Topographic Mirror is an interactive program that decomposes and reintegrates the elements of human vision. We normally see by finding gradations of value in a scene. The contrast between shadows, midtones, and highlights allows us to distinguish one region from another. However, by moving a Nintendo Wii, the viewer is able to slice the image into rings of different values and generate a sort of real-time topographic map of the scene allowing us to see things in a new way.
The persistence of the lines could be affected by altering the opacity and the radius of the contour lines could be changed by setting the thresholding point, which is the cutoff point or “line in the sand” by which we determine what white and black are. Imagine flooding a mountainous area with water: everything above the water line is considered “dry” and everything below, “wet.” If you walk along the shoreline, or contour, add more water and then walk the shore line again, you will find a much smaller ring the second time. If you were to plot the path you took for each of these rings, you would have a topographic map.
Continuing with this idea, I automated the process and drew all the contours on each image, leading to a series of images like this:
Next I added all the points to 3D space and set up some basic camera controls to allow exploring the mesh and ended up with a video like this, which felt a lot like those old-school flight simulators from the 80′s. There’s something very amusing about flying over your face…