post by Pavlos Panagiotidis (2022 cohort)
The Rising Spring: Awakening and Arrivals interactive installation is Makers of Imaginary Worlds (MOIW) latest project and will be presented at Lakeside Arts until May 2023. It is a compelling example of how multisensory interactive art can create a fun and playful experience for children and family audiences. MOIW and Lakeside Arts are the industry partners of my Horizon CDT PhD project, where I explore mixed reality performance-making methods. My task was to identify elements of the event’s narrative design and its impact on the audience’s engagement, with the aim of exploring the potential applications of digitally enhanced narratives in mixed reality theatre production.
The inspiration for the installation was the theme of spring and the feeling of transition to the blossoming season. It was designed to evoke the feeling of rejuvenation. The designers were also inspired by the beautiful landscape of Lakeside Arts, and incorporated aspects of the natural environment into the installation. MOIW designed the installation to engage the audience’s senses beyond sight, with an additional focus on touch and sound.
One of the most exciting parts of the installation is the stepping stones, where children can jump around stone-looking fabric shapes in an imaginary lake. The stones respond to people stepping on them with sounds, allowing participants to cooperate and create small symphonies and encouraging children to work together. The installation also contains giant flowers, some of which are robotic and open when approached by participants. Matt Little, the creative technologist who supported the creation of the installation, focused on ensuring that the event was safe for children and would operate continuously with minimum service. Tom Hartman from the School of Life Sciences of the University provided some 3D anaglyph images of bugs made up of red and cyan filters. By using 3D glasses, the audience could see bugs from a unique perspective, providing more layers of unique sensory engagement.
Another interesting aspect of the installation is the use of scale. The large-scale flowers and objects create an unfamiliar and aesthetically pleasing environment for children to immerse themselves. Additionally, the installation encourages visitors to leave their own mark by sharing their spring drawings. This adds a personal touch to the event and makes visitors feel part of the experience.
A critical consideration in designing interactive installations for children is promoting agency and playfulness while finding the right balance regarding the instructions provided. Too little information may leave some participants without experiencing the full extent of the event, while too much information may strip away the joy of exploration and discovery. The Rising Spring installation strikes the right balance, allowing children to explore and discover at their own pace while still providing enough information to guide them.
Overall, the event allows children and family audiences to engage with interactive art in a fun and playful environment. It encourages exploration and discovery. As the installation evolves over time with new material and activities added, repeat visits offer surprises and discoveries for participants. “Rising Spring” at Lakeside Arts is an example of how interactive installations can offer a memorable experience for young children.