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ghosts in the machine, romance in the garden

dlux shows ghostgarden at the sydney festival


Ghostgarden, (video still), Anita Fontaine Ghostgarden, (video still), Anita Fontaine
ANITA FONTAINE’S GHOSTGARDEN TAKES YOU ON A WALK THROUGH A GARDEN WHOSE GHOSTS APPEAR ON A GPS-ENABLED HAND-HELD PC. ATTACHED BY HEADPHONES, YOU TRACK A WHIMSICAL, GOTHIC ROMANCE IN A 19TH CENTURY SETTING IN 12 SCENES BETWEEN A CASTAWAY AND AN ARISTOCRAT.

Ghostgarden is the creation of Australian artist Anita Fontaine and her technical producer, Canadian Michael Pelletier. Both formerly worked in new media at Canada’s Banff Centre. Fontaine is now based in Boston working on her own projects and with an advertising agency.

Ghostgarden is not interactive in the way you might expect, say, of a Blast Theory creation [p26]. But you do have to work, using your device to find the WIFI hotspots in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens that will activate the PC in the same unit. And that’s an adventure in itself, involving not a little walking and the discovery of many incidental pleasures on the way. Once you’ve hit the spot, the PC calls up a fragment of the tale in the form of an animated image with matching voiceover and sound score. You then move on through the garden in search of more episodes in this elliptical tale of heartbreak.

Beyond the narrative’s 19th century setting being broadly correlated with the Botanic Gardens’ origins, there’s no precise connection between the site and screen images, although, as you near Sydney Harbour, there is a water scene. The male lover emerges from the deep with the treasure demanded by his beloved.

The tiny, full colour gothic images are collaged and vividly detailed (more would be revealed on a larger screen but that’s not what the project is about), the animation very simple, the narrative poetic and the score as sweetly romantic as the occasionally dark, sometimes erotic tale it tells. What Ghostgarden reveals is the creative potential of an accessible electronic medium and, like Blast Theory’s Rider Spoke, although in a very different way, overlays a physical experience of place with a palimpsest of a very different order. Welcome to a parallel universe. RT


Ghostgarden, artist, creator Anita Fontaine, programmer Mike Pelletier, poetry Michael Boyce; d/Lux/MediaArts in association with Sydney Festival and Botanic Gardens Trust Sydney; Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Jan 5-27

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 24

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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