Philomène Longpré

A Multisensory Approach to Responsive Video Membranes

Philomène Longpré
Special Individualized Program (SIP) Ph.D.
Concordia University

Philomène Longpré is an artist as well as a multisensory media researcher and SIP PhD candidate at Concordia University in Montreal. Since 1999, she has been conducting research on video screens, specifically on how a screen’s materiality, interactivity, and spatiality can augment an individual’s sensory, affective, and cognitive experience of a moving image. Longpré has developed a series of responsive systems that juxtapose virtual characters, video displays, digital interfaces, and abstract sounds in order to intensify the visitor’s bodily experience. Her systems have been exhibited at digital arts festivals internationally, including VIA, EXIT, Nouveaux Monstres (France), Looptopia (USA-Hong Kong), Coprecupa (Italy), BUDi (South Korea), FILE (Brazil), and NEXUS (Thailand). Exhibitions have also taken place at contemporary art galleries and museums, namely the Parisian Laundry, DX Center, Oboro, Beverly Art Center, LIFE Museum, Saw Video, 101 Gallery, and the Society of Art and Technology in Montreal. Longpré holds a Master’s in Art and Technology Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has pursued her research on responsive membranes at the DXARTS Center in Seattle, Washington. She also obtained a BFA in Digital Arts from Concordia University in Montreal. In 2003, she received the Prize of Excellence from the Hexagram Institute for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technologies. She was also accorded with the 2008 Octas Award in Digital Art, the 2005 Judith Hamel Award, and the 2004 Alfred Pinsky Medal. Longpré has taught in the Bachelor’s program in Art and Technology Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as at the University of Washington in Seattle. Within the SIP PhD program at Concordia University, she is currently conducting research on video screens as matrixes of sensations: A Multisensory Approach to Responsive Video Membranes.

Doctoral Research

Video screens are ubiquitous in both private and public spaces, and their proliferation has a significant impact on how people live. Static viewers have slowly shifted into multitasking participants, while fixed-image frames have transformed into mobile devices, capable of escorting their users anywhere. With the ongoing development of the technology and ubiquity of screens, there are numerous questions that should be asked.

For instance, how can screens heighten people’s experiences without giving way to sensory domination, and how can current sensory technologies change the perception of moving images? Of course, the ability to navigate virtual space by touching a visual display has revolutionized people’s senses. How does this responsiveness alter the perception of the presented images? If screens were to become sensitive membranes that respond to the content of the video while simultaneously interacting with participants, how would people embrace this form of communication as it moves even closer to its subject?

Longpré’s PhD research focuses on acquiring an extensive understanding of the different forms of interaction people have had with screens throughout history. This inquiry involves an exploration of the sensory responses to the screens’ materiality, interactivity, and spatiality. The primary aim of this study is to define a multisensory approach to the design of responsive video membranes, with a view to intensifying the participant’s experience of the moving images.

An important requirement for realizing the goal of this exploratory research consists of the observation and experiment stages, in which select subjects are invited to interact with various types of video screens. These experiments examine how people react differently to various forms of representation. In addition, it involves the conceptualization, design, and fabrication of two responsive video membranes, as well as the interactive art systems in which they will be integrated. The showing of these two artistic systems will make it possible to explore the various ways participants respond and position themselves in relation to the screen’s materiality, spatiality, and interactivity within the context of an art exhibition. People’s reactions will be observed and analyzed using the method of sensory ethnography proposed by David Howes in Sensual Relations and later codified by Sarah Pink. Another important objective of this research is to come up with persuasive reasons for designing video displays in direct relation to selected moving images and to demonstrate that these specifically elaborated responsive video membranes can influence people’s bodily experiences and perception for the selected moving images. A key aspect of this research is a unique integrative collaboration between existing scholarly studies in the fields of fine arts, anthropology of the senses, computer science, and mechanical engineering.

Philomène Longpré defended her thesis with distinction in November 2013.