Procrustes' Brain

"It is told in ancient Greece that a man name Procrustes offered his hospitality to passing travelers. Those he found too tall for his bed had enough of their legs cut off to make them fit. Those too small were stretched on the rack until they were made to fit."

 

The multi-media work Procrustes' Brain uses a video camera and computer to capture images of exhibition visitors and morph them into the form of a boy and girl icon. Television monitors display the transformations and a copy of the result is printed for each participant. This piece was first exhibited at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA as part of the Boston Cyberarts Festival in May of 1999.

The poetry and technology of the piece is quite dramatic as well as relevant to today's issues of standardization and mass production. While we are more and more catagorized as generic symbols we find that they are less and less descriptive of who we are and what we look like.

The subject begins by touching the screen (fig. 1) and then selects a boy or girl figure (fig. 2), then, standing against a croma blue wall (fig. 3), is morphed twice (fig. 4) into the chosen shape. The entire process is visible on monitors (fig. 5) for the gallery visitors as well as the participant. What they and the rest of the gallery see is their form "forced" to assume the boy or girl shape. The subject then saves one of the selections (fig. 6) and the computer prints a copy for the participant to take home. The computer also stores a copy of the image. By the end of the exhibition the gallery walls could be papered with these laser printed diptychs- the participants' pose and next to it a version of that pose morphed into the boy of girl icon.The pairs of images on the Example page are some of the more than 400 made at the Museum of Science exhibition.

While the software is ground breaking in scope and execution it is designed to work on ordinary equipment and in a normal gallery setting with participants of any age who have no computer skills. Requirements for this work are: a standard desktop pentium II computer, 2 video monitors- a touch screen if possible, a good quality camcorder, a video capture board and a laser printer to print out the individual images for the participants to take home.

 

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