Cavallerizza Digitale
Fabian Winkler

Cavallerizza Digitale is a site-specific installation that consists of an interactive virtual 3-D environment, which changes its appearance in response to the movement of visitors in physical space. A realistically rendered baroque façade is deconstructed and transformed into a completely abstract architectural space which consists only of the bounding boxes of the original baroque details. The computer-generated façade is a reconstruction of the baroque façade in the exhibition space: the Cavallerizza Reale in Torino, Italy.

I created this installation as a response to Michael Heim's paper "Virtual Realism" which investigates the increasingly polarized spectrum of attitudes toward virtualization, from network idealist on the one side to neo-Luddite critics on the other. Proposing a middle way, Heim discusses strategies for balancing total immersion in Virtual Reality spaces with a deeper rooting and understanding of the body in the physical world. Virtual Realism suggest, that this balance, reinforced by design considerations in the creation of virtual worlds will lead to more meaningful experiences in virtual reality.

My installation Cavallerizza Digitale allows visitors to change the virtual representation of Cavallerizza Reale's baroque façade by physically moving in the actual architectural space. The audience deconstructs parts of the virtual architecture by walking in corresponding areas in front of the real faŤade. In this process, rich ornamental details of the baroque architecture are morphed into their most reduced representations, bounding boxes. In the context of Heim's theory, Cavallerizza Digitale poses interesting questions: When does a computer-simulated space become abstract? How does the process of navigating this abstract space change if the space becomes more abstract the more it is being explored? Does this technique allow us to read abstracted space in more meaningful ways? What new and unexplored features of the real architecture does the flexible virtual architecture reveal?

Technical Details
A camera attached to the Cavallerizza's royal balcony records the movements of the visitors in an area of 7mx7m. The signal is sent through a BNC cable to a Macintosh computer with a video digitizer. The motion tracking software "Big Eyes" interprets the video stream and detects changing parts in the video image (i.e. movements of visitors). These movements generate - depending on their x/y location in the image - different MIDI signals. The MIDI signals are sent to a custom Java3D software running on a PC. The software manipulates the computer generated architectural details according to the MIDI signals. Finally, the high resolution output of the custom Java3D software is projected onto a rear-projection screen located on the royal balcony.

  • BIG Torino, Biennale Internazionale Arte Giovane (International Biennial of Emergent Art), Turin, Italy, Apr. - May 2000