Kanazawa is a small city in Japan, approximately 500 km away from Tokyo. A new contemporary art museum will open in October 2004. The building designed by SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) is an entirely glass-walled cylinder, in which variously proportioned rectangular exhibition rooms and light courts (light-filled courtyards) are randomly positioned. The museum commissioned Mathieu Briand to create an artwork whereby multiple audiences can exchange their audio-visual senses. Sixteen compact cameras and fourteen jacks are installed around the building. The audience members wear a helmet that incorporates a camera, goggle-style compact monitor and headphones. The audience members may also carry a connector that can be plugged into and unplugged from the jacks placed around the museum, in order to exchange audiovisual experiences with others.
When a connector is not plugged into a jack, one sees the environment through his/her own camera. In other words, one walks around seeing the surrounding environment through his goggle monitor. When the connector is plugged into a jack on the wall, the person sees the view taken by one of the cameras installed in the building, or taken by another camera worn by another audience member whose camera is also connected to a jack. By plugging into different jacks, one would see different views taken by different cameras. Even when one keeps the connector plugged into the same jack, the view unexpectedly switches when others unplug and/or plug. Views do not randomly switch. They have certain combinations of patterns. The audience will exchange what they see with others and influence what others see through the connections.
The cameras installed on the ceilings and very high places on the walls are paired with other cameras, which show similar views. For example, the sizes of Exhibition Gallery 1 and 3 are both six square meters and the entrances are in the center of one wall. In those two galleries, a camera is installed at the upper center of the opposite wall from the entrance. The two cameras directed at the entrances display almost identical views. These visuals are both related: when the view of the Gallery 1 camera switches into the one of the Gallery 3, the room looks the same but the people and exhibited works are different. The same effect is intended with the cameras installed in the hallways. A camera installed on the ceiling of a hallway shows a “light court” at the end of the long hallway. There is another camera placed next to this camera facing 90 degrees away showing another hallway and another light court. The two distances between the camera and the light court are equal, therefore the images taken by the cameras look similar. One sees himself with the helmet, and suddenly, he loses sight of himself. Carefully looking, he finds out that it is a totally different hallway. The positioning of cameras and the related patterns precisely present the various features of the building, which, at the same time, appears to be homogenous.
The circuits connecting the cameras have a potential of opening the system to outside of the museum through the Internet. When a similar project is realized in another museum in the future, we can exchange audio-visuals beyond the framework of one museum.
The helmet was designed by Kunio Okawara. Okawara had previously designed the mechanicals for Gundam, a famous animation series almost every Japanese is familiar with. This idea came along when we were having a meeting about the helmet design. Mathieu referred to Gundam, trying to describe the subtle shape, and this led to the collaboration with Kunio Okawara. Mathieu had an idea that this device to connect the real world to the fictitious world should have a design that looks like something that has jumped out of an animation. Kunio Okawara gave shape to this idea.

Written by Meruro Washida, Curator at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Helmet and Handbox design by
Kunio Okawara
Production Control by
Presence Will Company