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Will-o-the-wisp, Irrlicht, Candelas, nearly every culture has a name for the mysterious blue white lights seen drifting through marshes and meadows. Whether they are lights of trooping faeries, wandering souls, or glowing swamp gas, they all exhibit the same behavior. They dance ahead of people, but when approached, they vanish and reappear just out of reach. Will.0.w1sp creates new dances of these mysterious lights, but just as with the originals, when a viewer ventures too close, the lights scatter, spin, spiral then reform and continue the dance just beyond the viewer's reach.



Will.0.W1sp is based on real-time particle systems moving dots like fireflies smoothly around an environent. The particles have their own drifting, flowing movement, but also follow the movements digitised human motions. They shift from one captured sequence to another - performing 30 seconds of one sequence, scattering, then reforming into 1 minute of another sequence by another dancer. In addition to generating the particle systems, the computer watches the positions of viewers around the installation. If an audience member comes too close to the screen, the movement either shifts to another part of the screen or scatters completely.



The human visual system is fine-tuned to recognise both movement and other human beings. However, the entire human perceptual process attempts to categorise sensations. Once sensations have been placed in their proper categories, most are ignored and only a select few pass into consciousness. This is why we can walk through a city and be only scarcely aware of the thousands of people we pass, but immediately recognise someone who looks or "walks like" a close friend. Will.0 plays with human perception by giving visitors something that moves like a human being, but denies categorisation. It grabs and holds visitors attention at a very deep level.


In order to trigger the parts of the visual system tuned to human movement, the movement driving the particles is captured from live dancers using motion capture techniques. While the installation is running, the system decides whether to smoothly flow from one motion sequence into another, make an abrupt change in movement, or to switch to pedestrian motions such as sitting, walking off screen, etc. These decisions are based on position and movement of observers in the space.



While the installation attempts to present human movement without human beings, it also pulls them into a sonic atmosphere somewhere between installation space and some space outdoor at night. The sound has underlying melodies punctuated by crickets, goat bells, and scruffing sounds from heavy creatures moving in the dark. All this is generated and mixed live by software which watches the flow and positions of the particles in the space.



When most visitors enter an "interactive" environment, the first thing they do is to walk up to the screen and start waving their arms madly to see the piece "interact". Will.0 responds the same as most humans or animals. It scatters and waits for the person to calm down, and stay in one place for a minute. Then it comes to investigate, and possibly perform for them... until the person moves too quickly again.


Like true will-o-whisps, the digital performers attempt to strike a balance close to the audience but just out of reach.




Concept/direction: Kirk Woolford
Sound: Carlos Guedes
Movement: Ailed Izurieta, Patrizia Penev, Marjolein Vogels


16 Mar 2005, 20-24.00
17 Mar 2005, 12-18.00


Theatrum Anatomicum
Waag Society
Nieuwmarkt 4
1012 CR Amsterdam


Produced with support from the Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunst