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Werner Fenz, Embedded Systems

Text on CD-ROM on the installation Embedded Systems at "2000 minus 3 - ArtSpace plus interface / Steirischer Herbst 97"


The piece of work with the title "Embedded Systems" published by Sodomka / Breindl / Math via the ALIEN PRODUCTIONS production company was a complex network composed of technologically characterised everyday reality in the form of objects taken from the interactive web space, from the capacity of programming language and outsourced room situations that are to be experienced partly spatially, and partly seen from the control elements side. This new spatial system was determined by overlapping and differing vectors and focussed on the intelligence of trivial everyday objects which we use daily, especially in our households.

Originally planned for an accessible flat, the installation was finally realised in the Kastner + Öhler department store right in the centre of Graz. The change in location resulted only in a slight shift of concept. While, originally, the environment of use was important in terms of a site-specific characteristic, in the subsequently realised version the focus was on the trading place of these objects. A sewing machine, a kitchen unit with its usual equipment, light and sound facilities were programmed anew via the in-built chips. The team took as a starting point the fact that the intelligence contained in the chips would not by far be exploited to the full. The new and much more comprehensively applicable programming language "Java" was very useful here.

ALIEN PRODUCTIONS established two differing set-ups. First, the expanded programming of the gadgets, which released them from their standardised use and allocated them new and unusual functions while interlinking them in a network at the electronic level of their intelligence. Secondly, there was a transference of this symphonic control signal to the Internet where it was possible to interact with the programmed sequence. The viewing of the installation had thus been divided into two spatial segments. One was the place of exhibition itself, and the other was the Internet. This means that there was one place that was real and could be visited, but not controlled. The second one was virtual, could not be visited, but was interactive.

"Embedded Systems" turned out to be a fiction of reality and set up a network situation where lots of individual intelligences interact communicatively. The Internet user is not a higher intelligence in this context, but rather one on the same level, having an impact comparable perhaps to the washing machine or TV set. This is the reality where the user finds himself or herself. This is very much in contrast to the visitor of the real installation who is only subjected to this reality. Although physically present, the visitor is the only one who remains outside the communicative possibilities, and thus outside reality. Not to have access to the information and data network means to be excluded from reality. Processes can be observed, but not influenced. In an increasingly comprehensive and multi-layer media world, the access to information structures and communication of news represents the decisive factor of spatial experience and participating in shaping and setting our present spaces and rooms.

ALIEN PRODUCTIONS showed exactly this in an enjoyable, playful and spectacular way. Their news is news concerning systems that (can) show their everyday appearance in an applied mode. The practical inventions advertised in mail order catalogues as making the organisation of everyday life easier are more or less based on a skilful and "inventive" exploitation of the enormous electronic and digital potential, and this was the trigger here that had been taken from practical life. Taking this as a starting point, the participatory level of the user was then reflected and logged into a system-to-system relationship. The chosen transfer mode meant becoming aware of the system. The place itself denied access to the functionality of the objects, but unlike what one might think, the team did not play the part of a sorcerer's apprentice who had perhaps pulled out all the stops in the control system and was now presenting the dilemma he had initiated. Neither did the team take on the shape of a science fiction author who expressed the menacing and no longer controllable power of the microwave or vacuum cleaner over humankind. The everyday utilities assumed a life of their own. That they no longer played their role revealed itself as a play in the form of a parable. Switching from physical reality to virtual reality and asking the question as to where they met created an interface between man and machine. Not in the sense of possibly trivial horror visions connected with the "human interface", but rather at the level of the parity of intelligences and a shifting of experience. In the individual rooms, the control systems could be manipulated, and their results could be observed. Among others, this example has shown that today access is only possible by means of an orientation within the "central unit". The visually and acoustically perceivable activities mean despite their sensual components at the site a loss in perception of the true reality which has shifted to electronic and telematic space in the form of decisions.


This Text was published on CD-ROM "2000 minus 3 / ArtSpace plus Interface"; Wien, Triton-Verlag, 1999