New Interactive Exhibit Comes to the Museum of Vancouver: Wearable, touchable art

Photo sourced from MuseumofVancouver.ca

Photo sourced from MuseumofVancouver.ca

In most museums, works of art are meant to be respectfully observed from a distance.  Not so in the latest exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver.

Lively Objects, which debuted earlier this month, consists largely of objects that call out to be picked up, held, interacted with and admired. Artworks vibrate – sometimes quite literally – with mechanical, digital and even “magical” forces. The result is an exhibition that turns the traditional museum experience on its head – instead of quietly awaiting our appreciation, the exhibits demand our attention.

Visitors wander through galleries filled with multiple pieces of interactive art in a variety of forms – from special gloves to machines and projected images. Some works hide in plain sight and may only catch the eye of an astute passerby. Others make a ruckus and force interaction. 

Photo sourced from TourismVancouver.com

Photo sourced from TourismVancouver.com

It’s hard to miss the provocatively titled Phone Safe 2. Inside the exhibition, visitors are confronted by a piece of art that looks a lot like a safety deposit box. Instructions are explicit: Guests are asked to kindly lock their mobile phones inside for a brief “trial separation.” Now cut off from our constant digital companion, we’re forced to explore the gallery with new eyes.

In one corner is a unique topographic rendering of Vancouver, the region’s contours carved out on a 3D table. Get a bit closer, however, and the entire structure begins to shake – a vivid illustration of the seismographic forces at work in the Pacific Northwest. The topographic table is also rigged up to an Internet connection. Whenever an earthquake happens in the region (there are multiple minor tremors every day), the artwork vibrates to life on its own.

Nearby, it’s hard to resist picking up a unique pair of “Go Go Gloves.” Putting them on transforms the wearer into a kind of digital puppeteer. Through the magic of sensors and wireless technology, the gloves control the movements of a pair of sexy dancers projected onto a nearby screen. The gloves are meant to draw attention to the way the female body is manipulated through fashion.

An example of a another exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver. Photo sourced from TourismVancouver.com

An example of a another exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver. Photo sourced from TourismVancouver.com

Elsewhere in the gallery, visitors discover exhibits with darker and more political messages – insects swarming over a pair of Victorian ceramic baby dolls, for instance, or an insecticide sprayer cast in bronze. There are dazzling digital displays, too – from an elaborate model of a family home build with the program SecondLife to an exhibit of digital raindrops falling on the surface of a pond.

Lively Objects is showing at the Museum of Vancouver through Oct. 12.  The museum is located in Vanier Park, just across False Creek from downtown.

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