorsky using the software from Gideon May. His software compiles this constant flow of information from tracking and image data in real time and projects the mixed reality image of the model space onto a projection surface on the opposite wall, where visitors can see themselves in the painting. The image signal can also be seen in the atrium of the ZKM as an overall image construction without the possibility of grasping neither the hyper-technical structure behind it, nor the real-time performative character of it.

Paul Kenig