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December 14, 2005

Brute Performance Kit


For Impromptu Exhibitionistic Moments

The Brute Performance Kit, by Stephan Hechenberger, is a prosthetic device which both cues a performance and reacts to it by translating movement and speech to sound. We live in a world where we occasionally simply have to bust out a bag of tricks, perform, and enjoy the attention. The Brute Performance Kit is designed for these kinds of impromptu-exhibitionistic moments. It is an apparatus which physically connects two people's heads to form a computer-mediated, pair of people. The primary reason for this cooperation is to move through space and sporadically utter philosophical propositions. Partly such a performance draws its character from the apparatus' blunt visual appearance, and partly from the combination of a live sound track and an algorithmically pro-scripted choreography. Users are cued and sensed. As the users follow commands, the BPK senses movement and utterance from which it composes a unifying sound scape.

There are three distinct parties involved in a performance with the BPK: the audience, the users, and the programmers. Each of them has a different vantage point. The audience are predominantly people of public spaces. They observe two persons being physically and operatively connected to one unit. Movement and speech appears scripted and exhibits a recognizable coherence. Stories are told by two people in unison and a mysticism is generated regarding the internal workings of the box. A private sphere of knowledge is overtly prominent within the public space.

The users wear the device like a helmet. They may roam spaces freely as long as they accommodate for their physical link. Two separate audio feeds--one for each user--tell stories as to why it is important to adhere to the instruction that are to follow. This sets the tone for the users' performance. Once properly introduced the device starts cuing movements and utterances ("move two steps forward, proclaim that your partner is rather slow today"). By sensing physical acceleration and analyzing spoken words the system gauges the level of participation and adjusts the cuing rate accordingly. Should the users discontinue their involvement the device falls back into persuasion mode explaining the importance of this setup. As an additional incentive to engage with the device the users will hear an increasingly more articulated percussion line as they intensify their participation.

The programmers of the box deal with a platform for experiments in the field of human-computer interaction. Unlike the usual one-to-one relation the BPK provides a triangular setup. Part of this setup are exclusive communication channels between the BPK and either one of the participants. This gives the programmers control over four different spheres of knowledge. They can specifically direct story lines at either participant separately, both participants, or the audience. By telling different stories to separate parties they can cause variance in the conception as to what the performance is all about, provoke interference, and interpersonal dynamics.

Part of the ITP Winter 2005 Show.

Posted by jo at December 14, 2005 11:39 AM