La Cour des Miracles is a universe of faked realities loaded with “pain” and “groan”. The aim of this project is to induce empathy of the viewer towards these”characters” which are solely articulated metallic structures. Therefore, we want to underline the strength of the simulacra by perverting the perception of these animates, which are neither animals nor humans, carried through the inevitable instinct of anthropomorphism and projection of internal sensations, a reflex triggered by any manifestation that challenges our senses. The viewers must travel a long and narrow”sordid” space located in a building basement or in an industrial-looking site. The machines are distributed along this confined corridor, crawling on the floor or hiding in dark corners. The close proximity of the machines challenges the viewer’s comfort and impressions of one’s physical safety. The soundtrack is an important element of the installation. Whispers, lamentations, howlings and cries are suggested by different processed sounds generated by the surrounding speakers. In addition to its own mechanical sounds (valves, relays, squeaks), each robot has a speaker and a specific sound source controlled by the computer. If a robot detects someone in its proximity, it will generate sounds that will reinforce the illusion of its natural behavior. Six different kind of characters populate the installation:
- The Harassing Machine calls upon the passing viewer by shaking its articulated arms towards them. At the extremity of these members, small tentacles (agitated by compressed air) tease the intruders with importunate touches.
- The Begging Machine is rocking its trunk back and forth on its base and raises its mechanical arm towards the viewers walking by. In order to emphasize the solicitation behavior, the beggar has a suction device fixed at the end of its articulated arm.
- The Limping Machine walks painfully towards the viewer while stumbling awkwardly because of a different or distorted member of its body.
- The Heretic Machine is locked up in a cage. When viewers come by, it rushes violently towards them, grabs the metal grid and furiously shakes its cage.
- The Crawling Machine is creeping laboriously on the floor. Slow and vulnerable, it tries to run desperately away from the approaching viewers.
- The Convulsive Machine is a thin metallic structure shaking with frequent but yet irregular spasms, especially when the viewers approach.
- Louis-Philippe Demers (Canada) is a lighting designer and software engineer. He completed one year of doctoral studies in robotics (McGill University) and was artist in residence at The Banff Centre (Media Arts). Louis-Philippe is the president of Kunst Macchina Production, a firm specialized in lighting and show control systems. He works in the electronic art field on interactive robotic projects and interactive performances.
- Born in Montreal (Canada) in 1959, Bill (William) Vorn is now a Ph.D. student in Communication & Media Studies at UQAM (University du Quebec a Montreal). His thesis is about interactive models in artificial social systems and multi-agent telematic networks. He also teaches audio related techniques at UQAM as he has been working as a music composer and sound designer for more than fifteen years. He was a founding member of the electro-beat group Rational Youth in the early 80s. He then worked closer to the film industry scene as a sound effects editor and film score composer for advertising, radio, and television. Bill Vorn now works in the electronic arts field on interactive robotic projects, making ‘real noise from artificial life’.
La Cour des Miracles is produced with the help of The Canada Council for the Arts and Le Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec.