The absolute high­light of the exhibit, though, is Shadow Monsters, an instal­la­tion by Philip Worthington. You enter a small room with a very bright light on the wall behind you, and your “shadow” is “cast” on the oppo­site wall. The shadow, how­ever, is aug­mented in real-time to sug­gest how it would be seen in the mind of a child who’s been told to sleep, but can’t stop wor­ry­ing about mon­sters under the bed. While your pro­jected shadow grows horns, teeth, scary eye­balls and shaggy hair, the space is acti­vated with growl­ing, grunt­ing, and gar­gling — the sounds of hun­gry mon­sters prepar­ing to devour lit­tle chil­dren. My favorite moment was when I made an alligator-like shadow pup­pet with my arms, and it grew large teeth and spat in dis­gust toward the oppo­site wall. (There was audio for the spit­ting, too.)

Not to brag, but that last bit of com­pu­ta­tion­ally enhanced per­for­mance art drew a brief stand­ing ova­tion from a crowd of onlook­ers. You see, with Shadow Monsters, there are the shad­ows, and there are the peo­ple cast­ing the shad­ows, both of which could be con­sid­ered per­form­ers, since they both con­tribute some­thing to the space. And then there are the peo­ple out­side the space look­ing in, watch­ing the performance.

But, in real­ity, the onlook­ers are part of the per­for­mance, too. They unwit­tingly play the part of the lit­tle child, peek­ing out from under the cov­ers, afraid and con­fused, unable to explain what’s real and what’s not, and unwill­ing to get out of bed (and into the space) until they can fig­ure out what’s really going on. My the­ory is that I drew a few claps because I wasn’t afraid to “get out from under the cov­ers” and really explore the sys­tem. (I was fairly con­fi­dent that it would not actu­ally eat me.) I raised my arms, stuck out my legs, made enclosed shadow-spaces (which is how to trig­ger eye­balls, I dis­cov­ered), and did a num­ber of other phys­i­cal actions that would have got­ten me kicked out of the museum, had I not been within that instal­la­tion space. But I didn’t care, because I wanted to know how the algo­rithm worked, and besides, my atten­tion was on the large pro­jec­tion in front of me, so I wasn’t think­ing about how silly I looked until peo­ple started clapping.


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