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Yesterday I went to The Creators Project in San Francisco. Held at Fort Mason, The Creators Project was a free two-day music and digital art festival. On Sunday there was no music, so I checked out the art. Most of it was interactive in some way, and there were some neat projects.

Octocloud was one of the first pieces I came across. It’s a sculpture that visitors can interact with using their smart phones. They fling arrows using a virtual slingshot, and up to eight people at a time can compete to trigger different animations. There were a lot of people surrounding this one – it was popular.

Process 16 (Software 3) was fun to watch. It is a piece of art projected on the wall that is continuously being added to via Processing code. Casey Reas, the artist, set up a series of logical rules, or processes, for the software to follow.

My favorite installation was Six-Forty by Four-Eighty, a magnetic board filled with lit pixel squares. The color of a square can be changed by touching the face, and even cooler, you can “copy and paste” a color to another square by holding your finger on the face on a pixel until it blinks, then touching another pixel. After waiting in a short line, I was able to play with them, and it was mesmerizing. I want a set for my fridge!

The Treachery of Sanctuary was the biggest spectacle in the main building. Three gigantic floor-to-ceiling projection screens filled the end of the hall, and there were long lines to participate in this interactive piece. Kinects are set up to pick up the shape of the user, and each of the three panels had a different program running, but all were bird-related. The first one locked on to the user’s profile, and then proceeded to disintegrate the body by turning it into dozens of birds that fly away, reducing your silhouette to nothing. The next one had birds landing on the silhouettes and attacking them, à la The Birds. The last one picked up on arms, and turned them into wings.

Outside was Origin, a large metal cube with LEDs lining the beams of the piece. There is also an ethereal audio track playing, and when I walked through, it was unclear to me whether it was all pre-recorded or whether there was some real-time input that was affecting the audio-visual output. The description of the piece was somewhat vague, but it did use the word “responsive,” and after researching it, I see that the ambiguity was intentional. United Visual Artists, the group that created it, writes, “While it remains purposely mysterious, it’s clear that its mood changes are triggered by people moving within the structure; while you’re queuing and watching the people inside try to discover ‘how it works’, you’re also forming your own hypotheses.”

I could tell a lot of people loved this one, but I really wanted to know more about how it worked. The ambiguity caused me to write it off as interesting, but pre-recorded, and I wonder if others had a similar reaction. I do think this would look amazing at night, since the daylight made it hard to see the LEDs.

Meditation was another movement-triggered piece, with three red projections that are highly reactive. Move your hand in front of one and it ripples out red concentric circles that quickly distort and twist, depending on the direction and speed of your gestures.

Overscan was interesting. I would describe it as remixing television. The piece is comprised of five television screens. The far left displays the original TV footage, and each of the other four screens riff on that feed using visual and verbal data gathered. For example, it might analyze the closed caption script and pull out certain words to display, crafting a sort of automated poetry from the evening news. Or each screen might show a more pixelated version of the original feed. This was probably my second favorite piece, next to Six-Forty by Four-Eighty.

It was a fun day, and it was enjoyable to watch people interacting with the digital art.

Laura Cochrane

I’m an editor at MAKE and CRAFT. I like hiking, biking, and etymology.