Tina Gonsalves - Chameleon Project - Fabrica - Brighton - 3 Oct - 29 Nov 2009

"The collaborative team have worked on CHAMELEON for nearly two years. This has been a research project drawing together methodologies from art and science. The connections and developments that have been made across disciplines and to some individual research has given a richness and uniqueness to the Chameleon Project that enables it to nimbly cross arts and science exhibition spaces and research environments" [1]

The exhibition at Fabrica is of the latest prototype, prototype 8, in The Chameleon Project.

Ten screens are suspended in the gallery space, with faces projected onto them. This gives the illusion of a 'room full of people', the idea seeming to be that the emotional contagion generated through interaction with the work affects the overall mood within the space.

Interaction occurs with the facial expressions of the viewer triggering responses from the screen. The faces on the screens 'wait', with closed eyes, until a viewer stands in front, ready to interact.

Simulating behavioural interaction cannot be easy, and the viewer finds themselves wondering what the face they are interacting with is 'thinking' or 'feeling'. This is part of the behavioural structure of the piece, as the program responds to behavioural, visual inputs. This then leads to further interaction, where the viewer trys to understand how their behaviour is reflected in terms of the behaviour of the face on the screen.

It was interesting to watch visitors to the gallery interacting with the work. Some people pulled exaggerated expressions, while others interacted more naturally.

The heads projected onto the screens were slightly larger than reality, giving a sense of a projected artwork. Cameras at the sides of the screens 'read' the expression of the viewer/participant. Each face, on the screens, has a different personality, and in that sense The Chameleon Project has developed in terms of simulating and generating social interaction amongst a group of people.

It is very interesting to see all these prototypes and to witness the project developing. In terms of art research and collaborative practice across disciplines, The Chameleon Project sets a new standard.

As an art installation, the work lies in perceiving how our behaviours are 'read' by technological structures. What we might want from the work is an accurate reflection of what we think we are projecting. There are however a complex set of responses for each face, which is also projecting its own 'personality', in terms of behavioural traits, as well as provoking responses in the viewer by projecting disgust or anguish for example.

There is the phenomenon of prefering certain faces, and returning to interact with them. Ultimately, we somehow know when the face reflects or responds in a way that seems to recognise how we are really feeling.

Unlike Prototype 7, Prototype 8 keeps sound to a minimum, which further enhances the slightly iconic nature of the heads. There is the sense that the art side of the collaboration can organise this latent data and make something creatively engaging with it.

What is perceived is human interaction itself, as well as personal qualities about the self, the viewer/participant, possibly affected by the mood generated in the gallery.

Tina Gonsalves confounds otherness, in terms of being a woman artist working with technology, by shifting the axis of interest towards the viewer/participant, engaging the audience in self discovery through the work. This means that it is impossible to objectify the experience which can only be intuited, felt.

Sarah Thompson 29.10.09

[1] Helen Sloan, consultant curator, SCAN, text accompanying the exhibition