This year’s PULSE Art + Technology Festival was full of tantalizing interactive art. However, one of the central and most popular of these interactive installations was full of deeper meaning. The Mizaru installation by Purring Tiger’s Aaron Sherwood and Kiori Kawai featured a large spandex screen that sat front and center in the lobby of the Jepson Center for the Arts. Visuals were rear projected onto this screen with accompanying sounds and music. Using a mixture of C++ Software and a Microsoft Kinect depth-sensing camera, the duo that is Purring Tiger were able to affect the visuals and generate the differing sounds.
A series of pressure sensitive visual and sound combinations were projected onto and emitted from the screen with visuals alternating between vibrating lines, rippling liquid and splattering ink. During the first few nights of the PULSE Festival the piece drew crowds of viewers who touched, played, leaned, laughed and took photos and video as they interacted with the glowing, responsive surface. Unbeknownst to them they would became a part of the artwork itself, the inspiration for an intriguing performance that was yet to come.
During her artist talk on January 22nd, Kiori Kawai revealed that the spandex wall that onlookers interacted with was only part of the larger work. The real show was in the dance performance that was to happen that night. The dance’s choreography was inspired in part by Kawai’s observations of the way people interacted with the wall. She and her dancers, six of Savannah’s most talented from Savannah Art Academy, put together a routine centered around the visuals and audio produced by the screen and inspired by viewer interactions. Beneath the surface of this dance was an enigmatic questioning of our mortality and existence.
The performance was broken into flowing segments that each corresponded to different visuals and sounds that were emitted from the screen. As the huddled crowd watched attentively, the dancers reacted — not only to the ever-changing music but also to the different visuals being projected onto the screen. The soft wall reacted to their touch, allowing them to create a continuous cycle of cause and effect that propelled and guided the dance.
The writhing emotive movements of the dancers were at times free and flowing as they pranced and spun around the room, and at others burdened as they folded in upon themselves and moved low to the ground. Ultimately, the performance created an undulating flow of movement that mesmerized the crowd. The spandex wall seemed to vibrate with sound and colors that flowed naturally with the choreography, resulting in a breathtaking ricochet of energy between the dancers as a group, the dancers as individuals, and the music and imagery from the wall.
As the choreography came to an end, the combination of interpretive dance and responsive installation piece had taken all in attendance on a visual journey along the border of life and death, lifting the curtains that obscure our sight to reveal a vision of mortality in a more real way. Mizaru allowed everyone who interacted with it to feel more alive.