Montreal, the finest city in North America, is blessed with a fantastic architectural museum and research institution in the Canadian Centre for Architecture. We’ve had the pleasure of producing a number of interactive experiences for the CCA, including an online video channel and a mobile city exploration app. But our favorite project for CCA is the exhibition design for 404 Error: The Object is Not Online, curated by Lev Bratishenko.
The exhibition itself explored the translation of objects into online representations, so it felt natural for us to begin by considering the exhibition’s website. Usually these are glorified promotional brochures, showing material from the show but rarely treated as equal to the physical experience of the show. We designed an interactive experience which upset this hierarchy of physical over virtual.
Central to the exhibition was a large table on which sat a number of objects, including books, interactive computer models and a glass toy puzzle. We placed a webcam high above the table, and broadcast a live feed on the website. The items on the table, as seen in the video feed, were links to entries on the site. When the user rolled his or her cursor over the item, a label appeared with information and additional images.
Simultaneously, an image of each visitor’s cursor was projected onto the table in the gallery. This was not a static projection but a real-time duplication, tracking each cursor moving across the webcam and mirroring it in the same location in the exhibition space, following the path of the user’s mouse.
Gallery visitors saw the echoes of online participants, but not the participants themselves. Website visitors saw live footage of physical attendees, but only within the video frame. In addition to reflecting the curatorial theme, this doubling-up was our way of closing the circuit between physical and virtual. Neither the gallery nor the website could operate independently of the other.