What haven’t I done in a while? Posted on the Blueshift Design Blog! So let’s rectify that today and bring to your attention some pretty art installations I’ve recently run across, and one that is so overdone and trite that I had to mention it out of anger.

First off, the one I didn’t like, an installation called “wander through the crystal universe” by teamLab. Though, allow me to clarify that earlier statement: it’s not that I found the artwork distasteful, or poorly-done – it was done very well and it’s aesthetically pleasing. But this particular concept, which we’ll call “Buying A Lot Of A Stock Video Product And Hanging It In Straight Lines And Calling It Art”, or BALOASVPAHIISLACIA for short, has been done. To. Death. Then brought back to life, done, and died again. Observe:

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Big design houses just cannot seem to resist the allure of hanging a ton of LED pixels in a large space and having people walk through it. And I can see why – it’s really, really beautiful, especially when done well, and teamLab is certainly a big enough design house to know how to do things well. The only interesting thing about this particular installation is that this time, they included the “aroma of the universe”, the smell being supervised by an actual astronaut. This is something I’ve heard about before, space evidently has a rather strange smell, like seared steak, welding fumes, or ozone.” I’m curious as to whether the scent they pumped in was supposed to approximate the acrid tinge of ozone (which you’ve probably smelled before, photocopy machines in particular are good at producing it, sort of a bleach-y, sharp smell.) but I doubt that most art installation dwellers would have much enjoyed that. But I digress.

The point is – almost this exact same setup has been done a ton of times by a bunch of other people, AND by teamLam themselves, with the “Crystal Universe” art installation. Hell, the Space Mountain ride at Disney World does this. It’s pretty, it’s fun to see, but hanging lots of stock lights in straight lines for the umpteenth time is no longer innovative. It’s clichéd now.

But all is not clichéd, because teamLab has done some really interesting things, and one in particular that stands out to me is their installation “drawing on the water surface created by the dance of koi and people — infinity”, which doesn’t win any points for brevity of the the title but certainly wins for creative use of projection, this time on water. The “koi” and their trajectories (in a variety of larger-than-life colors) and media projected onto the surface is procedurally generated as the users walk in an around the water, and the fish respond to the movements of the people in the water. Mirrors on the wall enhance the cavernous feel of the space.

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I find procedurally generated content like this really fun, and we’re starting to see more of this kind of stuff appear in the entertainment world, especially with the rise of technologies like Blacktrax that allow tracking an object in two or three dimensions. I imagine that as as the cost of this tech comes down, we’ll see a rise in the use of procedurally generated content, though pre-rendered will continue to dominate for the majority of times when you don’t need interactivity.