Transforming Spaces through Digital Technology
April 6, 2022
When it comes to transforming spaces, it’s hard to overestimate the impact that large-scale projection technology has had in bringing art to unusual places, and turning static art pieces into live, interactive experiences. Barco stands at the gates of this evolution, offering immersive environments without the awareness of the mechanics that create these spaces. They provide customized installation options, high resolution projectors, screens, video walls, and projection surfaces, working with artists and clients from concept to installation. They outfit seamless, custom-built immersive works that drive cultural tourism and local economies. They reinvent the way that art is displayed in museums, ushering in a new era of viewership. In the process, they redefine what’s possible.
Wildly popular in use, outdoor projection mapping draws attention to cultural sites world-wide, particularly across Europe and China. These projects are often used to bring cultural heritage to light or to re-define the image of a city. In the example of “A Night Tour of Jiang’an,” Barco and its partners rehabilitated the area of The Jiang’an River Park, once untended and overgrown. Now in the evenings, it becomes an amusement park or dance floor filled with colorful aquatic creatures, immersing residents in a stunning spectacle of light.
To cover the entire square of the Culture Center required floor-mapping an area 67 meters long with irregular curves, accommodating the humidity, rain, and large temperature fluctuations of the region. The combination of the Jiang’an River Park, twenty-one of Barco’s laser large-venue projectors, novel light poles and a complex lighting set-up, creates a three-dimensional, multi-layered riverside visual space. During summer, residents are drawn to the aquarium beneath their feet, where gigantic whales swim gracefully past, rays flap their dorsal fins, jellyfish and small fish weave in and out. The river gurgles, pulsing with life, while the captivating imagery, illuminated by the projectors, brings the park peace and poetic charm. With many other examples world-wide, it seems that outdoor projection mapping is an integral part of engaging with the modern city.
Weaving into the more highly technical opportunities at the front edge of image-casting, Barco worked with the makers of DARK MATTER to outfit their brand new multimedia exhibition space, designed for the The Rummelsburg neighborhood in Berlin. Located between power plants and factories in a thousand square meter facility, DARK MATTER illuminates the unseen, the places where energy and matter meet and shape our physical experience. “Is it a wave, or a particle, or both?” As new revelations in quantum mechanics expose the dual nature of light particles, DARK MATTER likewise rejects duality, the boundaries of the real and the digital world are blurred. The installation’s seven expansive works form what they call “a multidimensional parallel cosmos,” using light as a primary medium to bend and shape audience experience. Combined with kinetic sculpture and auditory elements, DARK MATTER creates an abstract space and sensational flow, a means of environmental communication that is new, perhaps even alien in feel. With titles like: Liquid Sky, Inverse, Polygon Playground, and Grid, viewers have a sense of cohesion through abstraction. Pitch black surrounds them as they move from one room to the next, conjuring the void of outer space or the womb, expanding possibilities outward, and intimately inward to our sensory life.
Using Barco projectors, DARK MATTER’s POLYGON PLAYGROUND is a digitally expanded sculpture for visitors to climb over, walk around, and lounge on. By interacting with the object, everyone becomes part of the work and directly influences its appearance, redefining the museum experience from passive to interactive. POLYGON PLAYGROUND is an object that couldn’t “exist” but for this convergence of art and technology at the edge of what’s possible. A seamless 360-degree projection designed by WHITEvoid covers the surface like a digital skin that reacts to its environment via sensors. It plays with perception. You can imagine the visceral effect of watching the floor go from convex to concave, or from it beginning to move laterally beneath you. Sight is humanity’s dominant sense for all but the blind, and subverting it is unexpected, to say the least. What might be terrifying in another context is welcomed as creativity and play, a challenge to our habits and preconceptions in the safe-space of the exhibit, where we can welcome technology as a way to expand our physical world.
Continuing to explore the ways that technology can reinvent the museum experience, Barco offers new methods of engagement to stay current with younger generations who are more fluent in technology. These folks are an increasing proportion of audiences and patrons. Barco technology can breathe new life into existing works of art, like the famous Van Gogh exhibit, creating modern spectatorship out of historic work. Virtual Reality can add layers to museum exhibits, linking art and artifacts with additional context, transforming the way that viewers experience objects through storytelling.
Although in its nascent stages in the museum world, AI can also provide the possibility of brand new forms, like in Refik Anadol’s “Machine Memoirs: Space,” emerging from a collaboration between the artist and NASA. This is where the history of science meets the cutting edge of technology and human creativity. Custom AI algorithms and data visualization techniques form a magical, immersive spectacle. Choreographed visualizations of data on space exploration create what might be considered “alien” environments, projected paintings of synthetic landscapes in transformation. This is the best of what technology can do, rooting back into the “real,” the sensory, and the scientific. The traditional “white cube” and the spaces that surround us can be infinitely, creatively transformed through the hybridization of the digital and the real. Barco technology facilitates this emergence and transformation of space.