Friday, 2 April 2010

Decode at the V&A

We finally got to make the most of some complimentary tickets to go to the Decode exhibition at the V&A today and I really enjoyed it. For those of you that aren't familiar with it, the website explains that the exhibition:

'showcases the latest developments in digital and interactive design, from small, screen-based, graphics to large-scale interactive installations.' (go to the website if you need more info)

I was a little bit baffled by the first bits. I'm a bit clueless about art - just because I've never really learnt how best to approach it and what to do when I'm looking at it, and digital art was no different. Plus there was a really narrow corridor at the start which was full of people, it being Good Friday and therefore a bank holiday, and it was hard to get close to any of the exhibits, and when you did, it felt like you were blocking other people's views.

When the corridor widened out though, the exhibits got more interesting. The first one that really caught my eye was the Social Collider exhibit which is part of the Network section. I don't really get how it worked but this basically makes a visual representation based on data from Twitter about whatever you type in to the keyboard at the start. I typed in my Twitter ID and saw a visualisation of all my own tweets and, from what I can make out, tweets by people I have tweeted with, and tweets between people I follow. Without really understanding it I still just thought it was really cool!

All the other exhibits that really caught my attention though were in the Interactivity section which is unsurprising really because they engaged me by getting me to do things and being actively involved in the experience. Particularly cool were:

  • Dandelion - where you used a hairdryer with an infrared signal in it to blow the seeds of a virtual dandelion on the screen in front of you
  • Video grid - a 'blockbuster' type screen of lot of videos where you could touch one of the videos and replace it with a little film of yourself doing whatever you wanted in front of the camera for a couple of seconds which was then repeated over and over again until someone replaced your video. It made a wall of continuously moving images of people doing funny things, or just simple things - a woman picking up her child, a couple kissing, people dancing, spinning round on the spot, doing funny walks etc. It would be interesting to do a study of which types of videos stayed up their longest. The only thing was that, for the more timid amongst us, having loads of people around you made you a bit reticent to record yourself - I rather regret now that we didn't do it now!
  • Body Paint - you could stand in front of a screen and basically your body movements were reflected in great colourful splashes of paint on a digital canvas in front of you

Overall I thought it was a really great way to showcase a different side of technology to the boring, techy stereotype and to make it into something fun and interactive for everyone to enjoy and be part of.

Hurry up if you haven't been yet - it closes on 11 April!

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