From eight-bit to VR A new type of artwork interaction


At a museum in downtown Kitchener, art is no longer simply displayed, nor is it only visual.

As a part of Digital Dynamics 2018 at THEMUSEUM, the INTERACTION and INTERPLAY exhibits allow visitors to do exactly as the names imply. Adults and children alike are encouraged to not only witness, but to touch, listen, and experience the technological displays that have time traveled from eras of both the past and future.

“We’re very unique because we don’t have a [permanent] collection, so we have the freedom to do an experiment to push boundaries,” David Marskell, the chief executive officer of THEMUSEUM, said.

INTERACTION, curated by Alain Thibault and Jane Tingley, the University of Waterloo’s assistant professor in hybrid media, presents an array of unique works. They range from a voice-activated dress called Incertitudes by Ying Gao, to Minimal Object which is a tangible soundscape by David Rokeby, to a neon virtual reality cube puzzle titled SUPERHYPERCUBE by kokoromi. The exhibit also features Swinging Suitcase, a pair of suitcases that emit sounds of birds when in motion created by Jessica Thompson, UW’s assistant professor in hybrid practice.

Interactive art, unlike paintings, drawings, or sculptures, engages its audience in the art itself. According to Tingley, who had started her career as a sculptor, “the act itself plays as much of a role as the actual visual.” She is passionate about this art as it can “facilitate interaction between strangers.”

“I had a very deep interest in people and what they’re thinking and how they experience things. Everything that I felt, I wanted to actually happen,” Tingley said.

Meanwhile, INTERPLAY, a two-part exhibit, offers a peek into technology from the past. In the History of Electronic Entertainment exhibit by the Personal Computer Museum, a collection of “personal computers and video game consoles” straight from the seventies to nineties engage visitors in classic games such as Donkey Kong and includes an eight-bit music recording set-up. The exhibition’s counterpart, Thinking Through Games, was lead by UW’s Games Institute and the Technoculture, Art, and Games Research Centre (TAG) from Concordia University to educate visitors on the study and creation of games.

Despite THEMUSEUM’s early beginnings as a museum for children, it is now branching out to young adults, striving to stay relevant by integrating an artistic perspective into the tech community as the region of Kitchener-Waterloo continues the shift into a tech sector for young professionals. Marskell expressed that THEMUSEUM may become a “place for dialogs [and] a place to generate ideas.”

As well, Tingley encourages students to visit the exhibit as she believes that technology should not only be integrated into art, but an artistic challenge. “I think it is really important for students here, in Waterloo, to see what is happening in terms of media art,” she said, “Waterloo has a really strong voice in technological development … I think creative voices using technology have a strong play and I think that they need to be heard because they offer alternative visions.”

However, Marskell added that these exhibits may even influence children’s point of view on the type of career path that they can pursue. He described THEMUSEUM as cross-generational.

“I think that if we can awe, inspire, and enlighten people at any age, at all stages of life,” Marskell said, “it’s really important.”

Digital Dynamics 2018 will be open until May 13, with Tingley’s curator talk taking place on Feb. 7.