[ISEA2002] Artist Statement: Jean Dubois – Tact

Artist Statement

Tact marries technology with tactility, sounds and images. It belongs to a space somewhere between stills and films. The piece consists of a large mirror and an inset circular screen displaying what looks like a moving pinkish blur. The viewer is invited to touch the screen. Once touched, the image is suddenly still and reveals the face of a woman pressed against the screen. As the viewer drags his/her finger, she/he also drags and distorts the face. Via the process of rubbing the screen and controlling the image, a strange and uncomfortable relationship develops between the participant and this image of the other.

The word “tact” means the sense of touch but also means an intuitive, spontaneous and thoughtful way to behave in a human relationship. This aspect of interpersonal communication is not always shared in mediated interactions through electronic devices and messages (e-mails, news groups or chat rooms). Tact attempts to suggest the lack of tactfulness that often occurs in situations of virtual rather than physical presence, when we are not actually face to face with another person. In the piece the viewer is trapped by the image response when he/she has touched it and is thus forced to adopt an uncomfortable role – even if it seemed playful at first.

Tact is a multimedia device, embedded into the wall, which is made of a custom manufactured mirror, a computer, two stereo speakers, a touch screen display and an audiovisual interactive program. As soon as the viewer touches the surface of the screen, the program selects and displays in real time the video shot that would seem most naturally to follow the movement of the hand. To emphasize the friction of the flesh, a set of event sounds is randomly played as the image of the face is being scrubbed against the glass of the screen.

  • Jean Dubois is a multidisciplinary artist who began in the field of installation and urban intervention before working with new media. He is particularly interested in the poetic potential of interactive images and touch screens. In his recent artistic production, he has staged the viewer with fictional characters in situations dealing with interpersonal exchange. He holds a master’s degree in Visual Arts from Université Quebec Montreal (UQAM), Canada and diploma in Art, Aesthetics and Technology from Université Paris VIII. He currently teaches digital image processing and interactive processes at the école des arts visuels et médiatiques of UQAM.