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BAM goes heavy on virtual reality with Teknopolis exhibit for kids

The arts institution's immersive experiences were in high demand. “There is a huge audience eager for this type of work, but with limited access to it.”

A BAM visitor experiences virtual reality. (Photo courtesy of BAM/Rebecca Greenfield)

Technical.ly's Editorial Calendar explores a different topic each month. The March 2017 topic explores augmented and virtual reality. See AR/VR coverage from all five of our East Coast markets here.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music has long been at the forefront of promoting the avant garde. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

“BAM has a legacy of featuring artists who create work that uses creative technologies,” said BAM Director of Education and Family Programs Steven McIntosh.

McIntosh curated BAM’s most recent expansion of that ethos: He was in charge of Teknopolis, an interactive, multi-space exhibit for kids that ran from Feb. 25 to March 12. The exhibit was inspired by his visits to such installations as the Toronto International Film Festival’s fest for kids, which incorporated a large digiPlaySpace gallery with indie games, robots and other tech experiences.

The BAM exhibit was designed to present works that would “inspire the creative impulses of visitors, encouraging them to create their own music or animation, or at least elicit strong responses from them about the exhibit’s experiences,” said McIntosh. One of the key benefits of the exhibit is that it allowed visitors to sample virtual reality and experience adventures using the technology. Most visitors had their first VR experience at the exhibit, McIntosh said.

Among the highlights:

  • the installation “Shifting Clouds” by artists Adrien M and Claire B, which featured clouds in the shape of the visitor’s silhouette;
  • “The Turning Forest,” a VR fantasy tale with 3D sound created by BBC Research & Development and VRTOV;
  • “Pop n’ Lock Dance Machine” by Catshrine, which allowed visitors to create their own animated dance videos;
  • and “Lumarca,” a volumetric display by Matt Parker and Josh Holtsford presenting a digital avatar of the visitor that mimicked his or her movements.

Parker underlines the different immersive aspects of the display: “Lumarca is really about making 3D digital content appear in the real world. It’s not simulated 3D like you see in the movies, but actual 3D, like you see when viewing a physical object, such as a vase or a sculpture. The more physical nature of Lumarca makes it more accessible, both in connecting with the audience and in the availability of materials for the display. Your visual impression of the display is dependent on your vantage point, which is a pretty unique experience for digital art.”

BAM deployed digital activity assistants throughout the exhibit area to help answer visitor questions and acclimate them to the technologies in the exhibit.

Young BAM visitors watch themselves on a screen. (Photo courtesy of BAM/Rebecca Greenfield)

Young BAM visitors watch themselves on a screen. (Photo courtesy of BAM/Rebecca Greenfield)

Attendee response “exceeded expectations,” said BAM’s McIntosh, as evidenced by “the number of visitors over the exhibit’s run and the level of engagement. Some visitors during their session kept returning to try something different with the exhibit’s responsive installations.” In fact, some visitors were disappointed that they were unable to sample all the experiences in the exhibit, due to a 90-minute time limit per session. According to BAM, 2,700 members of the public attended the exhibit.

As Lumarca’s Parker adds, “it’s very telling that Teknopolis sold out so quickly and that BAM had to add more showings. I think there is a huge audience eager for this type of work, but with limited access to it.”

Ultimately, BAM is hoping exhibits like Teknopolis spur “greater dialogue and conversation among patrons about the implications of new creative technologies,” said McIntosh.  The multi-arts center also intends to make Teknopolis an annual experience.

Hands hover above the installation by artists Adrien M and Claire B. (Photo courtesy of BAM/Rebecca Greenfield)

Hands hover above the installation by artists Adrien M and Claire B. (Photo courtesy of BAM/Rebecca Greenfield)

Series: Brooklyn

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