"It's the rails. It is the people who laid the rails, who perhaps died years ago, who are still steering the tram."Lars Saabye Christensen, Echoes of the City, p. 73.
In the kinetic video installation Time to Reflect Reality, we approach different modes of knowing and experiencing the city through a media archaeological investigation of machine vision.
The video installation is comprised of two kinetic video projections, a Mylar curtain, and red-tinted windows. One video projector is attached to a self-driving vehicle in motion and shows a combination of historical tram films from Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim (1908-1950) from the National Library's film archive and tram videos from today's Oslo. These are so-called phantom rides, i.e., footage where the camera is attached to the front of the tram while it traverses the city's network of rails. The other video projector is attached to a slowly rotating mechanism that causes the video image to travel in a 360-vertical loop across the exhibition space. This video shows the recording of the Earth’s surface from the perspective of a NASA satellite in orbit around the planet.
The work addresses the current race to build real-time digital geographies for self-driving vehicles in the future smart city. The time it takes for the system to produce this contextual high-definition map for the self-driving vehicle is referred to as Time to Reflect Reality (TTRR). In this project, however, we are less interested in the concept and future functions of the self-driving vehicle and more concerned with how the advances in machine vision will change our conception of the physical world.
The installation is set up to produce alternative cartographies in the exhibition space through a combination of old and new technologies. Here, we further research and combine the two phenomena we call cinéma trouvé and proxistance. Our intention is to develop a more-than-human approach to knowledge that already figures in the urban environment, but which can easily be overlooked and forgotten in the future smart city.
The sound in the installation is from the project Hum of the Tram—H.O.T.T. Revisited (2009-2021), where sound artist Siri Auseen revisits the sound from Oslo tram 137 and recontextualizes the project Hum of the Tram (2009) in dialog with Bull.Miletic’s artistic research project Time to Reflect Reality.
The self-driving vehicle in Time to Reflect Reality has been developed in collaboration with Chris Myers at the CITRIS Invention Lab, University of California, Berkeley, and Tønnes Frostad Nygaard at the Department of Informatics, University of Oslo.
Hum of the Tram was part of the project Manual for the construction of a sound as a device to elaborate social connection organized by Brandon LaBelle / Jana Winderen for Ultima 2009. Conductor: Leif Inge Xi, mix: Ingar Hunsgaard and Siri Austeen.
Generous support for this project was made available by The Cultural Fund and The Audio and Visual Fund, Arts Council Norway, Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond, The Fritt Ord Foundation, The National Library of Norway, and Vindusfilm.no.
Time to Reflect Reality is part of the collective artistic research project Urban Ecologies: City Sensing Beyond the Human, initiated and led by Bull.Miletic at ROM for Art and Architecture, Oslo. The project has three public dissemination periods beginning with a two-week studio period completed in June 2020, an exhibition period in February 11–March 21. 2021, and a book launch in 2022.
Time to Reflect Reality has been presented at the following conferences and seminars: