Thursday, May 29, 2008

When Art Is a Playground

Art is more fun when you can play with it. (Remember finger painting?) My friends and I got a good reminder of how much fun art can be the other day at the Experimenta Playground exhibit at the Carriage Works cultural center. It’s an incredibly hard exhibit to describe unless you’ve experienced the technology before. My pictures probably won’t be much help either because they don’t show the motion well (and because I had to take them very sneakily).

The exhibit features a collection of interactive and digital art from several artists. The first piece we approached was an overhead projector shining pink against the wall. A few wooden shapes and numbers lay unassumingly next to the projector, but when you drop a piece on the glass, noise comes from somewhere beyond and the projected image comes alive. Dashes outline your hand on the wall, and what looks like confetti falls out of the wooden pieces’ shadows.

Similar to the overhead work was the shadow puppet piece. When you held your hands in front of a large light box, it would reflect your hands with added features, like eyes, teeth or spikes. When I moved my whole body in front, my shadow appeared with funky hair, a bow, a horn and other additions. Even a simple shadow puppet of a dog came out looking like a monster. In this photo you can see how my friend could ‘burp’ when he opened and closed his hand.

Our other favorite creation was the underwater scene projected on the floor. Cartoon-like blowfish swam around freely, but would suddenly puff up and float if you stomped on them. If you stepped on the seahorses, they’d play different musical notes.

There were a few other pieces and short films that were a bit over our heads as far as purpose and meaning are concerned. But we got a kick out of the interactive works, which did feel like being at some sort of playground.

Like I said, it's hard to explain so you should really just see it for yourself.

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