Don’t be shy. Sit down at the table in the middle of the dark room. Look at the brass lamp with the red light. Press the small, plastic buttons on the top of the control box. Look at the images. Immerse yourself in Beauty Pill’s music. It’s all around you. It’s ideal.
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So goes the feeling of the mixed-media show, “Immersive Ideal,” that runs through Jan. 22 at Artisphere. The interactive, multimedia installation combines the music of Beauty Pill with images projected onto three screens. The combinations of images are controlled by computer software and the buttons the viewers push.
Last summer in an experiment of exposed creativity, Beauty Pill turned the Artisphere’s Black Box theatre into a recording studio, and photographers took photos--about 3,000--of the band, their instruments and equipment as they produced an album over a few weeks. All the while, visitors to the Artisphere could watch the process from behind a glass wall on a mezzanine balcony.
Some of the photos are like those in album liner notes, others are candids, some are mics and cables (or guitars and cables), while others are close-ups of equipment cropped so tight as to show only a small slice, an abstract of the original device.
At the opening Saturday night, Jan. 7, photographer P.J. Sykes talked about getting so close to the items, the viewer could see the texture and hoped that would mimic the textures and layers of the music.
Artistic designer Kelley Bell said she culled the images to about 1,000, and those play before the viewer. Singer Jean Cook said the installation allowed the viewer to move from the glass-walled balcony to the studio floor, hearing the music the band produced in the place they produced it just months before. A large frame hangs before the table, recreating the feeling of being back behind that glass or being in the control booth with the small light and a board full of unlabeled buttons that looks, in the abstract, like a sound board.
“This is a way of letting people into the process that they couldn’t from above,” Cook said.
And the “generative” element, as Bell called it--that is, the act of pushing the buttons that shift which images are seen--had to be more than a simple touch-and-see, a simple on/off. So the box on the table, called a monome, thanks to software by Stephan Moore, combines the images in time with the music but does not show one particular image on one particular screen. Therefore, no one’s experience will be quite the same, and a person could spend quite a bit of time trying the millions of different button combinations.