Bumbershoot Visual Arts, Part II

The group show Skyward!, at Fisher Pavilion, riffs on the futuristic ambitions of our 1962 World's Fair. The sci-fi mandate would seem a natural for artists in our high-tech hub, and the most interesting responses are mostly interactive. A floor-sensor mat in the entryway allows visitors to tap dance on their own images, which quickly captivates children. Even better is a small alcove to your left, an installation called Cosmic Dust (pictured above), by the artist duo known as I Want You. As we watched the kids (and a few adults) dancing in the laser-lit gallery, one of the two artists told me a little about the piece...

"The kids are the best," says Benjamin Van Citters, while watching visitors dance and cavort in front of their colorful mirror images. Only the images aren't exact, Van Citters explains. Using lasers and an Xbox console, "the Kinect senses how far things are things are away." That data is fed into software written by Van Citters and his partner, Christian Peterson, formerly of the local design studio Dumb Eyes and publisher of I Want You magazine. The near instantaneous image capture is then projected on different wall panels, making the dark gallery seem like a crowded nightclub. "We've had some really good dancers," says Van Citters. "People are getting silly with it."

During an afternoon visit, most of those inside Cosmic Dust were from the stroller set--families with kids. Later in the day, one imagines, more motivated dancers might arrive from the nearest music stages, in the mood to rave. In fact, Van Citters and Peterson have previously deployed a similar laser installation at the Bellevue Arts Museum, for one of its BAMignite parties. (SAM might do the same for one of its Remix evenings.) Trained at the UW, Van Citters says Cosmic Dust represents a melding of "art and math." Just don't tell that to the kids.

Nearby is another interactive station, created by Hollow Earth Radio (Garrett Kelly and Amber Kai Morgan), which combines a cheap thermal-ink printer, a new iPad, and a vintage 1968 device called a Carrivoice. Submit to Cloud has visitors kneel before the wood cabinet and whisper into a microphone, something like a confessional. One's mutterings are then bounced to the ionosphere and back, transcribed, and printed (in somewhat garbled form). The device requires plenty of explaining and coaxing, but the artists are there to help you through the process. After Bumbershoot, it would be perfect for the EMP--the kind of retro sci-fi thing Paul Allen would love.

For those in a less confessional mood, disinclined to dance, you can just trance out to the video Dark Star, by Heather and Ivan Morison. A series of stills taken in the desert community of Quartzville, Arizona is augmented by computer, creating giant pyrite clusters rotating in the dry, blue sky. Quartzville is reportedly a center of UFO sightings (or at least UFO enthusiasts), and these eerie gold objects float in the air with unnatural weight--if not quite alien menace.

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