Touch the Starry Night
Interactive Installation | Summer 2013
In a world in which traditional art pieces are not tangible, I made a masterpiece that can be touched. When people touch the canvas, they discovered it is more than just a typical painting. Their touch triggers an animation that brings to life an interactive vision inspired by Van Gogh's classic masterpiece.
I was responsible for the concept, interactive design, visual design, physical construction, sound design, space setup. I made this piece 5 years ago with my friend Tate who has a computer science background helped me with the programming. This experience inspired me to learn about the creative programme, which allowed me to fully contribute to my other projects.
I replicated my vision of the room in which Van Gogh created this painting. The dark room represented his bedroom with the Starry Night on the easel, while to the upper left the screen represented the window open to the night sky. This room allowed spectators experience as if they were adventurers who go back in time and reappreciate the painting.
Three components are a 1:1 painting copy with 15 capacitive sensors (used in older touchscreen phones) with Arduino, a computer, and a screen. Physical interaction part is powered by Arduino, the controller software receives signals from the capacitive sensors behind the canvas and displays different animations. The animated part is powered by Processing (a programming software for multimedia artists).
On June 22th, 1889, Van Gogh depicted the view of the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise. According to the address and the time of creation, I calculated out the identity of each star on the canvas. After people touch any of them, the visual part travels through the universe and arrives at the specific planet. What's more, there is a random quote by Van Gogh which is displayed by moving cosmic dust.
What I Have Learned
The principle of the capacitive sensor.
The conductive material research.
Creative coding with Processing.
Physical construction with Arduino.
Communicate with the programmer.
What Would I Improve
• The content could hold more practical and meaningful information on arbitrary and poetic feelings, such as engaging historical information. I believe it is more rewarding to provide not only beautiful vibes but also knowledge/philosophy spontaneously as relevant novels or dramas.
• It was the second time that I cooperate with a programmer to make my art. The communication between us was fine. However, I want to be more skillful at articulate my vision. In order to do this, I need to learn specific coding terms based on coding knowledge, which would be spectacular.
• So many people strolled about, and it was crowded during the peak time. Luckily, the system worked very well during the exhibition. People were inquisitive to discover what’s going on behind the canvas.
• This concept can be launched on various masterpieces for diverse audiences, such as sculptures, tapestries, origami among the others that have abundant textures. The professor of Tsinghua University in Fine Art Oil Painting department considered applying my concept into her work.
• What’s more, I didn’t expect the romantic effect this installation provoked, one couple remained there for an hour and didn’t want to leave, which is sweet but annoying :p