"In the Virtual Aquarium the use of multimedia gave me the chance to represent the confrontation between reality and virtuality in a new way" András Négyessy
The online installation virtual aquarium was inspired by the drama of Kleist entitled 'Amphitryon'. In the play the question of who is a real human being is reflected by the mirror held by others. The characters Amphitryon and Sosias encounter themselves for the amusement of the Gods. They are placed into a time and space labyrinth by facing the mirror held by Merkur. The duplication of their personalities results in a knot, where neither they themselves nor others are able to decide who is real and who isn't. In this bizarre situation the border between illusion and reality is blured.
In virtual aquarium the visitors and users are also involved in a time and space labyrinth. The user holds the mirror by manipulating the transferred image of the visitor, while the visitor watches himself. The feeling that arises by the confrontation of reality and illusion varies between people. The distortion of the video picture gives an adventure similar to what a fish sees as it moves within an enclosed space looking out of an aquarium.
"Transference, is a projection which happens between two individuals and which, as a rule, is emotional and compulsory nature. Emotions in themselves are always in some degree overwhelming for the subject, because they are involuntary conditions which override the intentions of the ego. Emotions are not detectable like ideas or thoughts, because they are identical with certain physical conditions and are thus deeply rooted in the heavy matter of the body." - C.G.Jung (Maj 1924 London)
In the installation the video technique, text chart and sound effect ensure the projected contents. This forms a link, a sort of dynamic relationship between the two people. It was also an interesting process to visualize the illusion of virtuality. Dividing the two dimensional computer screens into sections made it possible to manipulate each part of the video picture independently with a mouse navigation. This allows the user to manipulate the real video film and gives the opportunity for the visitor of the installation and the online user to interact.
The Virtual Aquarium is built up by the web site and the installation room. The installation room is connected to the web site through the server. The camera in the installation room is the source of the images (ie. visitors faces) which appear on the web site,allowing the users to modify these images. This is how the visitor and the user can communicate with each other. When there is no user activity on the web site or no visitor is in the installation room, the program on the server starts to communicate and substitutes them. The installation results in a two sided open communication channel in which the computer is a mirror, or plays the prism-like role, resulting in the user becoming his/her own interface.
THE VISITOR INTERFACE - the installation room
In this room the visitor encounters its own mirror images. The web camera records the face of the visitor. The projector shows the modified images transferred by the user. The text chat ensures the online contact between the user and visitor through the net.
THE COMMUNICATION PROGRAMME OF THE SERVER - the text chat
In the event of non activity on either side (ie. user or visitor) of the chat box, the server program starts a virtual conversation with the active participant. The program puts the questions or gives the answers of the dialogs of the Amphitryon, which queries the personality and identity of the participant. The communication program of the server does not replace the human, instead, it is a complex technical environment where the mechanical random world of the computer and the human virtuality appears at the same time.
THE USER INTERFACE - the web site
The interface is an on-line video image which is editable and allows each user to form a real video by manipulating the image creating a new and always different situation. After activation of the interface the video image is divided and the user can distort the picture which then passes to the projector, through the server. The “C“ marked button indicating clear, gives the user the chance to switch back to the original video image. Pushing the emotional effect button, “E“, results in laughing in the installation room. The text chat allows the user type to the visitor.