The Hills have eyes



On 1977 Wes Craven released his second film, where a family of mutants capture, torture and dismember everyone who unluckily pass by their house on the hills. The slasher genre fans never stopped making flicks with similar arguments, and even a remake of this film under the same name popped out in 2006. I’ve always liked the title, perhaps because it suggests charmingly the “gaze of the thing” (Lacan-Zizej) in figure of an ever observing landscape. An uncanny contrast between the bucolic and the monstrous.

This idea originated a project that came out of the fascination for reactive structures and graphics I was undergoing at the time: If you could have all those squid or amoeba-like creatures trembling in response to data stimuli, or abstract imagery following someone through a screen in response to light, I was wondering if somehow these were foundational possibilities for a kind of environmental application, a way to interact and be aware of surveillance flows within the city in a rather subtle way.

Because video surveillance and data capture constitute a big, though hidden dimension of our lives within the urbanscape, I found that there was a lot to do around that unnoticed though unavoidable gaze. The idea, simply put, became that of generating reactive simulations out of surveillance data, and use them to provide a dynamic visualization of activity on a public space. Then, observing one of those very usual landscapes that decorate waiting spaces, offices or eating places, it seemed as good material to get hands on and explore a hybrid, pictorial, generated memory of the activity of the observed place. So  Labscape emerged as a way of exploring the basic possibilities on this direction.

I guess the idea was present since those Xerox labs and all the ambient interfaces they planned for ages in Computer Science faculties. Anyhow, the basic appropiation of a common deco object might integrate itself better into contemporary architecture, without pretending to change life itself but to reconfigure the presence and roles of information in our daily lives.