A Networked Telepresence Installation realized on the Internet on October 23, 1994
"Ornitorrinco in Eden", by Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett , bridged the placeless space of the Internet with physical spaces in Seattle (WA), Chicago (IL), and Lexington (KY). The piece consisted of these three nodes of active participation and multiple nodes of observation worldwide.
In this telepresence installation, the mobile and wireless telerobot Ornitorrinco (Platypus, in Portuguese) in Chicago was controlled in real time by participants in Lexington and Seattle. The remote participants shared the body of Ornitorrinco simultaneously. Via the Internet, they saw the remote installation through Ornitorrinco's eye.
The participants controlled the telerobot simultaneously via a regular telephone link (three-way conference call) in real-time. Communication took place not through verbal or oral exchange but through the rhythms that resulted from their engagement in a shared mediated experience. Remote participants pressed keys on the telephone to move the robot's body in space.
Viewers and participants were invited to experience an invented remote space from a perspective other than their own. As the piece was experienced through the Internet, anybody in the world with Internet access could see it, dissolving gallery boundaries and making the work accessible to larger audiences.
"Ornitorrinco in Eden" created a context in which anonymous participants perceived that it was only through their shared experience and non-hierarchical collaboration that little by little, or almost frame by frame, a new reality was constructed. In this new reality, spatiotemporal distances became irrelevant, virtual and real spaces became equivalent, and linguistic barriers were temporarily removed in favor of a common empowering experience. Viewers from several American cities and many countries (including Finland, Canada, Germany, and Ireland) came on-line and were able to see the remote installation in Chicago from the point of view of Ornitorrinco (as controlled by anonymous participants in Lexington and Seattle).
"Ornitorrinco in Eden" was part of the interactive art festival "Beyond Fast Forward" organized by Northwest CyberArtists and 911 Media Arts (at the Seattle Center, in Seattle, WA). It was also part of Eduardo Kac's show, "Dialogues", at the Center for Contemporary Art, University of Kentucky, Lexington.