Magazine article Metro Magazine

The World's Smallest Cinema; the World's Largest Photobooth

Magazine article Metro Magazine

The World's Smallest Cinema; the World's Largest Photobooth

Article excerpt

ONLY A SHORT DISTANCE from the largest cinema screen format in the world (IMAX at the Melbourne Museum) can be found the world's smallest public screen at the recently opened Australian Centre for the Moving Image, at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Booth at ACMI is an interactive multimedia installation by MutleyMedia which was commissioned by ACMI. It is in many ways a microcosm of ACMI itself. Just as ACMI's film screenings, curated exhibitions and public programmes seek to educate and entertain, the Booth experience is fun and interactive, as well as being a serious exploration of net art as a new art form.

Both ACMI and Booth frame the creative capabilities of digital and other technologies within broader historical contexts and this allows the visitor the pleasure of making previously undiscovered links between screen-based art forms, particularly where these 'histories' don't follow a chronological, linear progression.

Perhaps most ambitious of all is Booth's reflection of ACMI's role as a production, exhibition and distribution point all in the one location. (1) ACMI encourages the visitor to take a journey from the passivity of one's comfort zone to the role of an active participant in the works. Through an intimate cinematic encounter, Booth transforms its visitors into inhabitants of the virtual spaces of the World Wide Web. Both the work and the venue that house it are living archives; constantly recording traces of the interaction between visitor and visited.

In anticipation of Booth's official public opening in March I spoke to creative directors, Kathryn Bird and Grant Hilliard about their new work, which has been over seven years in the making.

MR: Even at first sight Booth is quite different to the usual New Media Art installation. Due to the nature of net art, exhibitions of small screen-based work have been confined to a 'monitor on a plinth'. How is the Booth experience unique?

KB: There are three major components to the Booth experience: first is the screening inside Booth, second is the collection of a portrait souvenir outside Booth and third is the process of becoming an online character. It's a hybrid work in the literal sense--it takes forms of interactions with screens and cameras that most people are familiar with, (cinema, photobooth kiosk) to introduce an on-line game space that only some people will be familiar with.

As far as the experience goes, at one particular moment chosen by each of the filmmakers in the first season, Booth takes a photograph of the tiny audience sitting inside. Through these portraits, the viewers can be transformed into characters within Booth's online gameplay worlds.

You both come from traditional filmmaking backgrounds; how did the project come about?

GH: The idea originated a long time ago from a film based in a photobooth and it brought to light the absence of venues for regular screenings of short films apart from the format of short film festivals where you get two hours in one sitting, or in galleries where you get a monitor stuck on a plinth in some sort of unspecified space. In any case the reception of the film is coloured by the way it appears and I suppose first and foremost the Booth project is a response to that.

KB: We started out wanting to create an environment that provided filmmakers with a set of optimum specifications with which they could work. In this case, they'll even able to visualize how far the audience will be sitting away from their work.

GH: We made a decision to privilege its cinematic function with a more controlled environment than the dimensions of a conventional photobooth could offer, and increased the audience capacity from one to three people.

The shape of the booth is like a shell--very organic, round surfaces. Can you describe what people inside and outside Booth see?

GH: Booth's metallic exterior surface is studded with more than one hundred small mother-of-pearl discs, arrayed in a diagonal grid that wraps around this hybrid organic form. …

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