The Case at Kulturhuset

Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden
2004 April 14 - May 9
Opening reception April 14, 19:30
About

Participants play the role of private eye in The Case at Kulturhuset, a film noir-inspired mixed-reality drama at Kulturhuset in central Stockholm. The piece explores the elusiveness of objective truth in human relationships. An impartial perspective on events is ultimately impossible for us to attain, but as this project demonstrates, the search for truth is a process of narrative construction.

A participant in The Case was presented with a murder and a number of witnesses willing to tell their version of the events leading up to the murder; Jack, Loretta, Magnus, the Bartender, and Anna, existed in a mixed-reality world, where they lived virtually in the real physical space. The participant was placed into the role of the private eye and given the opportunity to question the witnesses and receive their firsthand accounts of events. The investigation was conducted through handheld computers (iPAQs) and as the viewer moved through the physical location, Bluetooth transmitters hidden throughout the location triggered virtual encounters with both witnesses and objects in a film-noir and graphic-novel styled animation, with audio in English with Swedish subtitles. The internal logic of the system was created and tracked on a custom, flash-based client application.

The conceptual foundation of the project and the basis of its plots comes from the classic Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon. In Rashomon, as the witnesses relate their stories, each significantly different from the others, the viewer is placed into the role of the judge. Kurosawa accomplishes this by skillfully positioning his technology, the camera, so that the character faces outward, appearing to directly address the viewers' implicit questions. Beyond being cinematically inventive, the technique emphasizes the status of the viewer and implies subtly, the required interaction of the viewer. Likewise, as the participant explores the physical space of The Case, he encounters the various witnesses in a simulation of first-person perspective real-life encounters. The witnesses speak as if spoken too, they answer the participant's implied questions, and they remember what they have said and keep track of their lies. The innovation of The Case is to increase the immersion and variability beyond what is possible on film, to make the explicit the participants' interaction as they choose how to deal with witnesses, questioning and re-questioning them, and to uncover content at significant locations in the physical environment revealed by the narrative (such as climbing the staircase to retrace Loretta's steps, and discovering a (virtual) lost scarf).

The first-person perspective does not simply provide the basis for the model of interaction but also serves as a conduit for the theme of subjectivity in the piece. Upon concluding the questioning part of the installation, the participant is asked to articulate his personal version of the events in an online judgement scenario. It is in this act of choosing a killer and typing an explanation at the internet kiosk that the participant is explicitly engaging in the main conflict of The Case and facing the same problem that all of his witnesses have faced: the participant is driven to resolution but is unable to achieve it on any kind of objective basis, the only recourse to to supply his own subjective biases. Presenting all the responses entered at the kiosk together on the project's final website reveals the significant discrepancies between participants' versions. In this sense, the examination of subjectivity in The Case questions the participants' own perspectives, prejudices, and preconceptions, while simultaneously affirming their validity.



Credits

Concept, engineering, writing, illustration, music, and production
Brian House
Sue Huang
Eugene Kim
Voice actors
Arngrimur Bjarnason
Leon Cullinane
Brian House
Sue Huang
David McCallum
Linda Ryan Bengtsson
Translation
Mats Nordahl
Nora Wigzell
Alex Berman
Thanks to
Kulturhuset, Jaana Sundqvist, Nora Wigzell, Mats Nordahl, Kazuya Takada, IT University, Noah Decter-Jackson, Annabelle Castro, Leon Cullinane, Matthew Vickery, Jimmy Eiterjord, Timo
Sponsored by
Hewlett-Packard
Ericsson
Mölndals Digitalguide
c6
Bluetest
OPENING SEQUENCE FROM The Case at Kulturhuset
Click "Börja" to begin
Exhibition poster Screenshot PDA On the case On the case On the case
Press

Dagens Nyheter
2004 April 27

Svenska Dagbladet
2004 April 15

Västerbottens-Kuriren
2004 April 6

Sweden Public TV2
2004 April 15

Sweden National Radio
2004 April 16

jill/txt
2004 May 4