Room With A View (ZKM, Wolfsburg, 2000)

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).




Just like Intelligent Mailman and Exodus are intrinsically connected works, the Room With A View is a fantastic extension of Delvaux's Dream: the project is nothing less than a collection of five walkable custom-made exclusively audio-visual Wikipedia entries that can be activated at any time from a central, rotating touch screen and are thus (re-)mixed and blended together in ever new ways. The walkable dome constructed of interactive, animated illustrations from a hundred years of Bohemian cultural and intellectual history not only presented the digital illustrator Francis Wittenberger with an enormous task, its’ realization is a technical sensation: the simultaneous use of four VPL-S2000 LCD projectors from Sony with a 2.000.000 combined pixel resolution is frenetically discussed in professional journals.

Again in stark contrast to Garden of Error and DecayRoom With A View is an almost lexical piece of work and tries to reflect the Bohemian deep times as the ideological foundation of the Škoda brand within the self-titled pavilion in the Autostadt Wolfsburg. The Autostadt is home to all Volkswagen-brands spanning from Audi to Lamborghini to Volkswagen and a contemporary masterpiece of brand communication on a huge site with parks, pavilions and event locations, which just opened the same year. The Škoda Pavilion has the shape of a dome nine meters high and twelve meters in diameter - the construction of the pavilion alone had to be carried out by a specialist company from Switzerland. To fill the dome seamlessly and convincingly with a lexical and thus objective projection, Bernd Lintermann developed the Digital Dome Projection Technology (DDP) at the ZKM. Its implementation required the use of five SGI supercomputers and four of the above-mentioned VPL-S2000 LCD super projectors from Sony. The control unit with a touch screen was also a pioneering technological achievement and was wired and welded from the ground up.

The installation pays homage to Rabbi Löw and is a bridge from old to contemporary culture: like Rabbi Löw once projected the walls of the Imperial Palace into his house with the help of a camera obscura while the Emperor was visiting him, in Room With A View modern technology driven by artistic interpretation projects historical time into the experienceable space. The technology disappears behind the walls of the pavilion, making the immersion in the history of ideas all the more convincing and immersive. Time will show that such projects in the age of the Internet, even in modern monument contracting practiced by influential companies, will not grow to play a major role. Room With a View has since been demolished and will remain a prime example of the synergistic potential of economy, art and science.

An 360-degree dome projection with four VPL-S2000 LCD projectors, 8-channel surround audio, 16 speakers and 4 subwoofers, a total of 2 million pixel resolution-power, as well as a continuously rotating touchscreen – that is Room With A View. The graphics, which were rendered by four SGI Infinite Reality computing units, are based on a networked audio, graphics and video setup. An additional SGI unit also interprets and renders the touchscreen graphics.The user interaction concept is designed for intuitive user-friendliness and use by all ages and (computer-)experience levels: it offers immediately visible image and sound feedback on actuations of the touch screen with simultaneous (re-)activation of autonomous, emergent behavior processes: user interaction changes algorithm parameters and content events at the same time. The content concept offers seven worlds: the Golem symbol enables the user to select a world or multiple worlds. When activated, the dynamic symbols change the projected worlds. The dynamic symbols are influenced by the respectively active (selected) worlds and additionally by the orientation of the touch screen. The projection just generated by all of the interactions mentioned above is also recorded and displayed on the touch screen and in turn influences its appearance. This concept, which at that time had hardly any technical implementation and was rather a theorem than a concept, has rarely been implemented so comprehensively and systematically integrated to this day: this concept is augmented reality. Bernd Lintermann’s software MTK and the software Xfrog algorithmically define the graphic animations. Xfrog is still used today by Disney, Pixar, Sony Imageworks, Electronic Arts, Konami and Microsoft. The audio design can also be heard directly interactively in response to actuations of the touch screen, but is also algorithmically linked to content events.

Paul Kenig