Artist Presentation: Don Ritter

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Fast Facts:

Born 1959
Canadian, living in Berlin
Generally awesome


Defenestrationinteractive video and sound installation
5 x 8 m, work in progress

Viewers enter a 5 x 8 meter space containing a series of steps in the centre of the room and three video projections on the front and side walls. The front projection displays a window, while the side projections display the interior walls of a room.

If a person walks up the steps and towards the front projection, the window becomes larger and it eventually opens, while video imagery on the side walls tracks accordingly. The sounds of the person’s footsteps are amplified through a sound system, and they become increasingly louder as the person approaches the end of the steps. If the person walks off the end of the steps, the front projection conveys the point-of-view of a person jumping out of a window and striking the ground face down. The projections on the side walls convey the defenestration from left and right points-of-view. After the imagery and sound of striking the ground are presented, the video projections fade to black for 30 seconds, followed by a new window displayed on the front projection. Defenestration provides a participating viewer with an experience of defenestration, while providing a Roman Holiday to other viewers in the space.


interactive sound installation, 1993
dark space, 16 x 13m

Visitors encounter the sounds of 4 or 8 lanes of car traffic rushing across a completely dark space while a dimly lit exit sign on the other side of the room instructs them to venture into the random moving traffic. If visitors encounter a car in the darkness, it comes to a loud screeching halt with its engine idling in front of the visitor. When a visitor steps away from a stopped car, it quickly accelerates past the visitor and across the room, then it slowly fades out into the darkness. When a visitor remains in front of a stopped car for more than a few seconds, a continuous pile-up of cars is created with smashing sounds behind the stopped car.Hundreds of visitors can be in the installation at one time, each capable of affecting the traffic.


TV Guides

interactive video and sound installation with live television, 1995
8 x 5m
Viewers confront a living room environment containing a television that placed upon a small stage and illuminated with a spotlight. The television plays live television broadcasts, presenting viewers with typical afternoon programming of soap operas, talk shows, advertisements and TV game shows. The imagery on the television is overlaid by cross hairs within a circle, giving the impression that the programs and the viewer are separated by a viewing scope. In response to any movement by viewers, the television sound fades out and the cross hairs recede into black followed by text on the screen that requests viewers to remain still. The live television imagery and sound will resume only when all viewers within the installation are motionless for at least 5 seconds. Each time a television program is switched off by viewers’ movements, a different text message is provided on the screen of the television, including “Please Remain Still,” “Be Calm,” or “Just Relax.”


Vox Populiinteractive video and sound installation
13 x 15m, 2005

A video projected crowd of 28 people yells “speech, speech” and encourages visitors to speak from a lectern equipped with a microphone and a teleprompter that displays the text of historical political speeches. When a visitor assumes the role of leader by delivering a speech through the microphone, the text scrolls on the teleprompter, the crowd responds with varying degrees of hostility, support or ridicule, and the leader’s speech is mixed with the screaming of the crowd through a large sound system. There are no indications within the installation that the speeches on the teleprompter are from influential leaders, including John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, and George W. Bush.

Vox Populi provides anyone with an opportunity to control the masses through public speeches. Documentation of the installation shows audience members spontaneously adopting the role of leader and delivering their speeches with passion. Leaders are free to speak whatever they want through the microphone, but most read the speeches provided.

The response of the crowd, speech selection, and speed of the scrolling text are determined by an analysis of a leader’s voice. The specific actions of the crowd—encouraging, mildly supportive, unsupportive or enthusiastically supportive—are determined by various vocal characteristics. If a leader speaks continuously for 4 minutes at a high volume and tempo, the crowd remains enthusiastically supportive. The installation provides over 40 minutes of video and 3000 lines of historical speeches in English or French.


o telephone

8 channel interactive sound installation, 2007
6 x 6m

Six modified 1960’s telephones are arranged in a circle within a darkened room. Each randomly rings with a distinctive sound. If a viewer answers a ringing phone, “om” is heard through the handset and through the speaker in the body of the phone. When viewers answer other ringing phones within the installation, the resulting “om” sounds will pan through all the answered phones. If no ringing telephones are answered by viewers, the telephones will spontaneously begin a new composition comprised of “om” sounds. If viewers pick up a telephone at this time, all sounds will stop and the phones will eventually start ringing again.


Vestedinteractive video and sound installation
10 x 15m, work in progress
Viewers enter a dark room and encounter a 15m video projection depicting panoramas of political and cultural buildings. The imagery is comprised of three video projections that provide three points-of-view of the same building simultaneously. A vest hangs on a coat rack in the middle of the room, illuminated with two green spotlights. If a viewer puts on the vest and walks to the left, the panoramas track right; if the person moves to the right, the panoramas track left. Different types of panoramas– of museums, political buildings, towers or temples–are provided when the vested person walks forward or backward.

Two robotically controlled spotlights track the location of the vested person within the room. As this person walks around, images of this person and anyone standing nearby are captured by three video cameras and combined with the video of the buildings. Three video projections of the vested person walking in front of the building are presented from three perspectives simultaneously.

top view of vested person tracked by spotlights

When the vested person presses the red button on the vest, the three video projections present imagery of a large explosion with sound, followed by a moment of blackness. When the video imagery returns, the vested person is located in front of a new panorama, permitting the person to locate a different buildings by walking around the room.


Audience members can participate in the installation as the vested person, as victims captured by the video cameras because they stand near the vested person, or as viewers having a Roman Holiday.


interactive video and sound installation or performance, 2003
5 x 10m

Digestion presents organic imagery–originating as boiling water–that is interactively transformed into a series of mechanical movements with synchronized sound. Viewers are presented with an abstract experience of multi-channel imagery that is controlled by sound. The unpredictable nature of the work provides an internal interactivity which can be observed by an audience, but not controlled.




interactive video and sound installation, 1998
Visitors encounter a large dark room containing two video projections of a night sky, one on the floor and one on the back wall. When visitors walk onto the video projection, black paths appear under their feet at specific locations. As the five hidden paths are discovered by multiple viewers, the imagery and sound transform according to the specific paths discovered. Depending on which paths are found, the environment projected will be a night sky, day sky, water, land, or a sunny sky. The installation uses a “collaborative interface” which forms a hierarchy of imagery and sound based on the cooperation of the visitors. Skies requires that people cooperate with each other in order to experience the work completely. The installation can accommodate an unlimited number of viewers.


Elephant Keyboard
interactive music instrument, 2000
1x1x3m; 450kg
Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang, Thailand.
Each key of the instrument provides a distinct drone or melody derived from traditional Thai music. Musical characteristics are controlled by the speed that a key is pulled, and by the duration it is held.

Jo Jo, 9 year old male
Luuk Khang, 7 year old female
Luuk Kob, 6 year old male
Phrathida, 7 year old female

Design and electronic construction by Don Ritter. Construction of wooden components by staff at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center under direction of Nipakorn Singhputhankul and Don Ritter. Access to elephants provided by Richard Lair. Video documentation shot by Tamara Barton and Kurt Ossenfort, with editing by Don Ritter. Photos by Neil Budzinski.


interactive video and sound installation, 1993
5 x 9 m
Audiences encounter a video projection of an aerobics instructor who stands in silence until a viewer approaches. When a viewer moves in front of the projection and into the spotlight, the instructor begins exercising to music. If a viewer stops moving, the instructor also stops exercising and the music becomes silent. Each time a viewer begins moving his or her body, the instructor begins a new exercise with music. If a viewer exercises non-stop, the music and the instructor’s exercising will increase in tempo until an extremely fast level is reached. Although the aerobics instructor is technically controlled by the physical motion of audiences, viewers are compelled to exercise faster and faster without stopping.Installations:

A Structural Theory of Emotions
interactive video performance, 1992
8:00 min.
Don Ritter: video imagery and interactive programming
Trevor Tureski: percussion and original music
During this performance, custom software listens to the live music and rates it into one of eight emotional categories–such as sad, happy or angry. This rating stimulates a corresponding emotion within the video character. Based on research by neuroscientist and musician, Dr. Manfred Clynes.

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