Art

Nocturne exhibit bridges art and science

Dalhousie’s GEM lab engages community with interactive art show

written by Chiara Ferrero-Wong and Jessica Briand
October 19, 2017 1:09 pm

Halifax had its 10th annual Nocturne: Art at Night event on Oct. 12 and 14 showcasing the local art scene in the city.

Nocturne is a non-profit organization run largely by volunteers dedicated to creating the most immersive and unique art experience for the people of Halifax. Every year, Nocturne collaborates with a curatorial team to come up with an overarching theme for the artists, and this year the theme is “Vanish.” Among the groups that will be featured at this year’s Nocturne is Dalhousie University’s GEM lab.

The GEM lab, or the Graphics and Experiential Media lab, is a research group within the Faculty of Computer Science. GEM concentrates on a variety of subjects including augmented and mixed realities, immersive visualization, mobile computing, animation and simulation, new media, and physical computer interfaces. The research conducted by GEM is applied to various fields including gaming, cultural heritage, and interactive art.

GEM puts on one of their interactive events at each Nocturne; it’s especially interested in how users react to the interfaces they create, making Nocturne the perfect place to conduct research on how their projects are received, while also creating their unparalleled interactive art.

This year marks GEM’s sixth project with Nocturne.

Dr. Derek Reilly, an assistant professor at Dal’s Faculty of Computer of Sciences, describes “Curling Virtuoso,” this year’s exhibit from the GEM lab as “a mashup of curling and Guitar Hero”.

With the help of John Newhook from the Department of Civil and Resource Engineering, GEM has created a curling simulator, using a real curling broom as the interface.

The way the exhibit works is this: when the Nocturne attendees use the curling broom, the broom works simultaneously as a bow, creating music while playing a game of curling.

Dr. Reilly explained that for their projects, they often use classic video games as a starting point.

Some of the projects that GEM has done in the past are similar in nature to this years. In the past they’ve created “Tweetris,” a combination of yoga, twitter, and Tetris; “Operation: Citadel,” was a mixed reality time-travelling game on the waterfront and Citadel hill; and “Are We Really Strangers?” was the real-time visual representation of Halifax as a social network. At each of these events, participants got to be directly involved with the exhibits, creating fully immersive experiences.

GEM lab bridges science and art – a creative approach rarely utilized. Often people fail to see the connection between science and art, instead viewing the two as completely separate entities. GEM successfully overlaps the two fields to make a cohesive whole.

The projects allow engagement with a larger demographic by combining science and art while also displaying the potential of interactive art.