Nora & Torvald

Nora & Torvald

mediated furniture

The starting point for this work was a re-reading of Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Dollís House” (1879) as a means by which to explore relationships. For this work we wanted to concentrate on the relationship between the play’s main characters: husband and wife, Nora Helmer and Torvald Helmer. For us the Helmer’s relationship is a metaphor for the taken for granted and often disposable nature of contemporary products. The play explores the delicate balance and inherent conflict between valuing the self (Nora) and the expectations of society (Torvald). For “Nora & Torvald” we wanted to draw attention to the intimacy of the user-object relationship.

Nora & Torvald embeds sensor-controlled digital media in custom-designed pieces of furniture. There is an accelerometer in the rocking stool, Nora. When she is rocked this triggers a line of her dialogue from a library of selected lines from “A Doll’s House” to be played as audio and uploaded as text to a Twitter feed. There is a photocell embedded in the seat of the armchair Torvald. This sends a message when it registers darkness (i.e. when someone sits down). This also triggers a line of his dialogue from the play to be played as audio and an external camera to upload an image of the sitter to the project website.

The designs and code for “Nora & Torvald” have also been exhibited as drawings and as a pulp, romance novel.

Sample dialogue (when 2 people are sitting; and rocking):

T: This time I needn’t sit here and be dull all alone. You have just come at a fortunate moment.
N: Itís wonderful! Wonderful things don’t happen every day. Take this armchair; I will sit here in the rocking-chair.
T: Has anyone been here?
N: What a thoughtless creature I am, chattering away like this.
T: You can depend on me.
N: It will make me so happy to be of some use to you.
T: Donít disturb me. Look straight at me.
N: I am in a silly mood today. Come and sit down here, and I will show you something.
T: How unreasonable and how ungrateful you are. What sort of madness is this! Can you not understand your place in your own home?
N: What do you want of me? Have you been sitting here waiting for me?
T: I may as well tell you plainly, we were once on very intimate terms with one another.
N: You donít understand me, and I have never understood you either.
T: Explain yourself better. I donít understand you. Can I never be anything more than a stranger to you?
N: You must simply listen to what I say. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you.
T: You are right, it has affected us both. Something ugly has come between us. Where are you going?
N: Isnít there one thing that strikes you as strange in our sitting here like this.
T: Here you shall stay and give me an explanation.
N: Does it not occur to you that this is the first time we two, have had a serious conversation?
T: On the contrary, I feel extraordinarily lively. And you? You really look both tired and sleepy.

The designs for “Nora & Torvald” were shown in “Drawing on Sculpture” (2010) at the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery, University of Dallas, Irving, Texas curated by Phillip Shore. “Nora & Torvald” (the romance novel) is included in “The Love Library” (2012-13) and has been shown at iMOCA (Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art) in Indianapolis, Indiana; Printed Matter Inc. in New York, New York; Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, Kansas; MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit) in Detroit, Michigan. “The Love Library” is curated by Chido Johnson.

TITLE: Nora & Torvald

PROJECT TYPE: Mediated Furniture

LOCATION: Originally shown as “et dukkehjem” during the “Chain Reaction” festival at the Museum of the City of Skopje, Skopje, Macedonia. Curated by Elena Veljanovska.

Design: Summer 2010 – Fall 2010
Completed: Fall 2010

FUNDING: Trust for Mutual Understanding.

CREDITS: John Marshall (rootoftwo), Cezanne Charles (rootoftwo)

DIMENSIONS: Nora 18′ (L) x 18′ (W) x 18′ (H)
Torvald 18′ (L) x 18′ (W) x 30′ (H)

MEDIA: Birch plywood, Arduino micro-controllers, sensors, speakers, digital audio.