It’s a Donnie World

It’s a Donnie World

by Alvaro Cassinelli, Stephane Perrin & Miou

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News: “It’s a Donnie World” was one of the winners of Dorkbot Tokyo 2009.


Description

We performed invasive surgery on an innocent puppet to render it capable of sight.

We gave “Donnie” – our bunnie-shaped doll – monocular vision by substituting one of its fake eyes by a webcam.

We went even further: we gave Donnie a delusional mind, as well as the ability to project the stream of delusional imagery into the outside world, for everybody to see.

cyborgeyedonnie

Artistic Statement (if any)

Face recognition and tracking is becoming a very popular feature on webcams as well as digital cameras. This function is supposed to help, by reducing the number of failed snapshots. But we pay a price. The mechanism introduces a subtle bias on the way we see the world – or at least on the way we do photography. Indeed, the camera decides for us what is a good or a bad portrait. Aesthetic values are being commodified – once again in our consumerist society. In It’s a Donnie World, we expose this paradox by exaggerating the effects of this marketed intervention: after recognition is performed, the camera takes an active step by actually substituting the human face by that of a puppet – an exchangeable face, a commodified face. The puppet with it’s camera-eye does not try to conceal the intervention. Instead it proudly and openly exposes its idiosyncratic view of the world for anybody to see.

This simple (denunciatory) exercise had some unexpected, disturbing consequences. One can argue that children live in a psychotic, delusional world: they see “characters” in everyday inanimate objects, and a fortiori they attribute fictional characters to anthropomorphic or zoomorphic puppets. They play with these by exchanging roles, and often place themselves in the puppet’s eye. (Most) adults naturally repress these visions, only to trap them in the subconscious. It’s a Donnie World set them free again. Now, if the result invariably produces some laughter, one does not fail to recognize a brink of nervosity there – something disturbing is happening in the process. Indeed, on close observation – by randomly freezing the live video and taking a (printable) snapshot – one is surprised to find more often than not a palette of grotesque grimaces that results from the unnatural marriage of a human gesturing face and the innocent but expressionless face of the puppet.

We relate this eerie, disturbing (but sought of) impression to the unnatural blending of the artificial and the natural (the “uncanny valley” effect), to the confrontation of the innocent world (of children) with the stained, impure expressions of adulthood.


Technical Statement

Face recognition software (openframeworks) scan for human faces and replace them by pre-recorded video sequences. A simple algorithm tracks the position of the nose and when possible turns the head in the corresponding direction. The images are displayed for everybody to see and can be printed on postcards.