Art: The Image Fulgurator

The Austrian Prix Ars Electronica organized since 1987 has itself long established as an indicator for trends in contemporary media art. Participation by internationally renowned artists from over 70 countries and almost 38,000 entries since it was first awarded demonstrate its high visibility as an interdisciplinary platform for computer artists around the world to showcase their work and projects in art, technology and society.

This year more than 4000 artist from 62 countries participated with their projects. The winners were announced last week and German Artist Julius von Bismark with his project “The Image Fulgurator” won one of the five “Golden Nicas” this year for his submission in the category Interactive Art.

Julius von Bismark describes The Image Fulgurator as a device to physically manipulate photography. The intervention happens while the image is taken and almost imperceptible by the photographer. Only when reviewing the resulting images the manipulation becomes visible within the photography.

As long as the pictures are taken with a flash, all images taken of the object(s) pointed at by the Fulgurator will be manipulated and visual information or messages can unnoticeable be planted into the photographs. (Here’s a diagram explaining the process)

(video after the link)

The Image Fulgurator uses kind of an optical feedback and projects the message(s) exactly in that moment onto the object when a picture is taken by someone. The manipulation itself only takes milliseconds.

In our understanding this opens up a broad spectrum of uses. Just think about which messages could be projected onto prominent landmarks (How about putting a “Made in China” sign on the Tour Eiffel, the Leaning tower of Pisa etc while hundreds of Asian tourists are taking pictures – well only one (non-political) example).

Below a video showing the use of the Image Fulgurator in Berlin at the Checkpoint Charlie.

Click on the image below for the link (multimedia)

link to YouTube video

From the Ars Electronica Winner announcement:

Image Fulgurator is amazing to behold—due in equal measure to its ingenious concept and its simple technical implementation. It makes it possible to manipulate photos and to do so at precisely the moment they’re being shot. This subversive witchcraft functions with any camera—as long as the flash is in use. The Image Fulgurator is synchronized with the flash to project some random message onto the subject being focused on at the moment the picture is snapped. Almost invisible to the naked eye, this ghostly image comes to the fore on the photo that eventually emerges.

More information:

Ars Electronica Prix 2008 winners
Julius von Bismark’s Image Fulgurator web site (in German)

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