Immersive Art HUB Week 2017

Everything at HUB Week wants you to touch it. Every booth, each housed in a reclaimed industrial shipping container, beckons with the promise of some immersive activity. They all want you, need you for them to work. After all, what good is an immersive environment with no one to experience it?

#HUBweek_ButterflyEffect project

Immediately upon entering the festival grounds, Interactive elements are on full display. This butterfly mural displays user-generated butterfly origami as a reflection of how festival goers have personally metamorphosed.

Without user input, this wall wouldn't exist as it does. It puts its existence fully in the audience’s hands and fails if it is ignored.

This is the ethos behind many of Hub Week's multi-day exhibits that rely on the input of festival attendees to make them work. They are here to be interacted with, to fully have your attention if just for a little while.

This was best exemplified by MIT’s Artvive project. The installation pairs real life paintings with an augmented reality app on a smartphone. The app recognizes the paintings as part of the Artvive lineup and brings them to life in AR. They add color and movement and sound to an otherwise static painting.

The paintings were done by MIT artists in close collaboration with the Artive team of designers. The software can pick up on an Artvive painting from several yards away and at different angles. The only trouble the project has encountered, a staff member said, was that one of the paintings didn’t have enough contrast for the computer to trigger the animation and had to be altered.

Artist Karen Schoucair demonstrates her exhibit “Shadow Coding”

Another success was “Shadow Coding,” a hybrid interactive art piece and show of hacking skill. The piece uses an Xbox Kinect camera to track a subject’s movement and relays it to a mesh sculpture hooked up to servo motors that move as you do. The darkness of the enclosed shipping container and ambient music pumping in through hidden speakers creates an ethereal atmosphere. It was tough to get visitors to leave once they were inside and a line quickly formed to try out the technology.

“POLLINATE” similarly utilizes the closed space of its shipping container to cut its viewers off from the outside world. The projections that animate this mixed media piece by Savannah-based artists would be invisible if not for the darkness the closed door provides. Viewers are encouraged to (gently) touch the styrofoam surface of the sculpture for a better grasp on the images carved into it.

Clint Backawski’s Zephyr

Even the analog exhibits have an interactive edge to them. This installation by Clint Baclawski can be viewed just fine at a distance, but its stage-like platform invites close up inspection. Once it’s drawn you in, Zephyr’s wrap-around mirrors physically place the viewer into the piece itself.

And then, of course, we have the Dome. The effect is somewhere between virtual reality and a 3-D movie; you have to physically turn your head to see everything on the screen and partcle effects come right at you. The spherical projection experience is best for scenes of whizzing through space as stars and galaxies pass by, so it’s unsurprising that the format is mostly used by planetariums though some experimental filmmakers are trying their hands at the medium.

Non-artistic booths got in on the immersion game, too. Solar company Sistine Solar had both an AR and VR experience to show prospective customers how many of their customizable solar panels they would need to cover their roof, and what they might look like once they are installed.

Sistine’s floral solar panel

Even the Enchanted Forest exhibit with its crude wooden xylophones became an attraction. The sounds of a-melodic percussion could be heard throughout the festival.

Where most art is simply gawked at, immersive art is explored and experienced. At Hub Week, immersion won the day.

Created By
Ben Bonadies


Ben Bonadies

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