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Please Touch at the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery

The 2010 SIGGRAPH Art Gallery has done away with the old phrase “look but don’t touch.”

The 14 juried pieces exhibited this year absolutely require human interaction with a focus on haptics (touch). Richard Elaver from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne has taken the cross disciplinary theme of Leonardo and applied it to the selection process for the exhibits on display. Leonardo is a journal that has a philosophy of combining science, technology and art. Leonardo can be explored at www.leonardo.info.

Attendees dug in with the "Glowing Pathfinder Bugs" display.

written by Eric Post

The 2010 SIGGRAPH Art Gallery has done away with the old phrase “look but don’t touch.”

The 14 juried pieces exhibited this year absolutely require human interaction with a focus on haptics (touch).  Richard Elaver from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne has taken the cross disciplinary theme of Leonardo and applied it to the selection process for the exhibits on display.  Leonardo is a journal that has a philosophy of combining science, technology and art.  Leonardo can be explored at www.leonardo.info.

Richard comes from a traditional art background of metalsmithing and jewelry making.  He was always chasing new techniques and looking for different ways of doing things.  Technology is fine, but there is something satisfying about working with materials.  As a boy, when the others were making snowmen, Richard made a six foot toilet out of snow in his parent’s front yard.  Certainly that was different, more importantly, it was a combination of science and technology to produce art.

Ask Richard how the line is drawn between science, technology and art and the answer is that there is no easy way to balance these.  The end goal is the key.  If the work is less about utility and more about the user experience, then maybe it fits with this cross-discipline philosophy.

There are different levels of engagement.  Some of the works selected could stand on their own as attractive art while others force a social behavior.  All of the selections get noticed unlike generic pictures on the wall.

The Art Gallery is in subdued lighting so that visual affect of each work stands out.  It is like a room dimly lit yet fabulously furnished.  You might want to have a room like this in your home.

Hanahanahana is perhaps the most pleasant piece to have in your room.  Created by Yasuaki Kakehi, Motoshi Chikamori and Kyoko Kunoh, this wall mounted art design uses breathalizer sensors to detect fragrance oil.  Just spray a little perfume on the sensor and the light patterns of birds and butterflies move towards the sensor.  The olfactory pleasantness is a plus.  At your next dinner party, this will keep your guests remarkably entertained.

The Bike Light welcomed guests into the Gallery.

The Bike Light welcomed guests into the Gallery.

If you don’t have guests, then no problem, the Dinner Party table and place set for one person will bridge the gap.  Simply sit and have dinner with your imaginary friend or creature and enjoy the evening.  Hye Yeon Nam, Crystal Campbell, Martin Nadal and Zachary Lieberman created an interactive moving shadow display.  As you move the place settings around, pick up a cup or set down a fork, the shadows conceal the virtual creatures that react and move.

Every room needs walls.  Perhaps the Lotus 7.0 is the wall for you.  Daan Roosegaarde created an interactive wall that reacts to those nearby.  When lit, small foils open like flowers and when someone walks past, the squares react to the proximity.

Gotta have an entertainment center.  Instead of the old TV, why not a sandbox with virtual bugs?  The Glowing Pathfinder Bugs by Squidsoup follow the terrain in the sand. Nobody can resist sticking their hands in the sand and moving the terrain around.  You can even pick up one of these virtual bugs, but don’t lift it too high or it will go splat.

Maybe the entertainment center needs to be visually stimulating.  Strata-Caster by Joseph Farbrook is a virtual world that you can navigate by sitting in a wheel chair and moving and turning the wheels.

Put on those 3D glasses and get your camera.  Empire of Sleep: The Beach by Alan Price is an interactive stereoscopic piece that reacts to the camera flash.  The scene moves to new locations based on where the light triggers the display.

Oh, OK, you can have a picture or two around the place as long as they are touchable.  Henry Kaufman prepared a wall mount.  The Lightness of Your Touch is a torso, slightly larger than life size.  The “skin” reacts to a touch and the longer it is touched, the more pronounced the reaction.  Another installation could be the Cursor Caressor Eraser by Michael Filmowicz, Melanie Cassidy and Andres Wanner.  A sensual photo in a display that reacts to a touch or a caress.

Some where leery to touch "Echidna."

Get rid of your board games.  Joerg Niehage created Samplingplong, an interactive table cloth with objects placed on it.  Move the mouse around and you can create an ensemble of “rhythmic clicks, hisses, whirs, hums, and crackles.”

Nicknacks are great to have around.  Echidna by Tine Bech and Tom Frame is a fuzzy metal mesh that hums when left alone and emits sound when touched.

A pet is also important in a room.  Nicholas Stedman and Kerry Segal offer the ADB.  ADB is a modular robot resembling a snake.  Pick it up, let it wrap around your arm and wiggle.  Go on, give it a squeeze.

Final Wisdom I by John Fillwalk can help you relax at the end of the day.  With gesture, touch and proximity, you can experience an environment with changing media as you “navigate and shape [your] experience with a work of spatialized poetry.”

All this scientific high tech art needs protection.  Daniel Sauter and Fabian Winkler have their In the Line of Sight solution.  This piece uses 100 flashlights, controlled by computer, to “project low-resolution video footage of suspicious human motion into the exhibition space.”

A room like this should bring a smile to anyone’s face.  You won’t forget to smile.  Lauren McCarthy’s Tools for Improved Social Interaction will see to that.  Just wear this lovely hat made of a very nice textile weave.  It has a sensor in the front that detects when you smile and when you are not smiling.  Yeah, there’s an anti-daydreaming poker in the back that will poke you if you stop smiling.

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