This project was initially motivated by a specific question: Computers present us with a multitude of choices, but do they provide the user freedom of choice? More and more so, computers are becoming a black box accessible only to the "experts." Consumers of these products are left with a set of choices: choices that are predetermined by standards derived from average perceptual qualities that are quantified by programmers and the hardware. This is precisely the case with the colorspace RGB. Standardization of these colors is not the same for each individual's perception of red, green and blue, thus leaving the consumer with color choices that are determined by principles of digital technology. These principles are not always clearly identifiable. The terminology used in the technology regarding color, for example sharp, true, or a choice of millions of colors, clouds over the choices made in developing this technology. The R.g.b-project seeks to investigate the principles of digital color representation as determined by manufacturers and programmers. Does digital technology favor certain colors above others? Does the use of these technologies constrict, or confine in some way, our ability to interact with our environment? With this project I hope to tease the computer into showing its true colors.
The R.g.b-project started in 2004 as part of my theses requirements for the MFA program at the School for Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver, Canada. In the initial phase of the project the focus was on research; later, my focus shifted to development of new-media happenings and installations. The project can be categorized as a site-specific, participatory event that leads to a screening, installation or a happening. The creation process is broken down into three stages. The first stage consist of a performance lecture wherein the concepts behind the R.g.b-project are explained. The second phase is participatory, and entails the documenting of colorwalks. The last phase is the site-specific installation or new-media happening. Each phase is adaptable to present circumstances.The research
The research focuses on the possibility of an imbedded bias towards optical images in digital technology and that this bias is a representation of the cultural climate in which this technology was developed. The problem I found with digital color representation is that all color is filtered through a standardized perception of Red, Green and Blue, and doesn't allow a multiple interpretation of these colors, at any given moment. I hope by having different people participate, questions can be asked concerning the technological, historical, cultural bias towards color. An interesting conclusion of the research was that the individual idiosyncrasies didn't show through an interpretation of color, but through a personal approach regarding the documenting, namely the topic or method of shooting, for example predominantly signs, or a conceptual approach of the assignment.
The performance lecture
The performance lecture entails the concepts derived from the research. I show examples of the participants and talk about the politics of color representation. if possible I ask the audience to wear or bring something that is red, green or blue. I do a small exercise wherein I ask the audience to focus on only red for 20 sec and then green and blue. Each performance is different determined by the situation at hand. The performance lecture can be seen as an event in itself or as an introduction to the creation of a R.g.b-project. Examples are in the footage of Our Town Cafe, Ada Emerge, and Video-In .
Participants are invited to interact with the city through the concepts of the RGB-color space, a color space commonly used by digital technology. They go on a colorwalk using a video camera to document one of the three colors, Red, Green or Blue. While documenting their walk the participants use a technique called in-camera editing, which is easy to learn and allows for a direct engagement with the environment and the video-camera. The participants are free to choose the location and the size of the area they walk in, but it has to fall within the city limits. Consequently, the created clip is inputted into a computer application developed in Max/MSP/Jitter. This computer-program acts as a surveillance machine, only highlighting what the program 'thinks' is red, green or blue. If the program can't find the specified color, the sound of the clip is heard. An inherited quality of video footage is that it comes with one video-channel and two audio channels. The computer program works so that the sound illustrates the absence of the image and the image manipulates the processing of the sound. Here, an equal dialogue is created between sound and image. Before the participants go on the colorwalk they are made aware of these parameters of the computer application. It is important for the participants to understand that the footage shown in the installation is filtered through a computer-program, which selects the footage through standards regarding its proximity to digital technology’s parameters of red, green and blue, and not so much on personal/artistic values. This means that the notion of 'good' and 'bad' footage are judged by concepts based on the standardization of color by digital technology. The computer is a collaborator, a medium that has a message. Go to the link 'R.g.b-surveillancemachine' to download the computer -application.
The installation or new-media happenings
The installation part of the project is site specific to the city wherein the project was shot; here, the installation becomes a mediated extension of the city. A key element of the installation is the relational quality that the image and sound have to an actual physical space. This relationship is created within the viewer through recognizing familiar elements of the city in the footage. The installation consists of a computer and monitor set-up that allows participation through a keyboard and a projection, that shows the filtered footage and sound which is heard through a two-channel speaker system. The viewer interacts with the footage through creating an edit list, as in a jukebox, and adding new edit points in the existing footage. The names the participants give to the edit-points create their own poetic interpretation of the footage and another level of interfacing with the city. An example of a new-media happenings is the performance at Video-in, an example of a site-specific installation is at Our-Town cafe link.