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   Nina Levitt
Little Breeze
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2002 [installation documentation, length 3min. 16sec.]
[In collaboration with Nicholas Stedman]

A co-production with The Banff Centre, Banff Alberta

An examination of the ephemeral presence of women spies during World War II. This complex interactive project was shaped from stories of British women's resistance and assumed identities. Viewers become active participants in the gathering of (audio) information and the 'decoding' of video images. Through an intimate and tactile relationship with the technology, the viewer's experience and imagination ultimately shaped the layers of imagery, language and metaphor in Little Breeze.

Technical Description Components:
  • 8 vintage suitcases embedded with electronics
  • A large video projection screen connected to an Apple G4 computer
  • SoftVNS and MAX software
  • Specially designed walls to create an intimate viewing space, house the screen and hide the projector and computer

  • Upon entering the gallery, visitors see a large video projection of a sequence of portraits of women made of ASCII (ask-ee) code. Eight suitcases of various sizes and colours are huddled nearby. Signs encourage visitors to pick up the suitcases. Suitcases were left in the gallery wherever visitors were finished using them.

    How it works:
    Each suitcase is equipped with a microcontroller (Basic Stamp 2) that monitors and responds to a user's interaction:
  • When a suitcase is picked up, a tripped switch tells the microcontroller to play back a short sound clip stored on a memory chip (ISD chipcorder), heard through a small speaker.
  • Audio clips include the song Louise by Maurice Chevalier, short biographies of women spys, and sound effects from a feature film based on British agent, Violette Szabo (called Carve Her Name with Pride, 1954).
  • When a suitcase is opened, another switch is tripped. The microcontroller reports this event by wireless RF transmission to a central computer hidden in the gallery. The computer then selects the video sequence that corresponds to the audio loop to play and it emerges from, and displaces the field of ASCII code. The computer also sends the audio from the suitcase to a speaker in the wall.
  • Closing the suitcases causes SoftVNS to displace and morph the video clip back into the ASCII portraits. The sound returns to the suitcase, which continues to play until the case is put down.
  • If more than one suitcase is open at any time, the computer jogs back and forth between video clips causing the narrative to become disjointed and confused.

  • This and other video installations by Nina Levitt are distributed by V/Tape, Toronto.
    Click here to view a larger version.