Susan Collins

In Conversation

14 November - 13 December 1997

In Conversation was an installation and large-scale interactive intervention that took place both inside and outside of Fabrica. This work was one of eleven Channel commissions, entitled Inhabiting Metropolis, which explored the concept of the ‘Digital City’ and was curated and produced by BN1 and Lighthouse.


This installation was an experiment in interfacing the world wide web with the street. Audio and video projected onto Duke Street in Brighton was controllable remotely by users of the website both locally and worldwide. Internet users could see video (surveillance) images, and audio fed back from the street in Brighton, and were given the opportunity to strike up conversations with strangers on the street, via a ‘virtual voicebox’.


Street participants saw images projected onto the pavement, and heard computerised voices and other sounds, without seeing a computer. Microphones picked up the ‘real’ sounds and voices from the street and fed them back through the net link.


Fabrica hosted a large-scale projection of the video surveillance images and amplified sound from the street, creating a sense of a hyperreality; a film unfolding in ‘real’ time.


The idea of the piece was to attempt to introduce these two very different forms of public space to each other; one in which people can be very eager to meet and strike up a conversation with a stranger (the net), the other where people were often very keen to avoid each other (the street). The website hosted a number of ways in which one might strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, and invited visitors to leave more suggestions.


The In Conversation website was ‘live’ for four weeks, building up an archive of social exchanges over this period. The project can be viewed as an experimental exploration into how different environments and means of interaction affect not only our willingness to communicate, but the way and manner in which we do so.

The archive remains online at www.inconversation.com