TUNNEL (2000)

Press Release Spring 2000

A major new architectural interactive cinema installation, by Grahame Weinbren and James Cathcart with Sandra McLean. Opening May 13th 2000, at Zeche Zollern, Dortmund, Germany.

TUNNEL is a new environmental cinema installation featuring video projections in the floor and ceiling of a 90-foot tunnel suspended 20 feet above the ground. Its world premiere will be in the massive machine room of the Zollern coal mine in Dortmund, Germany on May 13, 2000. It is a collaboration of Grahame Weinbren, James Cathcart and Sandra McLean.

Tunnel was commissioned by the city of Dortmund Germany for the Vision.Ruhr Exhibition. The exhibition is scheduled to run for 4 months. Vision.Ruhr is a major exhibition, curated by Axel Wirths and 235 Media. Zeche Zollern is the site of a huge coal mine in Dortmund, the Ruhr Valley, industrial heartland of Germany.

On entering Tunnel, large video images images appear under one's feet. Rounding a bend, images appear on the low ceiling. The images are of miners and other industrial laborers, though only the heads and shoulders, or the soles of their feet, are visible. The passage of people as they walk through the installation environment affect the images, by means of six foot long sensor arrays. The actions of the virtual laborers mirror those of the modern-day visitors, stopping when they stop, moving with them as they move forward. Each visitor to the tunnel has his or her own virtual avatar that negotiates the space with him.

The historic Ruhr region, a landscape formerly dominated by smoke and flames pouring from 19th century coalmines and huge factories and mills, is marked by a fascinating architectural heritage. In this context, Tunnel refers to the historic mining past of the Ruhr Valley, but in a new perspective. A sense of vertigo replaces claustrophobia, yet the experience of being inside the installation is not unlike that of being in an actual underground mine. This work speaks about our notions of progress, conformity and time.

Grahame Weinbren and James Cathcart have previously collaborated on the installation MARCH, commissioned by Creative Time in 1998 for the Anchorage (the vault below the Brooklyn Bridge) in New York City. In 1999, Mr. Weinbren and Sandra McLean collaborated on the interactive installation FRAMES for the NTT-ICC Biennial in Tokyo.

The Vision.Ruhr exhibition is sponsored by the city of Dortmund, Germany. The exhibition's central venue will be the ªLandmark´ Zeche Zollern II/IV, a model mine of one of the greatest coal mining companies of the 19th century. Since 1981, the premises have been the headquarters of "Westfälisches Industriemuseum" and in spring 1999 the mine was re-opened as a museum.

The central part of the exhibition will consist of outstanding media installations, sculptures and performances by internationally renowned artists. The program covers the areas of music, film and the Internet. Through a series of new art works, the Vision.Ruhr exhibition documents the transition from a turn of the century industrial region to a contemporary, information laden, technical environment.

Different exhibition elements will combine to form an overall view that represents a creative discussion of the present and the future based upon the cultural heritage of the region.

Grahame Weinbren was among the first artists to work with interactive moving image technologies. His interactive cinema installations have been exhibited in museums, galleries, and festivals since 1986, including the Whitney Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Centre Pompidou, ICA in London, NTT-ICC in Tokyo, Bonn Kunsthalle, and Kwangju (Korea) Biennale. His personal films have been shown internationally, at festivals and on television since the 1970s.

James Cathcart is an architect and artist, best known for his work on the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. His own works have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States, and he has worked with Grahame Weinbren since 1993.

Tunnel is the second piece that Sandra McLean has worked on with Grahame Weinbren. She was the producer of Frames for the NTT-ICC Biennial in Japan in October 1999. She has been making digital art since the early 1990's and her work as appeared in several New Media shows, among them the Digital Salon in New York City and International New Media Design Festival at which she won an award for her interactive CD-ROM, Life on this Earth. She has taught at New York University and the New School for Social Research, Parsons School of Design and currently, she is lecturing on Interactive Theory, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.