A Telekinetic Portrait

Study project at University of Applied Sciences Potsdam

Tasks: Concept development, coding, physical computing, implementation


This interactive portrait was developed for the course "Procedural Portraits" led by Prof. Boris Müller at University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. The aim of the course was to portray a person with generative means which rely on data created by the person that is portrayed. This differs from generative portraits where person and data are more or less exchangeable.
For my work I portrayed Walter von Lucadou. He has PhDs in physics and psychology and he is Germany's most famous scientist of paranormal incidents.
For his research he conducted a lot of telekinesis experiments. The setup of these experiments were the actual inspiration for my concept. The setup consists of a true random generator which generates a random sequence of Zeros and Ones using radioactive decay. There is a line of LEDs as visual output. And for each One produced by the random generator one by one LED is turned on while for each Zero the LEDs are turned off one by one. The test person should now try to concentrate on turning on as many LEDs as possible. He should influence the randomness with his telekinetic force.
My research and an interview with von Lucadou showed that these experiments consistently reveal that some people likely have the ability to force the random generator to produce number sequences that differ from the expected random distribution.
I liked these experiments so I decided to modify the setup and use it for the portrait. Therefore the LEDs were replaced with an image of the scientist and every Zero made the image less visible while every One made it more visible. The Ones and Zeros came from a random number generator that used noise from the line-in of a computer to generate the numbers. The viewer of the installation was invited to try to apply his telekinetic force to get an undistorted impression of the image.
In the result a number of bytes from the image file were manipulated directly which produced glitches when the image was displayed. The more Zeros we had, the more bytes got hacked. The more Ones we had, the less bytes got hacked. This led to uncanny image sequences like in the example above.