Penguins Mirror and Reflection on IM

Penguins Mirror is an interactive installation by Daniel Rozin. It consists of 450 stuffed penguins, and the penguins can turn from side to side in a homogeneous way. Once the viewer stands in front of this installation, the penguins will turn to form a pattern that reflects the contour of the viewer. It is interesting to see such a different “mirror” as opposed to the digital mirrors that are often seen in interactive media. My favourite thing about this piece is the use of contrasting colors of black and white. When the mirror solely consists of blackness, space in front of the mirror suddenly turns into a space of emptiness. When someone walks toward the mirror, the whiteness from the reflection sheds light into this empty space.

The individual penguins contribute to the formation of the mirror, but it is also the individual penguins that can potentially break the mirror. When I first looked at this piece, I didn’t realize that the penguins are turning to form an image of the person standing in front of them. My focus was on the individual penguins, and I did not recognize them as an inseparable entity. Is this installation primarily a mirror? Or is it an installation of stuffed penguins? It can be both, but I prefer a simpler mirror that establishes itself primarily as an installation of mirror rather than an installation of stuffed animals.


Now that we are approaching the end of this semester, it is time to do some reflection on interactive media. Originally I treated interactive media as a physical manifestation of sophisticated codes. Behind every installation of interactive media, there is a process of input, processing and output. I thought what lie at the core of IM are the hardware and codes. However, now I have understood that there can also be an artistic aspect of interactive media in addition to the technical aspect. My classmates and I have been engaged in the creation of art at some point during the semester, be it an animation of snow or an evil robot. Our interactive media projects are accessible and tangible to people because it has a physical side as well as an artistic side that people can interact with. Being immersed in the environment of interactive media, I have gained a different insight into the nature of interactive media. I can be both a programmer and an artist in the world of interactive media.

In this context, I do believe that interactive media is an important part of the modern world, for it provides us with the opportunity to express creativity through technology. However, one must not forget the interactivity inside the creativity. One may simply design a creative device without being interactive. Despite the potential distraction from the mirror to individual penguins, the Penguin Mirror mentioned above is an example of being both creative and interactive. It is creative because it is a mirror that consists of stuffed penguins. It is interactive because it reflects the respective contour of each viewer. The process of input, processing and output is manifested in the installation. Being both creative and interactive, the interactive media pieces share some similarities with human beings. In one of the readings from the beginning of the semester, the process of input, processing and output is described as a similar process to humans listening, thinking and listening. I wonder if the processing part can develop into a stage in which the interactive media piece works like a human brain. It would be nice to see the incorporation of human intelligence into interactive media.

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