'Touch Me Not', projection and physically interactive interface, 2011. Photo: Anna Castleton Simmons [enlarge]

'Touch Me Not', projection and physically interactive interface, 2011. Photo: Anna Castleton Simmons

'Dash Dot Dash', iron hemisphere and polystyrene core supported by Kvadrat, interactive hardware and PC, 2011. Photo: Anna Castleton Simmons [enlarge]

'Dash Dot Dash', iron hemisphere and polystyrene core supported by Kvadrat, interactive hardware and PC, 2011. Photo: Anna Castleton Simmons

REVIEW

Inside Playful Minds

Arts Gallery, University of the Arts London
14 September - 28 October

Reviewed by: Sam Clift »

I couldn't help but absorb myself into it.

I was immediately hit by a wall of child-like fuzzy sketches splayed out across a wall in what appeared to be black marker pen. Fishes, planes, birds and a child on a scooter (which at first seemed odd, but later on completely made sense) all merged together in a strange kind of flocking motion.

To give you some background, as part of London Design Festival 2011, 'Inside Playful Minds' is an exhibition by Physical Pixels consisting of three installations (or pixels even), which explore the boundaries of digital technology and design in its most playful form.

Touch Me Not consists of a screen of what appeared to be made from Lycra, with moving imagery projected onto it from either side. As I walked around the screen I was ever so slightly enclosed by the surrounding walls, which created a kind of cinematic feel: blocking the natural light out to create brilliantly rich colours on the screen. It wasn't until someone poked the screen from the other side that I became aware you could change the effects of the animation through touch, so I started to graze my hand across the material adding my own digital mark. This made me realise how initially naive I was as a participant to the work; highlighting the fact that my own ability to understand and make sense of a situation was also under question, which in turn gave me a feeling not too different from when as a child you would be taught a new game, and then you would go on to show others. This, along with the oddly juxtaposed cube-like spaces, made me think about how I moved around the gallery and interacted with each work.

Dash Dot Dash ironically jumped to life after I saw a young man kick one of its 'rocking robots'. Made up of a selection of what I can only describe as giant static jelly beans sat inside a foam lined cube interior, when touched the work played a piano chord emitted from nearby speakers. Depending on where you knocked these objects, they made different sounds, which allowed you to create your own music that projected across the gallery.

In Contact, which displayed a line of turf (which after further exploration turned out to be real grass) against a large wall of brightly coloured cardboard concertina fans, neatly joined together. Again, after being prompted, I discovered that brushing my hands through the grass sent a signal to the fans, which made them open and close a little bit depending on how gentle you were. I'm not sure how they did it, but the simplicity and total visual absence of anything mechanical made this a mesmerising yet quirky feat.

Physical Pixels have created a powerful environment here, which completely blows open one's sensory trajectory and brings the basic instincts of human nature to the fore. With its mischievous undertone and emphasis on interaction, it echoes the likes of 'Psycho Buildings' at Hayward Gallery in 2008; though small in comparison, 'Inside Playful Minds' packs a powerful punch.

www.samclift.com

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