Converse With Art at the Beall Center in ‘5 ’til 12′

Always the place for unique and interesting exhibits, the Beall Center for Art and Technology is now displaying another one of its signature showcases. ‘5 ’til 12′ is an interactive video-based art form that takes the shape of a narrative and, in this case, a murder mystery.
The Center’s official description of the exhibit reads: ‘5 ’til 12 is an immersive narrative installation that explores the fragile human ego using evolutionary algorithms and game theory. Through user identification technology, interactive video-based characters with complex personalities develop in direct response to audience participation over the two-month duration of the exhibition.’
In non-ICS terms, four televisions set in black columns are spread across a darkened room. On each is the bored face of a person, but once you insert a punch card, they light up and start to tell their side of the story. They are fictional characters in fictional circumstances, but the concept of the presentation is to apply a computer program to make the story less identifiable and predictable, and therefore the characters more believable.
A series of video clips selected by the computer and spliced together describes the night of the crime. It takes place at an opening or exhibition of its own, but the exact event changes from character to character, which is one of the novelties of the production. Placing you into the narrative almost as an investigating police officer or journalist, each person takes you through their personal reasons for attending the event, their expectations once they arrive and their reaction toward a certain couple present.
The pieces begin to fall into place after a few of these ‘interviews,’ but there is really only one thing each person can agree on: a girl invites her ex-lover to the event only to introduce him to her new slice, and that everyone present is significantly inebriated. There is a little awkwardness when the ex produces flowers, but the cordiality of the occasion prevents anything more dramatic from happening