Proximity/Repulsion

This installation visualizes the flow of information in a collective of particles that react to the shadows of the visitor in a fluid motion, generating interesting shapes and textures.

A rain of particles falls from the top of the projected image. When two particles come close to each other, they push each other away, exchanging energy and momentum. The visitors shadow in the projected image acts as an interface between him and the simulated world of the particles. If a particle hits the edge of a shadow, a repulsive force pushes it into the free space, enabling the visitor to play with the particles in a way similar to water or sand.

The particles themselves remain invisible in the projection, only when two of them exchange momentum a thin black line that connects them is drawn. The resulting interaction network graphs range from single isolated lines over sparse “spider-web” structures to dense regions that resemble frog-spawn.

Despite its conceptual dimension and nice looking graphical output, this installation is really creating the illusion of being able to touch something immaterial. The idea was to fuse reality and the virtual world of the simulation in such a way that one intuitively perceives the simulated matter as something real. In order to achieve this effect, I spent a lot of time tuning the underlying model to give a stimulating reaction to movements of the body and a convincing “feeling of touch”.

Including a virtual gravity into the model and letting the particles rain from the top worked very well for that purpose: When people stretch out their arms in order to collect some of the particles, the weight of their own body simulates the force needed to carry the virtual matter.

A Video of the audience

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