Luc Courchesne is a digital arts pioneer. From interactive portraits to immersive experience systems, he has created innovative and engaging works that have earned him prestigious awards such as the Grand Prize of the ICC Biennale in Tokyo in 1997 and the Award of Distinction at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, in 1999. His works are in major collections, including the ZKM Karlsruhe collection, and have featured in a hundred exhibitions around the world, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is the director of research at the Société des arts technologiques (SAT), an honorary professor at the Université de Montréal, and member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Courchesne is represented by Galerie Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.
Jacques Doyon: For the Sitegeist fund-raising campaign initiated by Ciel variable, you produced an artwork called L’invention de l’horizon, based on a drawing that you found ten years ago and in which you recognized a strong affinity with your own research. Can you describe how that drawing became interwoven with your work and the form in which it was finally brought to life?
Luc Courchesne: After I made the interactive video panorama Paysage no. 1 (1997), I began to look for a way to simplify the shooting and presentation of immersive artworks. My hypothesis was that I could replace the cumbersome mechanism of four synchronized cameras with a device using a single camera. After a number of attempts, in the summer of 1998 I tested a successful concept using a pyramidal mirror that reflected a complete horizon, divided into four portions, into a camera placed below. To project the image, one simply replaced the camera with a projector and placed the projector-mirror device in the centre of a cylindrical screen. As I became involved in making an optical-quality pyramidal mirror, I discovered the work of Professor S. K. Nayar, at Columbia University in New York, who had developed a catadioptric (conico-spherical) mirror that, attached to a surveillance camera, recorded the space around it in its entirety. When I saw this circular anamorphosis, I had the idea of replacing the cylindrical screen with an inverted dome on which the visual coherence of the place would be restored for a viewer situated in the centre. Following in Nayar’s footsteps, I discovered the existence of Cyclovision Technologies, a company that was manufacturing and marketing his technology under licence. I was therefore able to get my hands on an early sample of the optical device in the fall of 1999 and, with the help of an engineer at the company, Sergey Trubko, I adapted it to the new HD video cameras, which were just coming on the market at the time. The Panoscope prototype, a single-channel immersive projection device, was presented publicly for the first time at the SIGGRAPH conference in New Orleans in July 2000. Translated by Käthe Roth
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Jacques Doyon has been the editor-in-chief and director of Ciel variable since January 2000.