StoryRooms at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester

Andrea Zapp
(with a soundtrack by Vini Reilly)

Human Avatars



Human Avatars is an interactive installation that creates a visual and imaginary dialogue between real and virtual participants on a networked stage:

Visitors in the exhibition space discover a wooden hut, which they are invited to enter. A live image of them inside is projected into a remote model version of the hut, where other visitors can make contact with the tiny moving figures by peeping through a small window. Yet unaware that a small surveillance camera in the model displays their peering faces back on the window of the big shed, with their eyes now overshadowing the participants inside.

The architecture and the direct visual exchange is playful, even thrilling. However, it could also turn out to be controversial and ironic, once the voyeuristic strategy behind the idyllic backdrop becomes evident - and the participants feeling more and more observed and exposed. The project then recalls rather ambivalent and melancholic side effects of surveillance, self-exposure and visual control, which we have come to accept as an intrinsic, even entertaining part of mass media. Vini Reilly from Manchester's Durutti Column has written a soundtrack for the inside of the hut, that emphasizes this subtle and ambiguous network and its fragile encounters.



Background information

Andrea Zapp has a background in film and TV studies and creates disorientating digital platforms mixing real, virtual and online spaces, such as The Imaginary Hotel installation (2003) that surrounds a furnished hotel room with metamorphosing virtual walls displaying image contributions sent from the web. She has edited two books, Networked Narrative Environments as imaginary spaces of being, MMU/FACT Liverpool, 2004; and New Screen Media, Cinema/Art/Narrative, BFI, London/ ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2002, (with Martin Rieser). Her art works have been shown at Ars Electronica Linz; ISEA Liverpool and Paris; Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; Festival of Visions Hong Kong - Berlin, Media Forum Moscow, Austrian Photo Triennial Graz, Museum of Image and Sound Sao Paulo; Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts Tokyo; Kunstverein Stuttgart, Intern. Art Fair Madrid, Film Festival Rotterdam; and at conferences including the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth, Australia; ISEA 02 Nagoya; Muestra Euroamericana de Video y Arte Digital, Buenos Aires. In 2005 she has been appointed Senior Lecturer for Media Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Susan Collins
Paul Demarinis
Ken Goldberg
Paul Sermon
Cornelia Sollfrank
Tan Teck Weng
Andrea Zapp