1995 Hong Kong, China
Author: Jeffrey Shaw
This work is an adaptation of an installation made in 1986 at the Vleeshal in Middelburg, Netherlands, titled Going to the Heart of the Center of the Garden of Delights.
This work dramatises one of the paradigmatic modalities of an interactive artwork, which is the notion of the viewer as traveller who enters and explores a virtual space of stored audiovisual information. The Royal Road makes this metaphor of the journey explicit, because the viewer actually walks towards and into the artwork to cause its narrative development.
As the viewer walks towards a large back-projection video console, it appears as if the viewer were entering and passing through a row of virtual video consoles. The installation uses a laser distance sensor to detect the exact position of the viewer. The image sequence is calibrated to change one frame each centimetre as the viewer moves forwards or backwards in front of the screen. The entire image sequence (1,000 frames) plays out over a distance of 10 metres, and blue lights on the floor indicate the positions of the work’s seven main iconographic transformations.
This seven-stage sequence of digitally processed images was derived from art works by Yves Klein’s Portrait of Arman (1962), Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, (circa 1500). The sequence begins with a collage of the Yves Klein sculpture, which has been conjugated with a single frame from King Kong (1933), so that the International Klein Blue figure of Arman appears to be holding the fainting heroine Anne Darrow in his arms. This is followed by a single frame of the strangulation scene in Oshima's film. The six interactive transformations that follow show a progressive digitisation of the Oshima image into an increasingly abstract arrangement of larger and larger pixels. Within these pixel blocks the Bosch painting gradually emerges, until it entirely fills the screen in the final image.
The architectonic presence of this narrative unfolds in the body action of the viewer. And the sequence reverses when the viewer walks away from the screen. This convergence of esoteric, corporal and aesthetic forces becomes relational to the conjunction of sacred, profane and carnal allusions presented in the work's iconographic progression. The Klein collage intimates an inversion of the archetype of Mary holding Christ’s limp body, which then morphs into Oshima’s cruciform organisation of male and female bodies, whose underlying digital formation then recalibrates itself in Bosch’s esoteric corporeality.