The interactive installation Reaction Machine by Jonas Hansen and Klaas Jan Mollema was based on the theme 'intimate connectedness'. Within this theme the following aspects interested us, interaction between strangers, sharing ideas and movement, direct contact and the use of physical objects. Out of these aspects we developed our final concept. It is based on a simple children's game. In that game you create a story together by writing down a sentence, folding the paper so that only the last sentence is visible and passing the paper to the next person in line. In the end the paper is unfolded and provides an unpredictable story.
In the Reaction Machine different kinds of technologies are combined in one object: a television screen is combined with a old rusty gear wheel and a handle, all together connected to a computer with a web cam, microphone and speakers. The object looks unfamiliar, but the interface is clear: a chair in front of it to sit on, a television screen to watch and a handle to turn.
When a curious visitor sits down and starts to explore the use of the machine, she will discover that the machine is not about the wired use of its technologies. It's about people that are using it and all used technologies and materials are only there to enable this interaction. So when a visitor sits down, she will see herself and somebody else looking at each other on the television screen. Her head is filmed live by a web cam and combined with a recording of somebody else. As soon as she starts to turn the handle the video recording of the other person starts to be played. After watching the video the visitor is asked to record herself. If she now keeps turning the wheel, she will be recorded. In the end of her recording, her movie will be mirrored and the next visitor can watch and react on it. In this way people can play with the machine, discover its function, react on each other, sometimes in a direct and expressive way, sometimes in a intimate and exploratory way and sometimes in a way telling each other stories, like in the old children's game.
The project plays with the intimate field of tension between people. Balance of power, personal input and connecting old and new technology are all part of this experience. Reaction Machine is an open system, in which the visitor's reaction determines the art work. It was demonstrated on several international arts and science festivals. Read more on the project website.