Terrors of The Breakfast Table


Terrors of the Breakfast Table is an interactive video installation by Tyler Tekatch, currently on view at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, until May 25 2014. This short documentary describes the creation process for this work.

The installation is an emotionally engaging cinematic story of a boy on a contemplative journey about life and death. Heavily symbolic, it unfolds in an impressionistic way, with interludes of brilliant photography and atmospheric sound. The story is also a dreamscape, as the boy weaves in and out of consciousness, visualizing memories, familiar landscapes, and symbolic environments. The work ruminates on the elusiveness of the mind and body, and the functions of the body—such as breathing—that seem to be invisible.

In a confounding exploration of these ideas, Tyler Tekatch designed the video installation as an interactive piece. The visitor approaches a table and chair in the centre of the space, and blows into a sculptural device on the table, when the device glows orange. Subtle technologies sense the viewer’s breath, triggering thought-provoking interactive elements, such as a dream montage, the pace of a scene, the ambient sound, and the brightness of the visuals. The viewer discovers the interactions at their own pace, and some of the effects are more subtle than others.

As a contribution to the medium of interactive digital media, Terrors of the Breakfast Table prioritizes conceptual content, the psychological experience of the viewer, and the natural presence of the viewer’s breathing body. The work of Tyler Tekatch is also positioned within global experimental film practices. Using non-linear narrative and a collaged aesthetic approach, his moving image works are visceral and evocative. Terrors of the Breakfast Table was commissioned by the Art Gallery of Hamilton. This project was made possible with the support of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Museums and Technology Fund.

About the artist: Tyler Tekatch (b. 1982) is a Hamilton, Ontario based filmmaker and artist. He completed a Master of Arts at Ryerson University and York University, in Communication and Culture, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Ryerson University in Image Arts.

How did this project use Max?

We used Max 6 for all of the programming, including the AHarker Externals library, Ambisonics Externals from ICST, and externals from Jamoma. We experimented with a number of different approaches to the sensor, including sound analysis, but finally settled on an anemometer designed especially for breath by the company Modern Device. The sensor was paired with an Arduino Uno, (via ArduinoMax_In_Out_For_Dummies) to which we also added LEDs in order to illuminate the sensor housing sculpture, and which were also mapped to the viewer's breath.