Trails and ideas Explore, get lost, discover...

Planned for a night exhibition in a park, I wanted to design an interactive installation to bring people in the middle of the woods. People usually don’t step out of the main enlighten way. Yet One has to feel lost, somewhere in a dark undergrowth, to fully be aware of One’s surrounding. Somewhere between the treasure map and Hansel and Gretel’s trail, the installation was aimed to guide the wanderer on undiscovered paths, where only the few meters ahead would be lid.

A first creative option was to use an Ariadne’s thread. Holding it would make a light shine ahead, leading the way to the undergrowth. Releasing would turn off the light.

Ariadne's thread, Sirènes Sylvestre first sketches.

Ariadne’s thread, Sirènes Sylvestre first sketches.

As in all interactive artwork, the idea also come from/with the technical solution. The thread touch detection would have been done by capacitive detection over a metal thread. But it might have been unreliable and complicated to produce, risking to end up with a poor interactive experience. The use of sound guidance or sound detection was quickly dismissed because it might have interfere with the sounds of nature. Motion detection appeared then to be the most simple, cheap and efficient solution. It made the thread useless, and with no action required from the visitor, it would create an even more immersive feeling. Lights turning magically on ahead, and off behind, the visitor would not see anymore where he came from, neither far ahead, the only choice offered to him would be to go on.

The inspiration came from mythology, fairy tales and popular stories. It is connected to the mermaid and their ability to lure wanderers away from the safe ways. Inspired by Ariadne’s thread or Hansel and Gretel’s rocks path: both knew an efficient system to find a way through an hostile environment. The light path, which disappears behind you as you go through, is also an interesting idea from the Alice in Wonderland journey. The little forest spirits, guiding Mononoke Princess in the Miyazaki movie. The Faeries, in the book by Brian Froud illustrated by Alan Lee…

The project fed on all those fantasies connected to the unknown things of nature, which follow their own ways and interact from times to times with humans. As any phenomenon, they are beyond moral judgment: neither good nor bad, they are pure instinct.

Working on the design of the lights meant trying to find a way to express this facinating characteristic: to attract and repulse at the same time…

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