A project with programmer Gabriel Adrian Adauto Lizárraga (USA) and artist Carl-Erik Engqvist (Sweden).
Text by Carl-Erik Engqvist
During the spring of 2009 Carl-Erik Engqvist initiated a collaboration with Gabriel Adrian Adauto Lizárraga, software and game developer from the U.S., and Stefanie Wuschitz, artist and interactive designer from Austria. The purpose was first to determine whether it was possible with our different cultural backgrounds to operate and carry out a project together but also as a consequence of this situation to explore different methods for cooperation, especially across professional fields and cultural perspectives.
The project was based on the idea of an interactive installation in the form of a game that encouraged people to work together to fully understand and enjoy all aspects of it. In the working process of the project we were regularly confronted by problems based on the differences between our professional fields, but also the fact that we represented three different cultures with three different languages. Instead of focusing in solving these problems, originating in the differences, we saw them as an asset and choose to use them and our ideas of solving them in the installation itself.
At the first glance the viewers are confronted by two computer stations, a three dimensional starfish with a diameter of 3,5 meters including the six arms but also a variety of different coloured strings that originated from the computer stations but expanded to the entire wall. Some of these strings ended in small notes placed on the wall itself. For convenience we call the two screens A and B.
1. At A (the right screen) the viewer was encouraged to enter his/her name and when doing this he/she got a colour that referred to one of the coloured strings that originated from the screen. If following this coloured strings the viewer ended up with one of the small notes. These contained small stories that in a simple pedagogical way explained the importance of working together.
2. If selecting B directly, the viewer was prompted to enter his/her name but also to choose a colour. Beside this the viewer was directed to also write another player’s name and colour. As the computer stations were connected through a network the viewer had to start at A as it was impossible to invent another player and colour at B.
3. Selecting B together with another viewer which already used A, generated clues on the screen that the viewers together could use on A and B.
4. If the viewers did everything right and followed the clues the starfish started up.
The starfish was in itself a game for the viewers that had successfully worked their way through the installation. Through six interactive “warts”, on the starfish, equipped with buttons, LED lights and speakers the viewers were forced to once again work together to advance through the levels. The game was based on that the starfish played a sequence of sounds and lights that then the viewers had to repeat to move on. The sequences got more advanced the further on the viewers played. The more advanced sequences, the more cooperation and involvement of people it needed. The reason we choose a starfish was that the shape in itself both invites but at the same time prevents cooperation.