In Conversation

Susan Collins

Archive Exhibitions (14 November to 13 December 1997)
In Conversation was an installation and large-scale interactive intervention that took place both inside and outside of Fabrica. This work was one of eleven Channel commissions, entitled Inhabiting Metropolis, which explored the concept of the ‘Digital City’ and was curated and produced by BN1 and Lighthouse.
This installation was an experiment in interfacing the world wide web with the street. Audio and video projected onto Duke Street in Brighton was controllable remotely by users of the website both locally and worldwide. Internet users could see video (surveillance) images, and audio fed back from the street in Brighton, and were given the opportunity to strike up conversations with strangers on the street, via a ‘virtual voicebox’.

Street participants saw images projected onto the pavement, and heard computerised voices and other sounds, without seeing a computer. Microphones picked up the ‘real’ sounds and voices from the street and fed them back through the net link.

Fabrica hosted a large-scale projection of the video surveillance images and amplified sound from the street, creating a sense of a hyperreality; a film unfolding in ‘real’ time.

The idea of the piece was to attempt to introduce these two very different forms of public space to each other; one in which people can be very eager to meet and strike up a conversation with a stranger (the net), the other where people were often very keen to avoid each other (the street). The website hosted a number of ways in which one might strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, and invited visitors to leave more suggestions.

The In Conversation website was ‘live’ for four weeks, building up an archive of social exchanges over this period. The project can be viewed as an experimental exploration into how different environments and means of interaction affect not only our willingness to communicate, but the way and manner in which we do so.

The archive remains online at

About The Artist

Susan Collins (b. 1964 London) is one of the UK's leading artists working with digital media. For the past decade the collision between the real and the artificial or virtual has been a key area of investigation. Collins works across public, gallery and online spaces. Works include In Conversation; Tate in Space (a bafta nominated Tate netart commission); Transporting Skies which transported sky (and other phenomena) live between Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance in Cornwall and Site Gallery Sheffield in Yorkshire; Fenlandia and Glenlandia - live year long pixel by pixel internet transmissions from remote landscapes, and The Spectrascope, an ongoing live pixel by pixel transmission from a haunted house.

Recently completed commissions include a wildlife surveillance system for Sarah Wigglesworth Architects’s RIBA award winning Classroom of the Future; Underglow, a network of illuminated drains for the Corporation of London for Light Up Queen Street and Chaser, a lighting commission for GLOW ‘07 Newcastle.

Recent exhibitions have included Outlook Express(ed) at Oakville Galleries, Ontario, Canada; Digital Aesthetic 2, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston; Webscape, Vestsjællands Kunstmuseum, Søro, Denmark 2007; Video Vortex at Montevideo/The Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam and Multiplicities at ARC Projects, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Susan Collins is Reader in Fine Art, Head of Undergraduate Fine Art Media and has been Head of the Slade Centre for Electronic Media (SCEMFA) at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London since 1995. She completed a PhD on The role of the viewer in the realisation of In Conversation and other works in 2001.

Lighthouse brighton
In conversation


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