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A Delicate Agreement: Exploring Subtle Gaze-Triggered Interaction in Art

This is an ongoing project.


Our schedules are carved into blocks of time that are devoted to various tasks. Time to get up. Class time. Lunch time. Meeting time. Between these blocks of time in our day exist small streams of “in-between”. These are not our coffee breaks or bathroom breaks; they are the time between leaving our desks and arriving at the coffee shop or bathroom. We normally let these moments pass by without a second thought, even though, stacked end-to-end, they probably account for a sizeable portion of our lifespan. Sometimes a meaningful event will occur during one of these “in-between times”, or liminal times, such as a casual interaction with another person.


There is a certain expectation that tacitly exists for common liminal spaces such as stairways, hallways and elevators. These spaces require movement in order to exist comfortably within them, for example, walking through a corridor or riding in an elevator. In the case of an elevator, the space itself is moving and the people within must wait for it to complete its task. Consequently, a definite “in-between” time is created within a liminal space, and the movement of people is restricted to a limited area. In Western civilization, we have well defined notions of personal space that we expect others to respect. This is not limited to proximity alone, but includes gaze and speech. The liminal space of the elevator is an appropriate setting to examine the effects of gaze on interaction between strangers. There is an intrinsic awkwardness and tension in this space; its occupants hope that their co-riders will not break the silence or somehow violate the delicate agreement about how one ought to behave and where it is acceptable to look when one must be alone with a stranger for a set amount of time in a confined space.


A Delicate Agreement is a gaze-triggered interactive installation that explores these concepts. It is a set of elevator doors with a peephole in each door that entices viewers to peer inside and observe an animation of the passengers. Each elevator passenger, or character, has a programmed personality that enables them to act and react to the other characters’ behaviour and the viewers’ gaze. The result is the emergence of a rich interactive narrative made up of encounters in the liminal time and space of an elevator ride.


Exhibitions and Awards

  • - The New Alberta Contemporaries. Esker Foundation, Calgary, June 14 – August 25, 2012.
  • Winner of the 2011 Digital Alberta Student Digital Award
  • - Innovation: Technics of Mind-Body Performance. Alberta Graduate Conference, Little Gallery, University of Calgary, May 2011.
  • - A Delicate Agreement – MFA Thesis Exhibition. Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL), University of Calgary, March 25 – April 25, 2011.


NSERCSMART Technologies – Alberta Innovates Technology Futures – Canadian Foundation for Innovation