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Blast Theory :: Desert Rain [1999]

»Desert Rain« is a combination of performance, installation, and computer game. Six players at a time enter the environment and are sent on a mission to find six human targets within 20 minutes. Separated from each other in fabric cubicles, the players have to negotiate a virtual world projected onto a rain curtain. They explore motels, deserts and underground bunkers, communicating with each other through a live audio link. Led later through the rain curtain and over a sand dune, the players encounter on a television screen the person who has been their supposed target. Each such target has an association with the Gulf wars. The central artistic concern of »Desert Rain« is virtual warfare, the blurring of the boundaries between real and virtual events, especially with regard to the portrayal of warfare on television news, in Hollywood films and in computer games. Inspired by Jean Baudrillard's assertion that the Gulf War did not actually take place because it was in fact a virtual event, both the content and the form of the work are designed to provoke participants to reevaluate the boundaries between reality and fiction, and between the real and the virtual.

Type of Work
Shared interactive environment for performance

· Concept and realization: Blast Theory [Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr, Nicholas Tandivanitj, Jamie Iddon]
· Producer: Andrew Chetty
· Application software: University of Nottingham Communications Research Group [Steve Benford, Chris Greenhalgh, Boriana Koleva, Ian Taylor, Gail Reynard]
· Supported by the Arts Council of England, the European Commissionís Kaleidoscope Fund, the European Commissionís Esprit Project → eRENA, and the »NOW 99« Festival Nottingham · Co-produced by the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media with the University of Nottingham, Communications Research Group [UK], and the KTH, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm [S].


Ante-room with:
6 chairs
6 plastic containers
6 waterproof jackets

6 waterproof cabins, each inside a water basin
6 sets of headphones
7 foot mats equipped with sensors [interfaces]
6 wooden pathways
6 b/w video cameras
6 projectors on steel girders
10-m wooden corridor
3,000 kg sand
Hotel room with photo-wallpaper
DVD-interface, incl. reader
12 magnetic-stripe cards
magnetic-card reading device
6 curtains for fog
3 water pumps 8 Pentium II PCs (400Mhz) 7 monitors
6 video splitters, 6 VGA cables
audio mixer

AC3D Software for presentation: MASSIVE2 (University of Nottingham)

Duration of Performance: ca. 30 min.


· Institute for Visual Media

Presentations [selected]
Premiere: 18.10.1999, »NOW 99« Festival, Nottingham, [UK]
First presentation at the ZKM | Karlsruhe: 11.11.1999, »net_condition,« ZKM_Media Theater


Blast Theory: »Desert Rain« [1999] / Shared interactive environment for performance Installation view ZKM | Karlsruhe, 1999
Photo: Franz Wamhof / © Blast Theory

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