Chameleon Eyes is a Proposal for a public art competition in a social housing complex with a generous adjacent park on the outskirts of Zurich. The work is consisting of two thermal cameras installed on top of two of the three new buildings. The existing architectural structure as well as the landscaping of the park are of historical importance: the overall architectural design of the site provides an early example of a post-war housing complex in Switzerland and includes the first two high-rises in the country; the spacious park is well admired for its thoughtful design, gentle atmosphere and sophisticated planting schemes which provide seasonal attractions. The two surveillance cameras on the rooftops scan the sky in continuous movement for birds, bats, insects, drones, helicopters and aircrafts. Once detected, the head-absorbing flying objects will be tracked, and the two video streams are being screened on an LED display installed in the park. Due to the usage of thermal imaging, the system is able to capture images day and night without the additional artificial light.
The display of the video streams on the LED screen is structured around behavioural patterns of migrating birds, both seasonal and daily. This involves the specific camera system in use as well as the display modes seen in the park. These include: live-stream, playback of recordings, and a set of generic graphic animations of the bird migration.
The structuring of the video feed into temporal and compositional visual patterns is the main artistic focus of the work: the interplay between infinite tracking shots, different display modes, and the compositions generated through the two simultaneous streams constitute a relatively simple cybernetic entity. To establish the perception of the piece as a form of autonomous yet fictional intelligence that generates and distributes data and images, the elaboration of rhythms through the defining and setting parameters is central. These parameters will be defined during a year-long development process during which questions such like whether or not – or in what manner – the two chameleon eyes can communicate with each other.
The project will be developed with the help of Vogelwarte Sempach, the mayor ornithological institute of Switzerland. Rather than accumulating scientifically useful data, the collaboration seeks to heighten the awareness for migratory birds as temporary inhabitants of the site, as well as to provide an entry point for further involvement and access to more thorough knowledge. To achieve this, a set of digital and analogue publications and cross-references will be developed.
Visualization: Daniel Julier
Data: Vogelwarte Sempach