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Telepresent water, robot arms in Tokyo show

A visit to the dizzying world of telepresent water and people-tracking robot cameras at the NTT InterCommunication Center gallery.

The cameras in Mikami Seiko's "Desire of Codes" move and track visitors like an insect swarm. Ryuichi Maruo (YCAM)

TOKYO--Walking into Mikami Seiko's installation "Desire of Codes" feels like taking a trip into the mind of a robot.

In a large, dark room, cameras on articulated robotic arms swing from the ceiling and track your face, only inches away.

On a nearby wall, 90 small robotic arms, some equipped with sensors and cameras, whirr and click like so many metallic caterpillars as they track your movements.

They're watching you and recording you, then mixing the footage in a giant projection at the rear of the space. Like an enormous insect eye, it shows a multifaceted pastiche of quick clips taken in the room as well as from surveillance cameras around the world. Check out this video of a previous version.

The effect is disorienting. Welcome to the machine.

This updated version of multimedia artist Seiko's installation is showing at NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC) in Tokyo's Shinjuku district after a spell at Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM).

The work asks the question, "What new desires do we have, now that we live in an information-oriented environment and have perceptions shaped by that environment?"

"Desire of Codes" runs through December 18, but other robots will be greeting visitors to ICC for three months after that. As part of "Open Space 2011," a multi-artist show on tech, art, and media that references communication theorist Marshall McLuhan, David Bowen's kinetic robots are drawing with charcoal, responding to the presence of people, and mimicking the flow of water.

Indeed, Bowen's recent "Tele-present Water" installation is one of the most startling displays at the ICC gallery. As seen in the vid below, it uses the concept of telepresence but applies it to a natural phenomenon.

It's basically a marionette system, with a mesh of tubes that move like a wave while suspended in mid-air. The puppeteer, as it were, is an overhead control system that pulls cables up or lets them fall to mimic the ocean.

As Bowen explains on his Web site, "Wave data is being collected in real-time from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data buoy station 46246, 49.985 N 145.089 W on the Pacific Ocean. The wave intensity and frequency is scaled and transferred to the mechanical grid structure resulting in a simulation of the physical effects caused by the movement of water from halfway around the world."

Check out pics of Bowen's works at the ICC gallery in Tokyo, as well as other wild creations on display, in our photo gallery.

tele-present water from david bowen on Vimeo.