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Sun Sentinel Article by Philip Valys: Fat Village goes 'Beep Bop Boop'

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Fat Village goes 'Beep Bop Boop'

Exhibition offers an interactive look at 'augmented reality' during FAT Village art walk.

By Phillip Valys,

March 28, 2014


Divya Gadangi's triptych video installation "Medical Spaces" is featured in "Beep Bop Boop," an art and technology-themed group exhibition opening Saturday, March 29, at the Projects -- North warehouse in Fort Lauderdale. (Divya Gadangi/Courtesy / March 27, 2014)

During a walk-through of their new exhibition, "Beep Bop Boop," curators Leah Brown and Peter Symons crawled inside the virtual mind of Hong Kong-based artist Alan Kwan. Kwan's mind is "Bad Trip," a custom-built video-game engine, operated with an Xbox 360 controller, with which players navigate a black-and-white wasteland of rocky landscapes, walking trees and staircases that spiral skyward and connect with floating asteroids.

"It's a very surreal place to walk around in, and you can do it for hours. It's like an M.C. Escher work, or a Salvador Dali desert painting," says Symons, trying but failing to ascend a sharp-angled staircase in the video game, which on this night is projected onto the walls of the Projects — North warehouse in Fort Lauderdale's FAT Village. Symons' character falls multiple stories and alights in front of a house, which is filled with "cubes of memories" from Kwan's life and romantic relationships.

Several more video-projected works and installations will join "Bad Trip" on Saturday night at the Projects — North space, which is opening "Beep Bop Boop" to coincide with the monthly FAT Village art walk. Brown and Symons, a Fort Lauderdale-based artist-couple, say such video-projected works are examples of digital art colliding with technology, spawning a new art form they call "augmented reality."

"They're using technology to experience different levels of art and to mine out different layers of meaning," Symons says of the 16 works on display from 14 international artists. "But the way these digital artists are inspired sometimes is by experimenting, randomly pressing buttons — 'beep, bop, boop' — you know?"

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Visitors to the Projects — North will be invited to play "Bad Trip," along with two other video games, as well as Shannon Novak's interactive project "String Section." The New Zealand-based artist's piece consists of 36 alien-looking hieroglyphs on a wall, and users who download the smartphone app Aurasma can scan the symbol ("like scanning a QR code," Brown says), which triggers the phone to play a musical scale.

"They look like weird symbols on an alien spacecraft or something," Brown says. "But if a bunch of people scan the hieroglyphs at the same time, you can probably create your own orchestral score."

Brown and Symons also collaborated on "Tree of Light," a conical-shaped sculpture crafted with 6,000 yards of white yarn and a trio of slide projectors that emit orange, green and yellow light. Meanwhile, Symons is busy finishing his solo interactive project, "Ariadne's Thread," which he describes as a "brain-powered Etch A Sketch." Anyone who wears a custom headset that maps electrical activity in the brain, Symons says, will see their brain waves doodled onto a boxlike device he built from scratch.

"I'll be the only one wearing the headset," Symons says. "It'll be totally crazy that night, because I expect everyone in this emporium of cool stuff will be playing with everything."

Beep Bop Boop

When: 7-11 p.m. Saturday, March 29; by appointment thereafter

Where: The Projects — North at FAT Village, 523 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale

Cost: Free

Contact: Email for information and appointments.

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