Julio Cortazar’s short story ‘Las Babas del Diablo’ involves a photographer who witnesses a young man and a woman together in a park. It explores the way in which the camera selectively interprets reality. People become characters, places become locations, everyday objects become storytelling devices.
Standing outside the camera’s frame, observing the scene, we can directly compare reality with its image. If we step into the frame of the image, we transition from subject to object and become part of the story. To then see that image is to witness the only part of reality that we cannot experience first-hand: ourselves acting as an object in the world.
(re)collector is a public art installation that generates films by using Cortazar’s story as a template. A network of cameras is installed around the city, programmed to recognize ‘cinematic behaviors’ corresponding to sequences in ‘Blow Up’, Michelangelo Antonioni’s film adaptation of Cortazar’s story.
Each day, computer vision software analyzes the captured footage from the cameras. The software then reorganizes it into a narrative sequence, based upon matches to lines from Cortazar’s original text. These films (samples below), generated according to the story’s logic, are then projected back into the city center.
As new footage is captured by the cameras, it replaces and juxtaposes the existing narrative sequences. The story mutates, becoming retold each day, altering the context of people’s actions. Gradually, people in the city began to modify their behavior in order to regain control of their image, blurring the boundaries between performance/reality, subject/object, observer/observed.