[ISEA2011] Paper: Tomás Laurenzo – Nibia and the ludic component


Nibia Sabalsagaray (1949- 974) was a twenty-four years old Uruguayan literature teacher and social activist, tortured and killed in captivity at the beginning of the last military dictatorship (1973-1985) in Uruguay.  Although the Military Justice categorized this crime as a suicide by hanging, in November 8, 2010, two military (Dalmao and Chialanza) were indicted as responsible for the murder. As of January 2011, both military are in the process of appealing the sentence.

In this paper we are presenting an interactive installation that questions the relationship between (Uruguayan) society and the recent past, through recontextualization and redefinitions of a particular, locally well-known, image.  The work consists of a small room, dark, with black walls, with only one entrance, blinded by double black curtains.  Hanging towards the end of the room, there is a projection of the locally very known picture of Sabalsagaray, in black and white. Two meters ahead of the projection, there is a wooden stool with a standard lighter on top of it.  If the user decides to take the lighter and lights it, the picture in the area corresponding to the position of the lighter begins to burn, disappearing, becoming black.  But it is impossible to burn it completely: a short time after a zone is burnt, it is reconstructed, allowing the image to reappear, which never fades completely.  The relationship between the spectator and the image is drastically resignified, by making explicit the underlying interaction between the graphic representation and its consumption.  By allowing to try to burn the image, it is not only said that there are always people who burn it (and in a way –perhaps distant– we all are), but also that the perception of any cultural phenomenon cannot be apolitical.

This installation, in spite of being explicitly interactive and engaging for its users, it is not perceived as a video game of sorts, but instead induces to the reflection and awe.  We propose that this occurs thanks to a combination of factors: the density of the message, the natural interaction, and the aesthetic setup.

  • Tomás Laurenzo is an artist, designer, researcher and computer engineer, born and based in Montevideo, Uruguay. He works mainly in the new media art and human-computer interaction fields, tending to include new technologies in the artworks and tools that he creates. Although he has a rich experience working independently in both public and private sectors –working or having worked for many companies and institutions from Uruguay, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Mexico and the USA– he is now Associate Professor (full-time, tenured), at the Computer Science dept. of the Universidad de la República of Uruguay, where he is the director of the recently created media lab –Laboratorio de medios– of the Engineering School, as well as being Associate Researcher at the Center for Basic Research of the School of Psychology, Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture, Researcher at the National Agency of Research (ANII). Since 2011 he is Research Fellow at Microsoft Research. He has also performed artistic and academic activities in several foreign and local institutions including Carnegie Mellon University of USA, Brunel University, West London, INRIA Institute of France, the ALFA academic network of the European Union, ORT and IUAS Universities of Uruguay and Uruguay’s Ministry of Education and Culture, among others. He has publications in the areas of New Media Art, HCI and mobile robotics; his artworks have been shown both in Uruguay and in foreign countries.
    He holds a degree in Computer Engineering and a Master of Computer Science (done under the direction of Dr. Sergi Jordá, Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, Spain, and Dr. Eduardo Grampín, University of Uruguay), titlednew media art, both from Universidad de la República. He is a PhD. candidate, working under the advice of Dr. Álvaro Cassinelli  (University of Tokyo, Japan)

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