Becoming Animal is an interactive performance piece developed by Minimaforms for the experimental sonic performance festival, Faster than Sound. The performance was installed as the entry to the festival, housed in the K9 building of Bentwaters Military Airbase in Suffolk, England.
The project explores the story of the mythical three-headed beast, Cerberus, guardian of the underworld. The objective of the piece was to create an environment of performance through collective participation. Each participant’s presence stimulates the three heads of the Cerberus, triggering behaviour-based interactions and exchanges. Interactions are expressed through sounds, facial expressions and general activity of the Cerberus. The continued dialogue between users and the system demonstrates emotive exchanges that exhibit love, anger and boredom.
The system was developed to display life-like responses so as to enable playful interactions between participants and the projection heads.
The project became an experiment in communication based on the human tendency to project life into forms that exhibit a complex and dynamic behaviour (for example, the tendencies articulated in the seminal works
of Valentino Braitenberg’s Vehicles and William Grey Walter’s Tortoises).
Becoming Animal used motion tracking to recognise participants through light. The system would identify a number of participants through point light sources and identify and place their proximity in relation to the intensity of the light values which would in turn be dynamically mapped. This simple recognition would develop dynamic and complex interactions. These interactions would include three distinct types of exchanges: dog to user, dog to dog and user to user.
Beyond the passive models of observation found in the traditional context of viewing art, the system would only actively participate through dynamic patterns of stimuli. In responding to this, over 250 dog masks were created with embedded LED lights placed at the forehead of each mask. Obscuring recognition, the masks allowed participants to behave in an uninhibited manner, becoming performers in a theatrical system and exhibiting a collective playfulness.