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Rouen Revisited

1996 | Golan Levin and Paul Debevec

Rouen Revisited

Rouen Revisited (1996: Golan Levin and Paul Debevec) is an interactive kiosk which allows its users to explore eight dimensions of the façade of the Rouen Cathedral in Normandy. We can examine the cathedral in various levels of fog; at different times of day; from different points of view on a three-dimensional viewing surface; and lastly, along three dimensions of interpretation and media: namely, as the cathedral appeared to photographers a hundred years ago, as it appears today, and as it would appear if Monet's impressionist paintings of it were aligned with and projected onto its surface.

Many more ways of exploring and understanding the Gothic cathedral are afforded by moving between and around these modes. We can observe the many ways in which the cathedral has changed in the past century, for example, by moving between the re-renderings of the old photographs and those of the new photographs. We can come to an understanding of which geometric details Monet chose to focus on, by moving between views of his paintings and the historic photographs from the same time period. We can come to understand how the play of light at a given time of day may have inspired Monet to paint the colors and textures he did—by moving between a painting and the new photograph which shares the same time of day. And, when we scrub through the time-series of Monet paintings, we have a unique opportunity to access the entire set of Monet's Cathedral paintings, and gain an appreciation for the both the range of Monet's exploration as well as the constraints within which he chose to work. Finally, by changing the time of day and our point of view around the cathedral, we may derive a sense of place—a feeling for the Rouen Cathedral as a real physical artifact, and a sense of the passage of a day in Rouen.

Rouen Revisited is an artifact about artifacts about an artifact—an interactive and open-ended interpretation of paintings and photographs, which are themselves interpretations of an ancient Gothic artwork. Ultimately, the interpretation which Rouen Revisited affords is a dynamic one, forged in the mind of the user when she creates, using the multidimensional interface, her own Rouen Cathedral composition.

Time series of Monet's paintingsPhotographic time-series of the Rouen CathedralMultiple views of a Monet painting as projected onto the surface of the Rouen Cathedral

Left to right: Synthetic renderings used in Rouen Revisited of: twenty-four of Monet's Cathedral paintings, ordered from early morning to sunset; twenty-four photographs of the Rouen Cathedral, ordered from early morning to sunset; and one of Monet's Cathedral paintings, re-aligned with and projected onto the surface of the cathedral model, and then re-rendered from a series of different positions. The dimensionality of the cathedral model can be most clearly seen in the columns and arches around the doors. The black regions are the areas of the Cathedral's geometry that Monet did not paint.

In October 2000 the Rouen Revisted installation became a part of the permanent collection of the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York City. Prior to this, Rouen Revisited was presented at the following venues:

  • The Tech Museum of Innovation
    San Jose, California, USA, 31 October 1998 - 31 March 1999
  • Eighth International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA '97)
    Chicago, USA, 22 - 27 September 1997
  • Fleshfactor: Ars Electronica Festival '97
    Linz, Austria, 8 - 13 September 1997
  • The Bridge: The Siggraph '96 Art Show,
    New Orleans, USA, 4 - 9 August 1996

More information, images and videos are available at the Rouen Revisited web site.