In the Domain of The King – 2004


In the Domain of The King

In the Domain of The King 2004

“Did you know? In 1977, there were 37 Elvis impersonators in the world. By 1993, there were 48,000. At this rate, by 2010, one in every three people will be an Elvis impersonator.”
 

I was a little frightened when I first read it, but, having subsequently lived through it all and seen its effects on my immediate family and friends, it wasn’t really so bad as all that.

It is in the nature of prophesies to be simple and perhaps a little naïve. If they had included the realities as we experienced them in our own lives at the time, perhaps the proclamation would have lacked resonance.

If they had predicted the mass hysteria as governments, sometimes violently, attempted to control this strange kind of rebellion (if it was rebellion).

If they saw my son, Spike, as he, in the space of just a few weeks, went from youthful curiosity to deep obsession. If they saw his complex dual identity evolve and fragment. If they saw the gatherings and disputes, the alliances and schisms.

If they saw how the distinctions recursively split and redefined. the different Elvis personae through which one passed in the course of ones life. The baby Elvis who awakened in the womb to the sound of a gospel choir. Vigorous young Elvis who played guitar and sang through a cloud of pheromones. Soldier Elvis who answered the call of duty and got a haircut. Fat, tragic and drug-dependent Elvis (perhaps the ultimate Elvis impersonator) who finally left his fragile body to float free in the dreams of the world.

The ones who were not really Elvis impersonators, but chose to impersonate Elvis impersonators. The Elvis impersonators who chose to impersonate non-impersonators or even ones who impersonated the former impersonators of impersonators. More types emerged than one could even begin to classify or name.

The roar of the breaking wave, its energy dispersing as it diffused and divided, became a hiss of foam receding across the sand.

In its wake, a collection of stranded creatures scuttling for shelter amongst the debris. And Spike? He’s fine, sitting here at breakfast like any normal seventeen year old, except for the creepy way he says “Thankyer very much!”

For the other two thirds of us, life comes down to one burning question doesn’t it? If I am not Elvis, then who am I?

Background

Technology and many other social phenomena do not easily translate to simple lines on a graph. The future will be experienced as a qualitative thing by individual people. The kinds of population (rich, poor, happy, sad) and the kinds of technology are what will matter.

This piece is presented as a malfunctioning museum exhibit from some time after the great Elvis plague of 2010. By that time, memetic or cultural viruses have developed beyond what we see now and human hearts and minds are a battlefield. Flakey old technologies like augmented reality can only be shown under emulation

Augmented reality is by then an old technology and no longer anything special, certainly not such a clunky antiquated device as used in this piece. Personally, I think the terms virtual and reality are misleading and get in the way of more interesting ways to use this kind of technology. I prefer to think about what matters or what has meaning.

Technology

While still largely the domain of computer programmers, augmented reality is edging its way toward becoming a viable medium for artists and designers. Tools will soon become available to allow us to make our own works without having to actually program the thing from scratch.

This piece uses a camera to find the positions of special markers then tells a 3D modeling package where they are in relation to the camera. This lets us mix the computer generated and video camera image together to make a mixed reality in our field of vision. A video mixer lets the piece occasionally mess with the real image as well crating an even less secure image. The teething troubles of an infant technology, conveniently for me, echo the behaviours of the same technology in its future senility precariously sustained by layers of simulation.