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Text RainTransliteracies Research Report

Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv’s 1999 art installation.

“Text Rain is an interactive installation in which participants use the familiar instrument of their bodies, to do what seems magical–to lift and play with falling letters that do not really exist. In the Text Rain installation participants stand or move in front of a large projection screen. On the screen they see a mirrored video projection of themselves in black and white, combined with a color animation of falling letters. Like rain or snow, the letters appears to land on participants’ heads and arms. The letters respond to the participants’ motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again. The falling text will ‘land’ on anything darker than a certain threshold, and ‘fall’ whenever that obstacle is removed. If a participant accumulates enough letters along their outstretched arms, or along the silhouette of any dark object, they can sometimes catch an entire word, or even a phrase. The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language. ‘Reading’ the phrases in the Text Rain installation becomes a physical as well as a cerebral endeavor.” (From the web site.)

Text takes on the behaviors of objects that respond to forces in the real world and also to the physical gestures of viewers. (220) “Similarly to the text in the Poetic Garden, the text here continues to serve its symbolic function as an decipherable code, but also as an ‘object’ viewers can engage with as if it were a real physical entity […] the physical act of catching letters is necessary in order to read the text at all […] Because most of one’s body is visible in the virtual space of the screen as well as in the physical space in front of the screen, a pleasurable confusion results between the screen space and the real space.” (Utterback 2004: 221)

Starter Links and resources: Text Rain | Camille Utterback’s “Unusual Positions–Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 2004.

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake

  tl, 04.23.06

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