CHAMELEON PROJECT, prototype 05 : Shifting Emotions :

download video example of CHAMELEON prototype 05: (Quicktime, 4.5 meg)

Chameleon Project, Prototype 05 is an interactive single channel video portrait using emotional codes to build the visuals. The portrait is in flux, fragmented. Each fragment constantly infects the fragment around it.

Emotions are always shifting. We often feel an array of emotions, such as when we are angry, we may also feel undercurrents of sadness or fear, but often science likes to use rational models to emulate emotions that often don’t represent these shifting boundaries. Powerful emotions can often simmer beneath the threshold of awareness, impacting on how we perceive and act, even though we have no idea they are at work. This can influence our decisions, our communications and well-being. Researchers today still have shifting ideas of what emotions are, but most agree that they consist of a mixture of subjective feeling, expressive behaviour and physiological responses. Interestingly, even though the way we feel influences how we make sense of our days, we often don’t know how we are feeling. ‘Alexithymia’ means literally “no words for feelings.” It is a condition, particularly among people who have experienced traumatic childhoods. According to Taylor, Doddy & Newman, ‘alexithymia’ refers to a hypothetical personality construct that is characterised by, “(1) a difficulty in identifying and communicating feelings, (2) a difficulty in distinguishing between feelings and bodily sensations (3) impaired symbolization, as evidenced by paucity of fantasies and other imaginative activity, and (4) a preference for focusing on external events rather than inner experiences.” Researchers say, to communicate feelings honestly, you must first be able to identify how your feeling, and then you must be comfortable expressing your feelings. But what happens if you don’t know how you are feeling?

The emotional portrait of prototype 05 tries to visually explore this emotional confusion. The portrait is broken up into 30 segments. Each segment constantly affects the segments around it. The portrait is constantly shifting through an array of emotional states, occasionally resulting in ‘total’ the emotional states that science likes to use.

Chameleon Project, prototype 05 tests different ways of using video image of emotional expressions on the screen to emulate the often leaky, complex and confused nature of emotional expression. The conclusion is an interesting two channel experiment, though in the final interactive, multi-participant situation, it could lead to confusion as its too complex, and abstract.


The project is collaboration with UK based neuroscientists prof Hugo Critchley and prof Chris Frith, affective computer scientists Prof Rosalind Picard, and Dr Rana El kaliouby at the MIT Medialab, Cambridge, and curated by Helen Sloan of SCAN. Gonsalves would like to acknowledge the in kind support from the MIT Media Lab, Banff New Media Institute, SCAN and Institute of Neurology at UCL. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust Large Art Award, Australian Network for Art and Technology Synapse Residency, Arts Council England, Australia Arts Council inter-arts board, Australia Arts Council Visual Arts Board.