Passages: Interactive Media Art Installation

in Singapore Art Show 2005's Creative Curating Lab,
23 September – 23 October 2005, CityLink Mall.

Alexander Mitchell

"There is memory in public spaces, but it usually isn't visible to those who pass through; technology can be used to record, and also reveal, this hidden memory."

Passages is an interactive art installation exploring the traces left behind by the passage of people through a public, urban landscape. By tracking the movement of people, and creating a persistent, but gradually fading, visual trail of this motion, the piece reflects the transient, yet important, impact that our movement through a spatial landscape has on the temporal landscape of memory. The piece was shown as part of the Singapore Art Show 2005's Creative Curating Lab, 23 September-23 October 2005, at CityLink Mall.

This project was created by Alexander Mitchell with Patricia Lim and Ng Wen Lei, and was curated by Susie Wong.

Artistic Concept

The installation explores the idea of memory and communication in an urban public space. In a natural space, such as a grassy field or a forest, the character of the space changes over time based on how people use it and how people move through it – wearing down a path, leaving physical evidence of the passage of people. The constant changes to the environment act as a memory of those who have passed by, and provide a subtle communication between people who may never meet, but have passed through the same space at different times.

In contrast, a man-made urban space, such as the CityLink Mall tunnel, is a controlled environment where people moving through have little if any impact on the space. There is a memory in public spaces, but it isn't visible to those who pass through; instead, it takes the form of pervasive monitoring devices and surveillance equipment, through which all our movements are recorded. However, unlike a public space, we don't have access to that memory. Control of the memory of the space is no longer available to the community, but instead resides with the authorities/owners of the space. This removal of control and loss of the communicative elements of a public space is in effect a process of privatization of what was once a public space.

The installation made visible the movements through a space, and the invisible changes that take place over time, by recording and visualizing the passage of people through the tunnel, providing a semblance of the worn path that is created by many people walking through a grassy field. The piece also captured glimpses of the people who have passed through, providing fleeting memories of who had been there, while at the same time suggesting how our movement is monitored. The piece encouraged people to reflect on the hidden memories of a place, and how their passage through the space, although fleeting, does indeed have an impact on the space, and may have been recorded without our knowledge.

Technical Description

The installation consisted of a video camera recording movement through the space in front of the display area, several televisions, and a computer. The camera recorded people's movements, which were displayed on the televisions. The computer displayed the camera's image whereever motion was detected. These movements were later replayed, ghostlike, as transparent overlays on top of the live video, and gradually faded over time, showing the traces of movements of people who had passed through the space in the past.


Singapore Art Show 2005 Catalogue, National Arts Council, Singapore, 2005, p. 63-63.

External Links


Alexander Mitchell teaches interactive media at the Communications and New Media Programme of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.

Before joining NUS, he was a lecturer at the School of Design, Nanyang Polytechnic, where he taught and developed projects in interactive media and games. Alex has worked as an interaction designer at IDEO, London, and at Kent Ridge Digital Labs (now called I2R), Singapore. He has a M.Sc. in Computer Science (Human-Computer Interaction) from the University of Toronto. His work has been shown at SIGGRAPH'98, at the Science Museum in London, at Graphite 2004 at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and as part of the Creative Curating Lab at the Singapore Art Show 2005.

His research interests include games studies, narrative and play, experimental gameplay, situated/ambient interaction, qualitative research methodologies for interaction design, and computer-supported cooperative work/play/learning. He teaches modules on game design, narrative and play in interactive media, and interactivity and everyday life.


Chapters in books

  • Posner, I.R., Mitchell, A., and Baecker, R.M., "Learning to Write Together Using Groupware", in Groupware and Authoring, Rada, R. (ed.), Academic Press, 1996, pp. 161-185.

Conference Papers

  • Das, T., Singh, G., Mitchell, A., Kumar, P.S., and McGee, K. "NetEffect: A Network Architecture for Large-Scale Multi-User Virtual Worlds", in Proceedings of VRST'97, ACM Press, New York, 1997, pp. 157-163.
  • Posner, I.R., Baecker, R.M., and Mitchell, A. "Evaluating Real Users, Using Real Software, Performing Real Tasks, in Real Contexts", in Proceedings of HCI International '97, Elsevier, 1997, pp. 597-600.
  • Das, T., Singh, G., Mitchell, A., Kumar, P.S., and McGee, K. "Developing Social Virtual Worlds using NetEffect", in Proceedings of WETICE'97, IEEE Computer Society Press, California, 1997, pp.148-154.
  • Mitchell, A., Posner, I.R., and Baecker, R.M., "Learning to Write Together Using Groupware", in Proceedings of CHI '95, Denver, Colorado, May 1995, pp. 288-295.


  • Mitchell, A. Communication and Shared Understanding in Collaborative Writing, Master's Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, 1996.


  • Baecker, R.M., Glass, G., Mitchell, A., and Posner, I.R., "SASSE: the Collaborative Editor", 8 minute refereed video tape presented at CHI '94; also published in SIGGRAPH Video Review 97, 1994.


Alexander Mitchell can be contacted by:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Telephone: (65) 6516 3021


His website is located at

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dean's Office, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences National University of Singapore

  • Add: The Shaw Foundation Building, Block AS7, Level 5
  • 5 Arts Link, Singapore 117570
  • Level 5 (Undergraduate) & Level 6 (Graduate)
  • Fax: +65 6777 0751
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