Photo credit: Windell H. Oskay,
on creative engineering and new media art

Khronos Projector (2005)

March 16th, 2009

Responsive video installation by Alvaro Cassinelli and Masatoshi Ishakawa

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Khronos Projector looks like a backprojected image on a wall. But the projection surface is very flexible, and you can push it in with your hands. When you do that, the parts of the image that you push in change appearance. Specifically, you shift parts of the video in time. You don’t just play, stop, rewind and fast forward the entire video, but different parts of the screen can be at different positions in the video — at  the same time.

If you view the video data as a spatio-temporal volume (with x, y coordinates making up the screen coordinates and the individual frames aligned along the z axis), a normal form of viewing is like showing the intersection with a plane sliding along the z axis. Khronos Projector allows you to shape that intersection from a plane to a curved surface.

There are (many) other pieces examining this form of slicing up video volumes, using traditional slit scan techniques or (more commonly these days) software to do it. Golan Levin has assembled a really impressive Informal Catalogue of Slit-scan Video Artworks and Research []

There’s a lot more about Khronos Projector at

They have has been showing this piece with different videos and with slightly different setups, sometimes including live video. I think that is because it lands somewhere in between new media art and innovative interface design. Indeed, Cassinelli is both a researcher and an artist.

Here’s a thought:

Anything an artist does tends to be interpreted as art. Therefore, if an artists shows a piece like this but with different video material, this is likely to can be construed as a hint that the artist is working with the conceptual aspects of the piece, not the material ones. Consider the case of Joseph Kosuth, showing his “One and Three Chairs”, consisting of a chair, a photograph of the chair, and a text from a dictionary about what a chair is — using different chairs, photographs and texts in different shows. This is not because he couldn’t decide on a particular chair, but to highlight that the particular chair was not important. Similarly, anything an engineering-type guy does tends to be viewed as engineering. In this case, the “lack of content” is (I believe) more likely to be viewed as an example of how engineers don’t understand the conceptual aspects, but only work with “the interface”. OK, maybe that bit about the Kosuth piece is just confusing, because clearly that is a conceptual piece. Perhaps Damien Hirst placing various medium-sized animals in formaldehyde is a better example. With a little effort, the Khronos Projector can also be seen more as a conceptual piece, and that this is, perhaps, why they’ve shown it with different video “content” – not because they don’t care, but because the piece is not about that particular shot of a cityscape, or any of the other pieces, but about the more abstract idea of how time changes everything, or perhaps that time does not change things, only your perspective on it, yada yada.

On the other hand, I’m an engineering-type guy myself, and I too think feel that the Khronos Projector is primarily an interesting interface design – but perhaps a conceptual interface design? Anyway, my posting about art pieces here does not generally mean I think they are particulary “good art”, or even art that I like, just that I think they are pieces worth knowing about.


Speaking of Damien Hirst, I came across this beautiful Lego rendering of Hirst’s classic The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, made by the Little Artists aka John Cake and Darren Neave. (