Perry Hoberman
Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents is an installation consisting of objects on a tabletop onto which images are projected from multiple projectors. Users can pick up and manipulate these objects, which are tracked in three-dimensional space. This tracking information is used to update and transform the projections, so that the user perceives the projections and objects as a single hybrid entity. The objects are simple white boxes, and the projected images function as decals or labels on their surfaces. Unlike physical labels, however, the projections are able to shift and morph in response to the motions of the object. Also represented by the projections (and by speakers enclosed in each box) are the ‘contents’ of each box, which react in ways both predictable and unpredictable. Each movement of each box can transform its surface and contents constantly, while the enclosed speaker can reproduce the sound of the contents being moved and shaken. By tipping the box, its contents can be poured out onto the tabletop (which is also white and serves as an additional projection surface). When users spill their box’s contents onto the table surface, these contents can mix with the spilled contents of other boxes, reacting to form hybrid virtual substances which can have a life of their own.

Table Of Contents is a play on the binary pair form/content, substituting the (less glamorous) pair container/contents. This shift brings the discussion down to its lowest common denominator: packaging. On one level, the play between the projected package surface and its virtual contents is meant to point to the absurdity of any attempt to split the artwork into the two distinct realms of form (syntax, technique) and content (meaning, topic). The boxes 'advertise' their contents, but (like advertising) they are quite likely to misrepresent the product. The package is a kind of consumer analog of the Universal Turing Machine (a computer which can imitate any other computing device): this box is a kind of Universal Product which can imitate any other product. Colors and surfaces melt across each package, rearranging themselves in response to users' manipulations. Text and images appear and transform, providing clues to the virtual matter within. The box is both input device and display surface, providing an intuitive interface that should be apparent to the user the moment s/he picks it up for the first time. As the box is turned and moved through space, its surface transforms in precise synchronization with its activity.

A box advertises its contents as ‘New & Improved!’, while what gets poured out is old and moldy. A liquid poured from a box spreads to cover the entire table in a complex pattern. Something poured from one box slithers across the table to another box, flowing into it and infecting it. Virtual paint poured from one box flows to the center of the table, mixing with colors poured from other boxes. Boxes display Alice-In-Wonderland-style instructions (Shake Me! Spill Me!). Boxes left alone begin to leak their contents onto the tabletop. Touching one box to another transfers the state of the one box to the other. Shaking a box initiates a rhythmic sequence, as though it were some kind of musical instrument. A countdown appears on a box, as though it contains some sort of bomb. A box becomes a sponge that can soak up the spilled contents of another box.