[ISEA2011] Paper: Colleen Karen Ludwig – The Fluctuating Border between Architecture and the Body in Shiver


I created the artwork Shiver to poetically talk about my ideas concerning the relationship between architectural and bodily space in creating a sense of the self.  In this paper, I will review my theoretical research and discuss how that research informed technical decisions I made in designing Shiver.

Shiver is an immersive, interactive environment.  The title refers to the chill or slight tickle felt on the skin if activated by light touch or closeness.  Upon entering the artwork, visitors initiate trickling flows of water.  These cling to, and seek paths along, the walls’ minor topographies.  A sensor matrix tracks the direction and speed of people’s movement in the room.  The information is used to move the curvy, crawling water rivulets along the wall’s surface.  The reaction of the water flows gently bring visitors into a conversation with the artwork, encouraging them to move slowly and change perspectives in order to cause the room to react.

Skin is used as a mechanism and a metaphor for shifting boundaries between self and space.    My premise is that there are fluctuating borders between body and space. Our skin encases the viscera of our physical body. Our senses extend that border beyond our corporeal selves.  Skin is incredibly sensitive and helps us gauge the size and ambiance of space.  Boundaries between the self and space shift with psychological, physiological and environmental fluctuations.  Various organic elements in my installations, such as wind, water, heat, light and motion, serve to create subtle shifts of air movement, humidity, temperature and vision to activate the body surface and bring it into direct relationship with its environment.

Through activating the skin, a connection between our inner and outer ecosystems is made palpable.

Video Shiver: Compendium 

  • Colleen Karen Ludwig works with metaphors of skin and boundaries to create immersive environments, video works and performances.  Her current research is a four-room suite of interactive installations called Elemental Bodies.  She has created the installation Vanishing Point at aceartinc. in Winnipeg, Canada, with collaborator Jarod Charzewski in 2008 and performed an interactive, electronic costume called ContactContact in San Francisco and Austin, USA, in 2007.  Most recently, she exhibited the first work in Elemental Bodies, called Shiver, as part of the Watershed: Art, Activism and Community Engagement show at the UW-Milwaukee.  Shiver was supported by a Research Growth Initiative Grant and a fellowship from the Center for 21st Century Studies, both at UW-Milwaukee.  She received her MFA in Time in Interactivity in 2005 from the University of Minnesota and is currently teaching at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.  colleenludwig.net

Full text (PDF) p. 1605-1610