Maraya: Sisyphean Cart is a mobile ‘sousveillance’ cart that conducted a site-specific participatory spatial investigation of Vancouver’s False Creek and the Dubai Marina. Meaning mirror or reflection in Arabic, Maraya focuses on the re-appearance of Vancouver’s False Creek in the Arabian desert as the Dubai Marina.
The interactive artwork premiered at the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in Dubai in 2014, with an exhibition component at the American University of Dubai, and completed its second leg for ISEA 2015 in Vancouver, with an exhibition at 221A Gallery. This custom-designed hand-drawn cart is mounted with an automated pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera and pulled along the both waterfront seawall paths. Imagery produced by the skyscraper-facing camera provide alternative perspectives on these built environments, from vantage points that intentionally torque a conventional street-view perspective.
Through a custom designed program, the PTZ camera searches for connections, similarities and anomalies, generatively remixing its HD video capture with imagery from its doppelganger. Archetypal architectural forms surround the camera, reflecting the master-planned urban landscape that in turn reflects the design and desire of lifestyle and capital that is so fluid and mobile in today’s globalized economies. The cart itself, and significantly the pulling of it, invokes the spectre of labour — purposeful walking as a form of resistance to readily consumed images of idealized leisure — and the Sisyphean weight of this vision.
The PTZ camera footage from the Dubai Marina and Vancouver False Creek seawalls was recorded over many days spanning 2014 and 2015. The final combined video file length is 11 hours, 42 minutes from both locations. The projection in the video installation part of the exhibition was projected in a split-screen format via a generative program on a Mac Mini that selected similar positions of the PTZ camera. Each clip would play until one of the two clips reached another camera position, then jump to the other screen, to be replaced by another clip with the camera aimed in the same direction. This switching logic effectively looked for similarities, sometimes finding them, sometimes finding jarring visual dissonances instead.
The Sisyphean Cart is the culmination of an ongoing investigation of these large-scale urban developments that share the same architects, engineers and urban planners by the Vancouver-based collaborative team of artists M. Simon Levin and Henry Tsang and cultural theorist/writer Glen Lowry. Previous projects by the Maraya project have included exhibitions at the Museum of Vancouver, ISEA2014 in Dubai, Art Dubai, Centre A, Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, outdoor projections and installations, public talks and walks, and an interactive Online Platform (marayaprojects.com).
Exhibition at 221A Gallery, Vancouver (click here for link to 221A)