Michelle Hessel

Current Times: Installation | Experience Design

Current Times

Current Times is a social commentary exploring the current state of human communication, where we exist in a physical world yet are trapped in the digital environment, only to communicate to the outside through digital devices.

Categories: Installation, Experience Design, Live Performance, 3D

Tools: Unreal Engine, Illustrator, CNC routing, Photoshop, Structure Sensor

Role: Concept Development, Design, 3D Scan

Collaborators: Angela Perrone, Gal Nissim, Lindsey Johnson


Current Times was part of an exhibition around the theme of time at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, located at the corner of 3rd Street and LaGuardia Place, NYC. 

Two window displays compose this installation:


Window #1: A real person is sitting inside the window, at a representation of a bleached room. They are on a computer and do not acknowledge what is happening in the out-of-the-window world. They communicate with others only through digital devices. The actor was portrayed by either myself, Angela Perrone, Gal Nissim or Lindsey Johnson and live-controlled their digital self on window 2.

Window #2: The digital self of the person on window 1 stands in a digital void inside a screen, moving and interacting with people walking by on the sidewalk. This avatar is able to express their feelings and connect with people much more than the real person sitting next door. There is a second screen inside this window that displays a chat box where people can text and communicate with the avatar using a web address. The avatars can react via chat and/or with actions that showcase everything from emotions to dancing:

When there is no actor performing: A sleeping dummy is placed inside window 1. At window 2, we see her digital self sleeping on a cloud. Around her, other clouds carry her social media icons. As time passes, notifications keep accumulating on top of the icons, showing the number of missed posts.