Today, we discovered a new kind of beauty, a new kind of interactive museum. Tucked away in two old warehouses, the Pace Art and Technology team created the Living Digital Space and Future Parks exhibition. A dual installation. The gallery offered one deeply engaging digital art experience spanning thousands of feet of darkly curtained rooms and one other open area created just for kids, where everything was meant to be touched and explored. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the videos on the website looked cool, so we took the quick drive down the road to check it out.
Anything with rainbow letters and a star looks kid friendly to the girls, so they rushed out of the car and onto the brightly painted concrete. We turned left towards the entrance and walked in the glass entry way. Towards the back, heavily draped curtains hid the exhibit, ] offering only a tiny tease of sparkling lights through the slits, tempting us with the secrets of the digital world hidden just beyond. The docent told us to stay close. Check behind all the curtains. Rooms were hidden and you had to look; surprises were around every corner.
We stepped through the black velvet and into the first massive room. A large cube flaring with flames was hanging in the center. A chandelier on fire. We were mesmerized by it’s size and beauty.
We walked through another set of drapes and explored halls of living digital walls. Looking closely, stories appeared and disappeared across the electronic book.
The next room was large and dark with huge screens streaming colors and shapes; thematic music orchestrated a light symphony.
Down the hall was a room of mirrors; a high tech fun house. We had to move slowly through the room because it was hard to tell where it began or where it ended. We laughed at mirrored copies of ourselves.
There were walls of waterfalls, flora, fauna, and space, refreshing every few minutes to something new. The space like image reminded Ava of a frozen tree floating across the galaxy.
Next up, was the Crystal Universe room. Hundreds of light strings were hanging from the ceiling with a snug hallway carved down the center. Lights flashed patterns of color; music choreographed the motion. Sometimes, it felt like I was flying through space at light speed, other times I was just slowing floating amongst the stars. Sometimes, I laughed out loud with delight, I just couldn’t help myself. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, like witnessing the birth of a universe.
The final part of our tour was in the flower room. A large fully carpeted space with flowers blooming and butterflies flying. It even smelled like flowers, as a soft floral fragrance surrounded us. The girls crawled around and even laid down on the soft carpet. Wherever they stopped, flowers would begin blooming all around them. Ava followed butterflies across the walls, lightly dancing as she reached to touch them. We were in this room for at least 30 minutes, the girls didn’t want to leave. Breathtaking, yet so calming to just be.
Mia decided to lay back with her blanket and stare at the ceiling. She laid there for so long, the flowers that bloomed in her presence turned into a golden halo against the wall. It was her imprint. The glow said, Mia was here. The design was completely generated by the reaction of the sensors to her. It was like a galaxy of flowers wrapped itself around her, like the blanket she hugged so closely.
Ava’s photos were a bit more psychedelic in nature, welcoming back the flower children of the 1960s. Peace, love, and happiness. Groovy girl covered in flowers.
The second warehouse awaited us. The warehouse for kids. Touch anything. Play with everything.
The girls ran up to the docent, who high-fived them into the building. Long walls of light and color wrapped the room. All the tables were interactive and so were parts of the floor.
Mia ran up and down the lighted floor, shapes spinning and morphing as her feet pressed into the design.
Ava played with a long interactive wall. Japanese characters floated down from the top of the screen. When Ava touched one of the characters, it turned into an animal, plant, or geographic feature. Elephants, birds, wolves bursted onto the screen. Alive and responsive to her hand gestures, she could turn them different directions and make them walk. She made mountains and lakes. Grew trees and flowers. I played too, delighted when I released a group of birds from one of the small artfully written characters.
A table nearby had special blocks, each colored block would build out a road, a railroad track, water way, or an airport on the table. Turn. Move. Lift. Try again. The table was a living town accented by a screen giving you the ariel view of your work.
Mia discovered large round tables with wooden devices. Make it rain. Make the sun shine or the stars appear. She made tea party. She quietly played for a long time.
Finally, we discovered the aquarium and car walls. Next to the screens, piles of coloring pages with predetermined shapes filled the tables. For her first drawing, Ava picked a fish. She colored it yellow, decorated it, and wrote her name in red. A helpful docent took her over to the easy-to-use scanner. Helped her to lay down her paper and press the yellow button. A rectangular light passed over her fish. He told her to watch the screen. He told her to watch for the magic.
Within seconds, Ava’s fish appeared in the upper corner and began to swim down. Her fish had been brought to life as a member of the digital aquarium. A simple piece of paper was now swimming, darting, and interacting with the other crayon sea creatures. IT WAS SO COOL!
Needless to say, we colored a lot of pictures. Including me. We ran back and forth to the scanner, watched our creatures come to life, and then chased them up and down the wall. Jelly fish. Seahorses. Turtles. Fish. Colorful pots dropped from the top and they burst into bubbles, whenever the girls would touch them. As the digital playground unwrapped itself around us, my girls happily immersed themselves in creativity and discovery.
Overall, it was a totally engaging experience. We were silly and goofy. It was collaborative in both play and learning. The exhibit was uniquely beautiful. A worthwhile way to spend time together on a Saturday morning.
The exhibit is only here until July, so don’t miss it! I’m certain we’ll be back for another experience.