Decidophobia – an Artistic Research on the Possibilities of Immersive Environments

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Elke Eve Reinhuber


With the panoramic video installation ‘Decidophobia’, I endeavour to point to the difficulty of making decisions and the confrontation with overwhelming choices in our satiated society of today with the means of media arts I aim to raise the awareness for the great gift we have: The freedom to choose in many situations of life; but as well being overwhelmed and hindered by an extensive choice and the difficult task of making the right decision. This finally might raise counterfactual thoughts, the retrospective considerations of what would be today, if we decided differently at a turning point at an earlier stage of our life.

In this work, the viewer is confronted with the difficulty of choice. A perfect labyrinth is all around, no orientation is possible, paths appear and disappear again, vanish completely, but new possibilities open up. The soundtrack underlines the visual experience: passers-by are expressing their confusion by questioning where they actually are, where they should go to, which path to take and where they came from. A Babel-like chatter in nine different languages from different directions enhances the confusion. It is difficult to focus on one voice, on a familiar language, which leaves the viewer with the impression of a missed conversation, a missed opportunity.


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Reinhuber, E. (2014). Decidophobia – an Artistic Research on the Possibilities of Immersive Environments. Revista ICONO14 Revista Científica De Comunicación Y Tecnologías Emergentes, 12(2), 206-229.
Biografía del autor

Elke Eve Reinhuber, Currently: Independent From July 15: ADM/NTU Singapore

From July 15: Assistant Professor for Expanded Photography, Practice-based PhD in Media Arts at COFA Sydney

Elke Reinhuber is not your average artist, because she became a specialist on choice, decision making and counterfactual thoughts in media arts, since she submitted her practice-based PhD. As a decidophobic in her own life, she explores in particular alternative layers of the here and now with immersive environments and expanded photography. Reinhuber was born in Ellwangen, Germany and lives and works in Karlsruhe and Berlin. She trained initially as a photographer, studied in Berlin (UDK), London (Chelsea College), Bologna (Accademia di Belle Arti) and Sydney (SCA) and was visiting professor in media Arts at the Institute for Media Research at Braunschweig University of Art and Design, as well as head of the department for media design at the German University in Cairo. From March 2009 to March 2013, she prepared her PhD in media arts at CoFA, Sydney. Her work has been on display in several international museums, galleries or site-specific events. Elke Reinhuber's most recent publications include 'Decisions with 3 Tesla', published in Maschinensehen, Spectorbooks and her paper 'Counterfactualism' for the research workshop at EVA London.


1 Please see ‘Excursus: Counterfactualism’ for a description

2 Markman, K., Miller, A. (2006). Depression, Control and Counterfactual Thinking: Functional to Whom? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 25.2.

3 Borges, J. (1999). The Garden of Forking Paths (El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan). [1941]. In Borges, J. Ficciones London: Bristol Classic Press.

4 Panofsky, E. (1930). Hercules am Scheidewege . Und andere antike Bildstoffe in der neueren Kunst. Berlin: Gebr. Mann.

5 Ibid.

6 The popular example of the Choice of Hercules (cf. Prodicus, loc. cit. Xenophon (1923) The Memorabilia . Book 2. In Marchant, E. C. (Ed.). Xenophon. (vol. 4) London: William Heinemann, Ltd.) presents Hercules as personification of strength and courage, at a crossroad, uncertain which way to choose. The personifications of Virtue and Vice tempt him to go on either their ways: the hard, steep and rocky path leading to glory or the wide and easy one, guiding to a comfortable, pleasant life, but into perdition. His body and face show the struggle between the two temptations. From the myth of Hercules, I adapted the iconography of crossroads into my work and transferred the quest for an ideal forking path to visualise the difficulty of choice.

7 The Littera Pythagoræ, the Samian letter or more common – the letter Y is in my regard the simplest form to visualise an intersection with two paths to choose from, if it is not just seen as a letter. The German philologist Wolfgang Harms (Harms, W. (1970). Homo viator in bivio . Studien zur Bildlichkeit des Weges. München: Wilhelm Fink.) assumed that the letter Y was just associated to Pythagoras by his followers and disciples.

8 Kern, H. (2000). Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings over 5000 Years. München: Prestel, p. 23.

9 My initial research for this artwork took place in 2009/10, before Google Street-View was widely implemented.

10 Thompson, I. (2006). Sun King’s Garden: Louis XIV, André Le Notre and the Creation of the Gardens of Versailles. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, pp. 133-141.

11 Ibid., pp. 105, 160.

12 Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries, Paris

13 Baden-Württemberg-Stipendium by courtesy of the Baden-Württemberg-Stiftung to study at HfG Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design

14 Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe

15 Kaufman, W. (1973). Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy. New York, NY: P. H. Wyden, p. 273.

16 Bronkhorst, A. (2000). The Cocktail Party Phenomenon: A Review on Speech Intelligibility in Multiple-Talker Conditions. Acta Acustica united with Acustica 86.1.

17 Genesis 11:4-9, vid. (2011) Holy Bible, New International Version. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013. Genesis 11:9 That is, Babylon; Babel sounds like the Hebrew word for “confused”.

18 Borges, J. (1993). Ficciones. London: David Campbell Publishers Ltd., p. 45.

19 Dhomont, F. (1996). Forêt profonde. France, Canada. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

20 Nechvatal, J. (2011). Immersion Into Noise. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan – Open Humanities Press.

21 Ibid., Preface, pp. 9-12.

22 Ferguson, N., ed. (1999) Virtual History. Alternatives and Counterfactuals. Basic Books, New York.

23 Kahneman, D., Miller, D. (1986). Norm Theory: Comparing Reality to its Alternatives. Psychological Review 93, pp. 237-251.

24 DeWitt, B. (1970). Quantum Mechanics and Reality . Could the Solution to the Dilemma of Indeterminism Be a Universe in Which All Possible Outcomes of an Experiment actually Occur? Physics Today 23, 9, pp. 155-165.

25 Mandel, D., Hilton, D., Catellani, P., eds. (2005) The Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking. Routledge Chapman & Hall, London.

26 (2009). Random House, Inc.. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

27 Chisholm, R. (1946). The Contrary-to Fact Conditional. Mind 55.

28 Goodman, N. (1947). The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals. Journal of Philosophy 44, .pp. 113-128.

29 Grau, O. (2003). Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

30 Forschung & Entwicklung: PanoramaTechnologie. (n. d.). Karlsruhe: ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.
The English version is not as verbose: Research & Development: Interactive High Resolution Panorama. (n. d.). Karlsruhe: ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

31 Adobe® After Effects® CS4.

32 Panorama Display Software [PDS].

33 For instance a remarkable example is the famous scroll of “Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河圖)”, painted by Zhang Zeduan in the early 12th century with the dimensions of 25.5 cm × 525 cm (10' × 207'), Palace Museum, Beijing. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

34 Tjebbe van Tijen explores different techniques and presentations of scrolls over three decades. An overview can be found on the web; cf. Tijen, T. (n. d.). Imaginary Museum. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

35 That originates from the classic QTVR-application (Quick Time Virtual Reality) by Apple and makes panoramic photographs interactively accessible, with the option to scroll through the captured environment. Hotspots link to other panoramic images or close-ups or even activate audio.
QTVR is hardly supported nowadays, therefore most VR-applications utilise Adobe® Flash, JAVA, HTML5 or are custom built.

36 LG announced in January 2013 the production of a curved screen in order to cover the peripheral vision, the EA9800, cf. LG’s curved EA9800 OLED display eyes-on. (2013, January 8th) Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

37 Personal conversation with the artist at the Shanghai Biennale, 2012, October 18th.

38 Seen at Venice Biennale 2009; cf. Zhijie, Q. (2009.) The Small Knocking Down the Big. 53rd Venice Biennale, Giardini. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.

39 Bordwell, D. (2002). Film Futures. SubStance 31, 1. Retrieved from , 13.03.2013.