CR Blog

Go and tweet the joy machine

Art, Digital

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 23 March 2012, 16:50    Permalink    Comments (0)

The inside of The Hello Cube is beamed to a big screen – a still is also sent back to the Twitter user who initiated the particular combination of colours and patterns

Hellicar & Lewis unveiled their latest digital installation, The Hello Cube, at Tate Modern earlier today as part of a series of events centred around the gallery's Yayoi Kusama exhibition. Visitors can tweet @thehellocube to dictate the patterns and shapes which appear on a huge screen, and you can even do it (and see your efforts) remotely...

The Hello Cube at Tate Modern on the Turbine Hall bridge

The duo won the pitch to create a piece of work for Tate Collectives' Infinite Kasuma weekend in December and the project came out of several workshops conducted with youth teams organised via the REcreative initiative. The Hello Cube, situated on the Turbine Hall bridge from today until Sunday, is the result.

Pete Hellicar and Joel Gethin Lewis formed their practice in 2008 (subscribers can read Eliza's profile on them from CR July 09, here). Since then they have been working with technology to create interactive art and design projects which, while at the forefront of digital exploration, are often rooted in the physical world. They are now respresented by Nexus Interactive Arts.

The Hello Cube is a direct response to Kusama's work but it reacts to both social media (Twitter) and physical activity around the cube itself (via microphones). Essentially it is a "Twitterable object", as Gethin Lewis calls it, containing a screen set within a series of mirrors. Visitors to the Tate, and indeed anyone on Twitter, can tweet 'commands' to @thehellocube and the Cube will turn these into short animations.

There are three levels of command terms: firstly, 'scenes' such as 'drawn', 'texture', 'cells' and 'spots'; then 'effects' like 'bigger', 'smaller', 'flip', 'reflect', 'ripple', 'shake', 'pixelate', or 'swirl'; followed by sixty different colours in the software. So tweeting "purple texture shatter green pixellate swirls" will result in, well, you'll have to try it and find out.

A camera situated within the cube films the animation (based on the latest commands given) which is then projected onto a large screen on the Turbine Hall bridge. As you can see in some of the shots below, various holes in the side of the cube allow Tate visitors to stick hands and arms in through the structure, adding to the kaleidoscopic madness (and also messing with the sense of scale).

"When you tweet your commands the camera also takes a snapshot of that space and sends it back to you," says Hellicar. "We get excited by not being able to predict what will come out of it," adds Gethin Lewis, "you can essentially interact with the cube from anywhere in the world."

While clearly a result of their digital know-how, The Hello Cube also comes out Hellicar & Lewis' interest in "analogue toys and stage craft", the kinds of elements that have for centuries kept people entranced in front of spectacle.

It's part of a desire to bring a sense of enchantment into digital projects, with the audience often having equal input in the creation of a piece of work. "We don't create narratives, we create systems," says Gethin Lewis. "When people interact with them they create their own narrative."

Sure, there's a hefty amount of technology behind The Hello Cube. But strip it back and it seems that, as with much of Kusama's art on the gallery's fourth floor, there's a real love of simple enchantment in their work. "It's a magical joy machine," says Gethin Lewis, summing up their Twitter-fed, mirrored-cube-projector very nicely indeed.

To start interacting with The Hello Cube, tweet @thehellocube with a series of the commands listed above. Yayoi Kasuma is on at Tate Modern until June 5. Infinite Kasuma is a partnership with Tate Collectives, REcreative and the Louis Vuitton Arts Project.

One of CR's attempts sent remotely and helped in some small way by an unidentified gallery-goer's arms

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