The Past is a Ghost


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“Space has no objective reality except as an order or arrangement of the objects we perceive in it, and time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.”

Lincoln Barnett (on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity)

Developed for the Soundmarks exhibition at Art Interactive, The Past is a Ghost is an interactive video installation for public spaces that was designed to test the aptitude of virtual transformation for transcendent experience.

Considering history and geography, it is possible to view one’s presence in any physical location as an additive overlay to the other previous presences. The time you spend somewhere is a new page in the biography of that place, partially unique, partially contextualized by the pages written before and the pages still to come. This view helps us to position ourselves as contributors to global processes specifically keyed by time and place.

This idea of existing in, or contributing to, the localized stream of historical progression is at the heart of The Past Is A Ghost. A TV monitor shines out, showing a live surveillance image of passing pedestrians and the surrounding street scene, evidence of the here and now. When a passerby stops to observe the monitor, the background fades away and the viewer is cast into a compressed virtual history, rendered into the ghosted past of the camera’s collected observations, while maintaining both feet in the present. It is then possible to glimpse the spot the viewer occupies as not only a Cartesian co-ordinate, but also as a chronological nexus possessed of the past and waiting on the future.