Nohlab and Decol create an immersive experience at the Contemporary Istanbul

A collaborative project between Nohlab and DECOL from Istanbul resulted in an interactive installation titled Arkhe, inaugurated at the annual art fair in Turkey.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Mar 03, 2020

Slowly but surely, our way of life is undergoing a massive shift. Our engagement with technology is blending seamlessly into our lives, and along with it our need for information. This upsurge in data accessibility is giving us a greater sense of control - in terms of our health, our finances, our habits and more. We are collectively inching toward a life of options that we can choose from, within the circumstances that we can influence. Increasingly, the art world is observing a similar shift. Gone are the days where we stood in awe of that singular painting hanging on the wall behind velvet barricades. Today, we want to touch, feel and immerse ourselves. This calls for artworks that are interactive and moreover, alive. Following this trend, there is a measurable movement toward creating more experiences of this sort for viewers to enjoy. Whether it’s based in technology, design or architecture, art experiences are slowly shifting the power to the viewer.

The art within this space doesn’t push the artist to create a ‘final artwork’. Interactive art creates a new dynamic between the artist and the audience, where an artwork becomes more than a physical object but an experience or an event in itself. The artist creates this event in the shape of a static artwork, but it is ultimately the viewer who brings it to life. Subsequently, artists are able to shift the onus of the final image onto the viewer by breaking down the walls between art and audience. The viewer is able to take on some control of the experience and this increased engagement with the artwork gives the viewer a sense of participation and involvement with the final outcome, as opposed to the traditional way of making and viewing art.

The interactive installation allows for the viewers to control the visual, which translates live as a sound | Arkhe | Nohlab | DECOL | STIRworld
The interactive installation allows for the viewers to control the visual, which translates live as a sound Image Credit: Courtesy of Nohlab

At Nohlab, a multimedia and interdisciplinary studio based in Istanbul, they are dedicated to producing such experiences. The visionary artists and designers at the studio say, “Our artistic approach always aims at an immersive experience for whoever witnesses our work. So, we are interested in taking the audience’s point of view into consideration in every work we do.” Arkhe is a recent interactive installation created by Nohlab and DECOL, a similar collective based in Istanbul. Commissioned by Siemens, Arkhe was inaugurated at the Contemporary Istanbul in September 2019. The installation was crafted using a combination of custom interactive software, interactive sound, UI design, rear projection system, plexiglass and mirrors and touch screens.

Arkhe is a look at the intersection of technology and art - a peek into what the future holds |Arkhe | Nohlab | DECOL | STIRworld
Arkhe is a look at the intersection of technology and art - a peek into what the future holds Image Credit: Courtesy of Nohlab

Arkhe draws inspiration from physics using a variation of Navier-Stokes equation, which is used for the solution of fluid dynamics problems in physics, adapted on the graphics processors. The creators at Nohlab and DECOL explain, “While implementing this part, we used openFrameworks, a C++ based library. Emitters representing three different elements (fire, water, ice) act according to this dynamic and interact with each other”. The installation uses TouchDesigner, Ableton and openFrameworks to create this immersive audiovisual artwork. The installation is designed to respond to the viewers’ touch with not only visuals but also audio, translated live through Ableton. The creators at Nohlab and DECOL say, “In the end, the audience’s experience is always personal in every artwork. And the more the audience has a chance to gain control over their experience, the more they become a piece of a holistic artwork, being the manipulator and the manipulated at the same time. They become an organic part of the artwork themselves”.

The installation uses custom software, Ableton, TouchDesigner and openFrameworks to create this interactive experience | Arkhe | Nohlab | DECOL | STIRworld
The installation uses custom software, Ableton, TouchDesigner and openFrameworks to create this interactive experience Image Credit: Courtesy of Nohlab

This new outlook on art has triggered a dynamic shift in the way art is made and experienced. The artist and viewer are no longer opposites, but in fact, partners in the process of creation. This pattern of our changing relationship with technology is going to continue to evolve for many years and while the future is as yet unknown, we can be sure that the art industry will be developing alongside it at equal pace.

Arkhe uses plexiglass and mirrors to create a user experience enabled through technology and design at the Contemporary Istanbul | Arkhe | Nohlab | DECOL | STIRworld
Arkhe uses plexiglass and mirrors to create a user experience enabled through technology and design at the Contemporary Istanbul Image Credit: Courtesy of Nohlab

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