The Multiple Lives of Walter B.

Description (in English): 

An artwork realized as a physical installation, “The Multiple Lives of Walter B.” invites participants to explore how a number of interrelated decisions change a character’s biography. The participants engage with the piece by physically interacting with objects and locations, thus creating a sensory experience. Inspired by motives from the life of media theorist and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), the work is simultaneously an exploration of history, through the lens of an individual character. Benjamin’s multifaceted life provides ample motives for an interactive treatment. Simultaneously, the many junctures in his biography open up a space for speculation – what would have become of him, if he had taken a different turn? At different points in time, he could have stayed in Sweden, in Ibiza or in Moscow. And what would have happened as a consequence? If he would have chosen Moscow, would he have returned to Germany as a Communist party functionary and ended his life as Minister for Culture? If he would have stayed in Ibiza, would he have been known as the first Hippie and a symbol of counterculture later? It is this kind of questions the project explores.

The project will be realized as a physical installation featuring a number of small objects, a suitcase, a map drawn on the floor, and a projector. The objects represent significant aspects of Benjamin’s life, for example a Communist party membership card or a love letter. Project visualization Rather than giving participants direct control overspecific junctures in his life in a god-like manner, the mode of engagement simulates Benjamin’s own decisions, only now they have to be made by the participants. Like the real-life Benjamin, participants will have to pack their suitcase, which only has room for a limited number of objects, so they have to be selective. Then the participants travel by placing the suitcase on a map of Europe. These actions – putting objects in the suitcase and placing the suitcase on one of several targets – are recorded through sensors and used by software as parameters to assemble a virtual biography. The significance of specific objects as well as the locations are purposefully opaque to invite speculation and playful exploration. The tactile and spatial experience of handling objects and moving the suitcase acrossthe map will create an intimate and immersive relationship with the intangible character Walter B. and give the interactor the feeling of agency in the creation of the biography. The project was selected previously to be shown in prototype from at Art.Chi in Seoul 2015 and fully realized at the ICIDS Art exhibition in Copenhagen 2015. For ELO, the presentation will be updated and enhanced (new graphics, sound etc.).

(Source: ELO 2017: Book of Abstracts and Catalogs)

Screen shots: 
The Multiple Lives of Walter B.
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Record posted by: 
Filip Falk