Daniel Rozin is an artist and teacher of new technologies applied to interactive arts. Personally one of the most original international author, one of the few able to exalt the concept of interactivity with his works and personalize the connections between artist, work and spectator.
We were talking about his works. Works that are the results of years spent in the research and direct application of software and in studying the potential of new technologies. Works that focalize on the concept of “mirror” with admirable perseverance. That means the direct and formal translation of the everyday interactivity that an object as the mirror is able to create with everyone that stares at it.
The originality and simplicity of all the works by Daniel Rozin born during deep studies and a ten-year experience on how PC technologies are able to answer differently to the spectator point of view, physically involved with an active role and part of Rozin’s installations. Artist and researcher able to create his own mathematic expression codes, reluctant to the use of software introduced in a massive way on the market, Rozin has produced during a long carrier tons of works and interactive installations/mirrors, not necessarilyfocused on an evident manifestation of technology, but ruled by a hidden dialogue between physical material, recycled material, everyday material and computer exactly.
Frankly there are just a few works such as Mechanical Mirrors in the world of interactive design. From chromatic Shiny Balls Mirror able to physically reproduce the concept of pixel of an hexagonal matrix using 900 metallic pipes with chromatic spheres perfectly enamelled and reflecting, to the couple Trash Mirror and Wooden Mirror , created with 500 pieces of every shape and dimension (of trash in the first case and wood in the second one) connected to monitors and positioned each time from a computer, so that they can perfectly reflect anyone who stands in front of it.
Not inferior the Proxxi Mirror series, developed with a software made by Rozin himself, that reproduce on digital printed matter the well-known dynamic of double image that you can see from different distances from the print. Analogously, Software Mirrors series is able to mirror the image of people who stand in front of a micro-camera, modifying features and activating soft translations in function of a free interpretation of the computer (and the software, always rigorously owner).
It’s maybe in the Glass Mirror series that Daniel Rozin ends his route, going back to the true nature of the “mirror” concept, interactive and reflecting element because of its own optical properties. Self Centered Mirror is able to follow the spectator and multiplying its image on 34 mirrors at the same time, eliminating anyone else nearby and stimulating the narcissist inside us. Otherwise Broken Red Mirror exalts the sense of frustration in seeing our reflected image with the well-known professor Red Burns , founder of Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University (NYU) , moreover in front of a mirror in smithereens!!!
Daniel Rozin installations are real mirror of souls, of the artist and the spectators, thanks to a wise use of the optical illusion techniques, to the neural sciences at the base of the retinal perception of our eyes, to the technologies and the most varied materials. Mirrors able not only to reflect, but also immerge anyone in a next-futurist dimension of coexistence and co penetration between real world and virtual world. On condition that always in a gentle, gradual and conscious way.
Mk: Daniel, I’d like to start asking you wich is the concept at the roots of your use of mirrors, the theorical thought beside your works and projects
Daniel Rozin: One of man’s earliest technological inventions, mirrors have been loaded with meaning and myth from the beginning. Mirrors have often been thought as objects of evil and many superstitions are linked to them. Sometimes overlooked in the search for important technological developments, I believe that no other invention has had a more significant impact on the way people perceive the world around them, and more importantly the way they perceive themselves. Mirrors have the ability to let us observe ourselves in the same manner we observe others, this is in complete contrast to the way we experience our being internally, which is a highly subjective process. In spite of its simplicity, a mirror is a profoundly complex object, a mirror has the ability to display for a multitude of viewers a unique reflection, in effect no two people looking into a mirror will ever see the same image even if they are viewing together. This unique behavior of simple optics, is something that even high technology and computers cannot emulate because of its infinite complexity, and yet a polished piece of tin or a charcoal-covered glass can achieve this result easily.
For the past 10 years I have been creating interactive digital art and found the mirror, as an object and paradigm, an excellent platform of expression. Initially unaware, and lately more deliberately, I have created a number of pieces which are in one way or another -mirrors.
Mk: Your work uses physical material in contact with computers and electronic instruments. Why is It so important to you to unite technology to everyday experience with something material, as in your Mechanical Mirrors series?
Daniel Rozin: The final goal of any art piece is to touch people, to connect with them. In order to achieve such connection one must establish a common language and vocabulary. The physical world that surrounds us is the most unifying language that we have. We all spend our entire lives in the physical world and have an amazing intuition regarding its behavior, this is a type of intuition that I believe we will never have with the digital or virtual. Combining the physical with the digital or computational allows us to take the best of both worlds, on one hand to tap into this collective intuition and on the other, to take advantage of the flexibility of computation.
Mk: All of your mechanical mirrors have video cameras and engines controlled by computers, and they produce sounds at the moment when the observer interact with them. Moreover, all of them work on the concept of contrast between light and dark patterns (Shiny Balls Mirror and Circle Mirror most of all). How did you discover this process and how did you work to translate it into computer interaction design ambit?
Daniel Rozin: Once you start seeing patterns of light and dark in the world it is very hard to stop… I now see pixels and visual elements in almost everything I see, it is truly a habit that you acquire. I already have ideal for many more such installations the tricky part is how to transform these ideas into mechanical/ electronic devices. The sound that these pieces produce is not something that I designed or even intended, it was rather, a pleasant surprise. I was somewhat afraid what the sound of 900 little motors would be like, but it turns out that almost any sound that is tightly linked to an image and more so to ones movement is a very soothing experience.
Mk: The Proxxi Prints series seems to base on processes related to the retinal perception of the human eyes. Can you explain how they exactly work and which are the technologies at their roots?
Daniel Rozin: The term coined for this technique is “Proxxi” It comes from the word proximity. These prints have the ability to display tow sets of information, one that is observed from a great distance and one that can be seen from close-by . This is achieved by applying a computer application that uses an algorithm that I developed and patented. The process relies on the way our brain and eyes perceive the world, from a distance our vision and brain are not that interested in details but in large events, on the other hand from nearby our brain clings to detail and ignores color information. The thing I find interesting about this is that these prints ae simple pieces of paper but they are still interactive and change for each observer.
Mk: In the Glass Mirror series you play with the optical illusion concept, in the sense that is something that does not reflect reality, but it is based on the intrinsic properties of the mirrors and not emulating their behaviour with other materials. How did you decide to work also in this direction?
Daniel Rozin: My main interest in my art is to explore the way we view the world and create images in our mind and to explore interactivity, The way we observe ourselves in a mirror is something very personal and it is something that we all understand and have a huge intuition and emotional base. This established base allows me to play on these assumptions and bring forwards different concepts which stand out as a kind of dissonant when the simple mirror object somehow takes on a different behavior than the one we have grown to expect. Thoughts about narcism and vanity come to mind when standing in front of the “Self Centered Mirror” . And the notion of point of view and the idea of “special” comes to mind when viewing “Broken Red Mirror”.
Mk: What can you say about Software Mirrors? In these works you seem interested to the physical nature of the pixel, that are normally conceived as the minimal matrix of digital instrument as the monitor or graphic instruments. How do these mirrors work?
Daniel Rozin: We all use digital images, we use them to send, archive, manipulate and view “real images” . But this is almost always a means to an end, we are interested in a real image, and use the digital image as a functional way to achieve these goals. I have become interested in the digital image itself, in its inhabitants, the pixels. I am trying to investigate with these pieces, the “emotions” and special characteristics of the digital image. In the same time I am also investigating the way we make images in our eyes and brain; What amount of information is required to make an image? How much can you subtract from an image until it loses its meaning? , can you divide between the color information of an image and its geometry? Technically all the Software mirror are simply a computer connected to a video camera and a display , they al run my software that creates some kind of manipulation of the image coming from the video camera.
Mk: What is it the interaction to you? How do you insert these design elements in your works?
Daniel Rozin: Interaction is the core of what I do. When I design a new piece (and design is a good word because I treat each project as a design project) I will usually compromise on all aspects of it in order to get the interaction right. For a digital piece, the interaction os the connection to the viewer, who is in my pieces, the most important part of the work. I see interactive art as a partnership between myself and the end viewer, together we create the piece , and it is different for each viewer.
Mk: You said: “The majority of what happens in the new media are and interaction design depends on the development of new technologies that designers have the use of. The problem to this approach is that the direction followed by the design is defined by technologies offered by developers without really considering its impact on design. My mission is to overturn this flow”. Do you still think this approach is important in front of the incredible potentialities offered by hardware and software more and more present on the market?
Daniel Rozin: Yes. This will always be true, and has been true in the past. If you look at scientific or technological advancements that have been used by artist you will see that they have been initiated by artists, not scientists. Computer companies and scientific researchers are constantly looking to enhance the performance and capabilities of their developments, but the things that they are interested in , are not necessarily those that the artists are looking for. Concepts such as aesthetics, simplicity and beauty, will never be on the agenda of engineers, so it is up to the artists to become proficient in the development of the tools they use and push them to the right direction.
Mk: In short, how did your work and your approach to design change during the last 10 years? Which are the principal differences with your first works and the ones from 2005-2006?
Daniel Rozin: Having doing this for 10 years now, I find that I have narrowed the scope of my artistic investigation and i have become somewhat of an expert in doing the pieces that I make. This is not something bless, but as you do something you become better in it, and you stop questioning some elements. I try to delay this process as much as possible, but i also have to be professional in what I do. On the other hand, having defined the area in which i am working, allows me to investigate things to a greater depth , which may produce some more insightful pieces.