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Play Ball

Nice moves: "Connectivity" in the development stage.
Ken Howie

The other day, I found myself swooping a glowing green ball in front of me as I stepped forward, kneeled to the floor, and then scooted to the side. I was in the middle of the Americas Gallery at ASU Art Museum, and I looked like a conceptual interpretive dancer.

And it was worth it.

The reason for my wild and ridiculous gestures was a new multimedia installation called "Connectivity Stage 1 Interlab." The name sounds clunky and overly technical, but the show is super-slick. And when I was there, it went off without a hitch. In the center of the gallery, an enclosed projection screen is affixed to the floor. Outside the entrance is a small kiosk with four buttons. Here's how it works: Each button represents an artwork on display in the Americas Gallery. You can choose from Alexander Calder's Many Pierced Disks, Edward Hopper's House by a Road, Hung Liu's The Trophy and John Frederick Peto's The Rack. You push the button and grab either the orange or green glowing ball. I chose the Hopper.

As I entered the space, the projection of a three-story house, inspired by Hopper's painting, glowed on the screen. Melodic electronic music played, and as I moved with my green ball, the image spun, zoomed in, and minimized, depending on my gesture. The soundtrack became louder as I sunk the ball close to the floor and sounded distant as I pulled the ball away.

The walls are lined in electronic sensors — as if straight out of the Sci Fi Channel. Every movement manipulated the projected image, and I totally got into it. It wasn't until I was well into the third image option that I became self-conscious. By that point, I was having so much fun that I didn't care.

The installation has one heck of a credit roster, including ASU Arts, Media, and Engineering folks David Birchfield, Aaron Cuthbertson, Sarah Hatton, Brandon Mechtley, and Chris Todd. The impressive video, audio and gesture components are courtesy of Phoenix Metropolitan Arts Institute high school students and their instructor, Aaron Abbot.

Typically, I shy away from interactive installations. They're usually only mildly intriguing, and when I participate, I'm immediately embarrassed — as if I've been duped. But this multimedia experience was so compelling, I was glad to humiliate myself.

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