We created two interactive installations to act as the centrepiece for an exhibition at the Science Museum in London that explored the current debate around the importance and fragility of our digital identities
We wanted to explore, with these two installations, the elements that make us unique: our appearance/physical identity and our interaction with the world around us. In each case what may appear to be incorruptible and constant in the real world, such as our unique appearance, can be distorted and manipulated in the virtual world.
At first glance the installation appear to be a mirror of the real world of the gallery space. However, this mirror image of our world is transposed onto a virtual plane where the rules of ownership no longer apply. Suddenly one person’s head is transplanted onto another person’s body, creating a hybrid being whose identity is compromised: with one person controlling the body whilst another controls the mind. In this virtual world the laws of physics no longer applies and the basic tenets that make us human are corrupted.
The installation explores the idea that our virtual identity is constantly under threat of attack by a swarm of ‘bugs’ trying to feed off the fabric of our virtual being. Again the installation is a hyper-painting a mirror that reflects the world of the gallery by transposes it onto a virtual plane, teaming with swarms of parasites. If the viewers are oblivious to their relationship with the world around them, a metaphor for their unguarded virtual identity, then the swarm of bugs will devour them. However, if they are aware of the threat then they are able to move, an arm or a foot for example and influence their environment – swatting away the threat of the insatiable swarm and protecting their identity. Only when we are aware of the threat to our digital identity can we take precautions to protect ourselves.
The exhibition, sponsored by McAfee, ran at the Science Museum in London from November 2005 – January 2006. It then began its tour of Europe, moving onto the USA in late 2006 and running into early 2007.