TRAIN, 2003

Train is a hyper-narrative that takes place on the physical layout of an HO scale model railroad.  Controlled via cell phones, viewers guide the trains around the track, picking up passengers along the way.  The passengers are familiar characters from well known films. When two or more characters are on board, they begin to have a dynamically generated conversation, overheard on the cell phone.

The "White" train passes a fashionable nightclub,  as Nancy Spungen, super-groupie and wife of the famous punk rock musician Sid Vicious, introduces herself to her fellow passengers. 
View from the "Blue" train's main station.  When the blue train arrives here, all passengers disembark and the train narrative begins again with an empty train.
Top view of the nudist beach scene, where Juliette (Brigitte Bardot, from And God Created Woman.) boards the train.
View of the entire 15x23 foot layout.
A train whisks past a scene of riot police and protesters (Harvey Keitel, The Bad Lieutenant; Sally Field, Norma Rae).

Close-up of the nudist beach, with Juliette appearing on the Gameboy.
The white train on it's way to the nudist beach.

Train is a unique and original take on "mobile computing" and "the moving image." A cinematic narrative in miniature, Train spans the history of technology and it's impact on culture and the aesthetics of representation.

The scene: A 15 x 23 foot model railroad layout that the artist painstakingly constructed by hand. The landscape seems familiar and, at the same time, awkward: a beach with azure blue waters juxtaposed with a bleak cityscape cum factory and protesters; an idyllic church next to an overpass and ambulance signaling disaster. Visitors to the gallery can navigate the landscape by using a phone (or their own cell phones) to control each of the two trains as they make their way around the track. The trains haul a special cargo, a Nintendo Gameboy hand-held game device, which presents the view out of the train's window -- a rendered 3D image reflecting the model scenery as the train travels through it. When a train stops, viewers are able to make choices by pressing buttons on their cell phone; they may choose the route and 'pick up' passengers along the way.


The characters: The 8 passengers who can be selected are not everyday people but famous movie stars, for example, Juliette, a free spirited young French woman (Brigitte Bardot from Roger Vadim's "And God Created Woman"); Vincent, a troubled painter (Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh in "Lust For Life"). Also on board are Sally Field as "Norma Rae," Chloe Webb as Nancy from "Sid and Nancy," Nicholas Cage (in a double role) as the drunk in "Leaving Las Vegas" and the ambulance driver in Scorcese's "Bringing Out the Dead," Harvey Keitel as the "Bad Lieutenant," and Rebecca DeMornay as the prostitute in "Risky Business." The landscape of the train alludes to scenes from the movies, with little figures representing the characters themselves. When viewers have selected two or more passengers, the characters appear on the Gameboy and begin to have a conversation that can be overheard on the cell phone. The conversations are built out of sound clips from the respective roles and assembled 'on the fly.' Klima composed a complex 'conversation engine,' taking into account the personalities of the characters and creating a myriad of situations where the sex symbol and the drunk, the artist, prostitute, and punk can argue, console, flirt, and sometimes even downright insult each other, all depending upon who is on board the train. The foray into storytelling constitutes a whole new territory for Klima, who, up to this point, "avoided narrative like the plague," to quote the artist.

Train does not only point to the historical, technological progression from the advent of the railroad and the telegraph (which was used for facilitating the signaling and scheduling processes) to cell phones and computers, which can be traced back to early switching and relay systems. The project also is a manifestation of the ways in which digital technologies have transformed representation and storytelling: Train creates a branching and looping non-linear 'hyper narrative' where the moving image is scripted and disseminated via mobile devices; the pre-scripted movie conversations become subject to an engine that transforms them in ever-changing configurations; and the cinematic representation is juxtaposed to virtualized actors who are reproduced by means of 3D modeling techniques used in the computer game industry.