Ghost Pole Propagator
2007 | Golan Levin
Ghost Pole Propagator (2007: Golan Levin) is an interactive installation originally developed for projection in the 13th century Belsay Hall Castle, in Newcastle, England as part of the Picture House exhibition. The exhibition catalogue states: “Levin’s new interactive installation presents a phantom transcription of visitors to the Belsay Castle, recording and replaying highly abstracted ‘skeletons’ of the artwork’s own observers. Projected on the walls of the castle’s medieval kitchen, the quiet and otherworldly animations suggest the bustle of past ghosts, or ancient petroglyphs.”
Ghost Pole Propagator captures and replays the ‘skeletons’ of passersby in its environment, creating a layered and dynamic tapestry that reflects the history and activity of a locale. Presenting a universal communication of presence, attitude and gesture, the stick-figures this artwork generates are compact and expressive means of representing the human form. The format of the work is variable; in other presentations, the project serves as a kind of ‘interpretive monitoring station’ for nearby pedestrian traffic.
Stick-figures, or skeletons, are an extremely compact yet exceptionally expressive means of representing the human form. The graphic simplicity of such figures belies their emotional force. By eliminating unnecessary details and reducing visual elements to their absolute essence, stick figures accomplish a powerful, immediately apprehensible and possibly universal communication of human presence, attitude and gesture. Looking around, we can observe such stick figures in the ancient petroglyphs of the British Isles; in children’s drawings and cartoons; and in the pioneering motion studies of the early photographic naturalists, Etienne Marey and Eadweard Muybridge.
Ghost Pole Propagator, an interactive software artwork temporarily installed in Belsay Castle, Newcastle, captures and replays the “skeletons” of passersby in its environment, creating a layered and dynamic tapestry which reflects the history and activity of its locale. The animated figures produced by the work preserve all of the gestural qualities of the visitor’s movements and gait, while simultaneously abstracting the visitor’s appearance into a proto-symbolic, timeless, petroglyphic “character”.
At Belsay Castle, visitors see their own stick-figures displayed in this way, moving in real time; they also see the animated skeletons of previous visitors, whose movements had been recorded during prior visits. The result is a surface populated by the animating traces and ghosts of the visitors to the Castle. The timeless quality of these human shapes evokes the centuries-long history of the site’s residents and guests.