Palo Alto may be one of the cradles of Silicon Valley, but this week one of the city’s parks goes Paleolithic. A “ruin” populated by colorful primitive life forms will appear in downtown Lytton Plaza. Visitors can even interact with the beings that inhabit the ruin.
It is not a time travel portal, but an interactive installation called “Paleo al to” and despite its ancient theme, technology has made it possible.
“Paleoalto” is a centerpiece of Code: ART, a three-day city of Palo Alto festival that highlights new media, October 7-9 in Palo Alto. In addition to “Paleoalto”, visitors can enjoy six other “urban interventions” – digital works that all invite interaction – placed in locations in and around downtown Palo Alto.
“Paleoalto” is a collaboration between Marpi Studio based in Alameda and the designers and installers of Color Feeders technological systems.
Artist Marpi specializes in interactive works, both large-scale installations and smaller pieces that can be experienced on screens as small as a phone. His exhibitions have been shown around the world, including Shanghai, China, and Seoul, Korea, and often feature organic forms that also have a slightly supernatural quality.
“It’s an interactive but imaginary world. So it’s (about) ‘How do you bring the imagination into a three-dimensional physical space?’” Said Marpi.
He worked with Color Feeders co-founders, Production Designer Will Clark and System Architect Kevin Colorado for approximately three years. They worked more closely together as the parts became more and more complex or demanding in the design.
“(‘Paleoalto’) is more of a design collaboration than a technical collaboration. Traditionally, when I have collaborated with Marpi in the past, it was more from a technical point of view – by designing the infrastructure that allows for digital experiences to happen, ”Colorado mentioned.
In this case, the collaboration involved becoming more familiar with important details, such as the look of the room.
“It’s a great experience, and even considering our previous work which was also relatively experimental, it just goes further,” Marpi said of “Paleoalto”. “… with all of this, we’re heading into uncharted territory in a bunch of directions.”
Marpi’s works are site specific, which posed a particular challenge for an outdoor space like a plaza. Most of Marpi’s installations were created for interior spaces, and many of them used projections. “Paleoalto” uses an LED wall and uses software to track and reflect the movements of visitors.
“We researched different camera vision systems and hand tracking software. Either way, we focus on technologies where you don’t have to touch anything. Our work previously focused on touch screens and phone interactions, as well as touch. interactions, but this time it’s about following your skeleton and following your hands in the air, ”Marpi said.
Marpi’s works often incorporate music, and while the details of what the music will be like were still in development when Marpi and the Color Feeders talked about this post, “Paleoalto” will certainly have some original music to help plant. the decor for visitors.
One thing that makes “Paleoalto” particularly unique as an interactive piece is its form, with the installation constructed in the form of a staircase.
“We worked with engineers from the city of Palo Alto to design a truss system and then attach a protruding LED wall to it. It’s shaped like a step, so it’s not just a traditional square or rectangle like a screen. It has its own tapered edges and a few extra panels on top, ”Clark said.
The pandemic has delayed the exposure of “Paleoalto” by more than a year. In the meantime, Lytton Plaza saw a few changes that required some design changes, which reduced the space for installation a bit, for one. Another big change was the planting of a few trees in the square which eventually became a fortuitous addition, bringing an added sense of realism to the room.
“It became a design consideration, which was pretty cool, and we incorporated the trees into our setup. The trees emerge from our digital ruins, and that connects them to the physical world,” Colorado said.
“It’s also in the theme, because I’m always a fan of that kind of overgrown ruins look, where nature takes over,” Marpi added.
Not only is its shape unusual, but the design of “Paleoalto” allows for greater interaction. Where many interactive rooms only have one side for visitors to participate in, “Paleoalto” is double-sided and actually allows for interaction between the sides.
“I am really enthusiastic about the design aspect. I’ve never really seen anything like this myself in terms of outdoor installation like this. I feel like we’ve done a lot of work to make this not stand out. like a large video wall; it’s a totally immersive thing that seems to belong to that space, ”said Clark.
“Paleoalto” may have moved into his temporary home with his own population of whimsical, brightly colored creatures, but he’s waiting for visitors who will truly bring him to life.
“More than anything else, it’s the interactivity that gives it soul, that brings it to life,” Colorado said.
“Paleoalto” will perform October 7-9 at Lytton Plaza, 125 University Ave., Palo Alto. For more information and a map showing where to find the seven Code: ART pieces, visit cityofpaloalto.org.