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Artists wow guests at annual digital art festival

July 22, 2019

Artists wow guests at annual digital art festival with immersive AR experiences

CYPRESS, Calif. –  A global roster of artists descends on Alys Beach, a small Floridian town, for a weekend of digital art each spring. This year, the residency artists – the artist duo Tamiko Thiel and /p, Jes Van Zee from AOA and Kaiman Walker – used Christie technology to project their artwork onto the bright white architecture of Alys Beach.

Christie projection and Pandoras Box​ image processing ensured that the artwork was shown exactly as the artists’ intended. Each residency artist created a unique augmented reality experience, which delighted guests throughout the festival weekend.

Artist Kaiman Walker’s installation “Chimes” used a swing set to create an interactive, play-based experience using two stacked Christie projectors and Pandoras Box to manage the content. Says Walker, “I love it when people can put themselves in something they’re playing with. I came up with the idea of using playground equipment. I wanted to make a projected art piece that changes as people play on the playground equipment. It eventually turned into swings, and I developed sensors that interact with a water simulator that civil engineers use for fluid simulation. I used the open source code base to make a fluid simulation that you can interact with.”

Tamiko Thiel and /p projected onto the residences of Alys Beach using iPads to capture images of guests that were overlaid onto projected images of fish. The fish would move as the iPads were moved, with the fish eventually turning into plastic waste as guests “interfered” with their habitat.

Van Zee explored the interplay between the right and left sides of the brain, and the effects of technology on our thinking. She said of her interactive installation, “In today’s society, we are constantly absorbing an abundance of content, information, and media, and it’s changed the way we think. I’m thinking about those side effects, like short attention spans, repetitive thoughts, and the endorphins that are released every time our phone rings, and animating a modern train of thought. We had two houses we were projecting on the right and left side of a narrow lake, so as you walked down the sidewalk your silhouette was picked up by the sensor and you interweaved the left brain and right brain animation together.”

Illuminating these large-scale digital artworks is no small feat: the tight timelines for set-up, managing ambient light during the festival, and ensuring the content looked as intended were the biggest challenges for the artists. Says Walker, “Honestly, I think when you’re making something like this, with a bunch of software and five programs talking to each other, it gets complicated fast. Just the fact that a trained Pandoras Box user can tell the media server what to do and it does it - that should be applauded. I didn’t have to make any compromises onsite. And it happened pretty quickly.”

For Thiel, the opportunity to show her installation as intended, with bright, 14,000 lumen Christie projectors, was impossible to refuse. “This is the first time someone had come to me and said, ‘We have great projectors!’ that are incredibly bright; that can project on a house. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years. So of course, when Digital Graffiti contacted us I said, ‘Yes! That’s exactly what I want to do!’”

Van Zee’s work as a media designer and producer at AOA has exposed her to projection mapping and digital artwork, but says her installation at Digital Graffiti it allowed her to do something that she’s never done before. “I love working with projectors. You can use any surface as a canvas and you don’t have to limit yourself to a 16 by 9 flat screen. Any surface – a house, tree, a person – can be your canvas with projection mapping.”

And the guests embraced the installations, interacting and exploring, including the children who attended. “My favorite was the kids’ night. Kids are such honest critics, they’ll tell you what they think. And they were playing on it and having a great time,” said Walker. ​

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