Rover Proposal Blackbox 2.0

with Mike McCrea

Rover is a mechatronic imaging device inserted into quotidian space, transforming the sights and sounds of the everyday into dreamlike cinematic experience. A kind of machine observer or probe, it knows very little of what it sees.

Using computational lightfield capture, Rover records all light incident through a scene. Bounded in a physical sense by the system of motors and belts delimiting its 2-dimensional plane of travel, nonetheless it explores the world before it. It strains outwards from this grid into space it cannot readily inhabit: our space. It records sequential images to document where it is, when it is. Later, through an algorithmic manipulation of those images, we witness its search through a past of imperfect moments, synthesizing dreamlike views of the spaces and scenes it previously inhabited.

While looking, Rover also listens. It records and extracts audio using machine-listening techniques, retrieving sounds we would otherwise dismiss. Just as images are ceaselessly churned by the device, sounds are revisited and reshaped until they are no longer commonplace.

The result is a kind of cinema that follows the logic of dreams: suspended but still mobile, familiar yet infinitely variable in detail. Indeed, the places we visit through Rover’s motility are the kinds of places we find ourselves in dreams: cliffside, seaside, bedside, adrift and unable to return home, or trapped in the corners of those homes.

Rover is iterative by nature and the installation proposed for Black Box 2.0 entails five vignettes of sound and image projected inside a shipping container. Each vignette is recorded off-site with the lightfield apparatus and sound device. The container is fitted with a rear-projection screen midway down its length which allows visitors to enter a darkened space without interrupting the image. Once inside the container-turned-projection box (which evokes Rover’s antecedent, the camera obscura) viewers shed their peripheral vision, trading it for the unique perspective inherent in the installation. The container also affords a focused listening environment for sound projection from both in front and behind the screen, reinforcing the character of our machine observer and the dreamlike spaces it constructs.

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