World Skin by Maurice Benayoun

Credit: Ars Electronica Futurelab

“World Skin” by Maurice Benayoun was an interactive CAVE installation that took visitors on a “photo safari” into a land of warfare. It received the Golden Nica Prize for Interactive Art at the 1998 Prix Ars Electronica.

In “World Skin,” visitors armed with cameras moved through a three-dimensional space in which a compilation of photos and news images from different battle zones constitute a universe filled with mute violence.

One had to intervene in this sad, chaotic equilibrium. Each visitor could take pictures and thereby capture a piece of this world wrestling with death, as each photographed fragment vanished from the projection surface and was replaced by a black silhouette. The photographer got a paper printout of the image, and a part of the world was thus extinguished with each exposure. “World Skin” illustrated the significance of the image, since it was via pictures that we took possession of the world—the world fell victim to mankind’s glance.

“World Skin” focused on the status of media images through which realities of unsurpassed rawness and brutality that exist in our perceptive faculties were reduced to an emotionally superficial level. Media made the perilous interactive community undertaking of warfare into a publicly staged production in that they brought everything onto one and the same level. The image neutralized the content. The CAVE installation’s audio material by Jean-Baptiste Barrière enabled visitors to experience this process of submersion as real participation in the drama that went beyond the play of images alone. It reproduced the soundscape of a world in which breathing was synonymous with suffering. World Skin had its public premiere at the Ars Electronica Festival 98.


Maurice Benayoun, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, Gilbert Netzer, Patrick Bouchaud, David Nahon, Erich Berger