← Back to Articles

To Lie and to Act: Potemkin's Villages, Cinema and Telepresence


In Checkpoint '95, three immobile cars are stationed in three different cities: Linz, New York, and Moscow. A little toy vehicle, equipped with a television camera, is running over the Nibelungen Bridge. An image picked up by this camera is simultaneously transmitted to Linz, New York, and Moscow. By looking at this image, a driver sitting in a stationary car remotely operates the toy vehicle.

Throughout human history, representational technologies have served two main functions: to deceive the viewer and to enable action, i.e. to allow the viewer to manipulate reality through representations. Fashion and make up, paintings, dioramas, decoys and virtual reality fall into the first category. Maps, architectural drawings, x-rays, and telepresence fall into the second. To deceive the viewer or to enable action: these are the two axises which structure the history of visual representations.

In Checkpoint '95 these axises come together. The image seen by the driver is a deception, corresponding not to the immediate space outside of the car but to a remote location. Yet the same image enables the driver to affect physical reality at this remote location. The project also combines technologies of telecommunication, television and telepresence with references to older representational technologies: fake architecture and cinema. What are the new possibilities for deception and action offered by these recently developed technologies? Using the elements as Checkpoint '95 as a starting point, this essay will reflect on this question.

Article  1995