Tartarus, an “exercise in futility”

Another piece i saw at ars electronica (looks like a loooong time ago now) is Tartarus. It is a real time 3D simulation in which you interact with a virtual character. You have to touch the screen with your finger to guide the little man through dark rooms and dilapidated staircases. Like Sisyphus, the character is destined to carry his burden over and over again. It’s not a giant rock as in the Greek mythology tale but something slightly ridiculous: a wooden chair.

0tartarus.jpgAs the viewer guides the character, the perpetual replication of his environment is discovered. Iterations of the chair begin to accumulate, eventually building to an impasse. At this critical point, the obstacles fade and the cycle repeats.

It took me some time to understand what was happening. You touch the screen and the eyes of the man will follow the place you touched, then he’ll grab the chair and carry it along the corridor. Facial expressions respond to the location and prompting of the viewer’s position in the scene. The virtual camera is programmed to follow the character and navigate within the confines of the architectural space. Over two dozen animation sequences are randomly accesses and blended to control the character in response to the viewer’s interaction and to the geometry of the environment.

A work by Alan Price, Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, Ohio State University.