Mirrored City

Based on the project “Re-Tratos”, Camagüey Cuba, 2013

Abstract:

Today, the façades of most corporate and public buildings mirror the city via reflective windows, in order to conceal and protect the inside of work spaces from the gaze of passers by. In return, the urban landscape has become a mirror of another mirror that is full of images but empty of familiarity. Similarly, different groups and communities in the city share this tendency to concealment and invisibility (migrant workers and day laborers). As pedestrians, we usually avoid the gaze of these underserved citizens, and the mirrored windows of buildings become a kind of gate to escape the city, through the city itself. However, we still remain unaware of the vigilant eyes that live inside this mirrored architecture.

This urban intervention appropriates conventional elements of modern architecture such as mirrored windows facing streets and public areas. Using pre-recorded footage, video projection, infrared cameras and custom software, the faces and bodies of latino day laborers living in the city will be projected on top of the body and faces of the audience and passers by. The mirrored windows of the buildings will function as the main interface for this uncanny experience, where the human body becomes also a mirroring surface (through video projection) for others.

This project seeks to create temporary proximity and coexistent encounters between strangers divided by race, migratory and even economic circumstances living in the same city. This intervention in the public space seeks to challenge the urge for concealment that exists in our mirrored cities. Participants (both from the audience and the volunteers for the project) will be invited to engage, perform and appropriate each others’ gestures in the public space through video projections.

Technical Description:

By projecting images from inside the buildings, the body of passersby will be used as a surface for video projections. Using live projection mapping, infrared cameras and a custom-made app that tracks faces and motion, the faces of two strangers (the volunteer and the audience member)  are combined in real-time, creating a third image that is reflected back to the viewer (or passerby) through the two way mirrored windows of the building

Up to three video projectors, computers and IR cameras inside a storefront or the lobby of a building are aimed at the streets during night time, covering a projection area of 20 ft long. A computer running a computer-vision app and Infrared cameras analyze the body motions and facial features of the audience outside and uses the data to overlap projected images directly onto their faces and torso. Audiences can activate the interaction by adjusting their body and position in the space, as well as creating collective gestures, performing or interacting with the image of the person recorded in video. The projected images are only visible when they overlap on top of the bodies in the space and then get reflected in the windows.

Diagram: