George Legrady
Slippery Traces

Interactive media installation, 1995-96

Slippery Traces: The Postcard Trail

Production Team:
George Legrady - Concept, design, project and creative director
Rosemary Comella - Consultant, technical and creative production
Steven Chiem - Database programming
Brent Brooks - Object-oriented database research and programming

A non-linear narrative in which the viewer navigates through a maze of about 200 interconnected postcards that cover a range of topics, such as nature, geography, colonialism, the future, work, urban environments, technology, race, gender, the supernatural, kitsch, etc. Each postcard contains approximately 5 hotspots, or links, each of which when selected by the viewer, leads to a different image. The hotspots' links to other images are based on literal, semiotic, psychoanalytic, metaphoric or other connections.

As the viewer navigates through the images following (their) interest and desire, a database algorithm keeps track of each move, weaving a second level story based on the sequence of the viewer's choices. The viewer can choose to see this statistical analysis, or metaphoric trace (situated beneath the postcard image) as it is constantly updated and adjusted according to each sequential move.


The movie Blade Runner's image analysing machine through which Deckard, the protagonist, enters the replicant's photograph to search for clues, serves as the key model for the project. Deckard uses a technology to penetrate the photographic image, disrupting the spatial boundaries of the traditional photograph by moving and turning around within it. He forces the image to reveal to him what he is looking for (he re-invents the image to match his desire) - a subject (the woman's face).

The narrative structure of Alain Robbe-Grillet's L'Année Derniere a Marienbad is an important reference model for this project in terms of a matrix of non-linear connections. The Slippery Traces' structure draws from the film's use of a shuffling of time and space where past, present, here and there are woven together. In essence, the interactive operational mode situates the narrative's development in the hands of the viewer, in the words of Robbe-Grillet, "to invent in his turn the work."

This project was realised with the assistance of grants of the Canada Council, and of the National Endowment for the Arts (USA).

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