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Spiegelzellen | Mirror Cells


Mirror Cells is an interactive installation that turns around our perception of space and time.
The gamers as well as the visitors are immersed inside an infinitely mirrored acousmatic-visual 3d-world.   

Mirror Cells was a feature-project of  ars   electronica 2007

and was seen at the exhibition:
"Acting in Utopia2 Sep 5 - Nov 11 2007 Landesgalerie Linz, Museumsstr. 14

curated by: Anna Karina Hofbauer & Dieter Buchhart








Mirror Cells

The phenomenon of the so-called mirror neurons has been the starting point and the source of inspiration for the interactive installation Mirror Cells. These neurons that were for the first time experimentally proofed in 1991 not only fire in an action but also when an action is observed, thus mirroring the behaviour in a looped potential that does not cause an action. This is considered a possible key to the understanding of complex social behaviours like language, culture or empathy.


Sylvia Eckermann, Peter Szely and Doron Goldfarb in their project Mirror Cells raise the question how this relates to computer games, in which gamers identify with their virtual selves to the degree that they speak of their own deaths when the game ends involuntarily. What is it like to be immersed into a virtual world, to perceive yourself inside it or to describe ones representation with the term “I” respectively? How do gamers react to game situations that do not allow annihilation but allow mutual appreciation, that do not allow combat but allow common experience, that do not allow manoeuvres but allow strolling around? Do the invented fantasies of a game enable potentials for the users to realize real forms of acting together or forms of realizing the acting of others respectively?


Situated in this context, Mirror Cells has been developed as an independent "projection" taking on the form of a mental and narrative journey: Mirror Cells is an interactive installation that turns around our perception of space and time inside an entirely mirrored architecture. The gamers as well as the visitors are immersed inside an acusmatic-visual 3d-world.


The architecture consists of a mirror-space of 5 by 5 by 2 meters that tapers upwards. The visitors are mirrored all around in the reflections of three circular projections—they seem to hover and at the same time become part of the virtual world. Three people interact with each other at the same time. They move through a continuous stream of audio-visual spaces, which deal with realms of experience on memory, adaptation, the body, and what we associate with these topics.

A specific sound is ascribed to each of the gamers. Each sound represents an "acusmatic I" that acts and develops according to the moves of the player. The first-person-perspectives are separately audible in an 8-channel-sound-environment, but are actively "cultivated" by the gamers to manifold "chords-variations" and complex sound tracks.

The game world—reflecting the brain itself—is opened up, a sensual connection to the outside is implemented by a specially programmed interface: The visitors are invited to send text messages, which are mapped into the 3d-world, thus allowing communication between the real world and the mirror world.


The project Mirror Cells is not conceived as an artwork alone; it is a temporary lab, an experiment that opens a field for the mirror neurons themselves and their potentials.




The Project was financed with the help of:

Special thanks to: Dr. Martin Hochleitner and his team from the Landesgalerie Linz and to Alois Bernsteiner.

Additional Credits: Christoph Staber, Gernot Dannereder : Player Model and Animation
Photo Credits: Gerda Leopold, Gerald Nestler