An interactive installation at the Tate Modern caused a wave of twittering and tweeting this past weekend. People often tweet about artworks but can one tweet at an artwork? And will the artwork tweet back? The Hello Cube, an interactive installation at the Tate, answered all of the above in no more than 140 characters. Even more twitterrific was how the dynamic installation continually changed its patterns and colors in response to individual tweets. The Hello Cube was the centerpiece for the Infinite Kusama Project, which centered on engaging younger audiences (ages 16-25) with Kusama’s work. Described as “a day of the immersive, the hallucinatory, and the expansive,” the project consisted “of a range of workshops designed to take you closer to Kusama's distinctive visual universe.”
The installation got its very own twitter account where users were prompted to tweet at it with commands such as “red love pixelate” or “blue cells faster." I got a tweet response from The Hello Cube within seconds, accompanied by an image of the compositional changes that had occurred in its mirrored inside due to my somewhat imperative commands! Over the course of the weekend, The Hello Cube obliged several thousand tweeters/Kusama enthusiasts, always replying with additional commands that they could try, and created a sense of involvement regardless of, say, the number of miles between Pittsburgh and London!
For those at Tate Modern, the experience was far more insightful; not only did they get to see an amazing Kusama exhibition but they were in physical proximity of The Hello Cube! Besides being able to view the installation's constantly changing interior dynamics that were projected onto an adjacent wall, visitors could also interact with The Hello Cube by saying their hellos or anything else they thought fit to share with the cube (besides tweets, it was programmed to respond to external stimuli such as sound or voices).Visitors could even place their hands inside the cube and see their arm reflected unto infinity!
Hellicar and Lewis, the creators of The Hello Cube, describe it as “an installation that exists as a sculptural object that you can look inside, see patterns, and an infinity of reflections.” It takes inspiration from Kusama’s work titled The Passing Winter, but as noted by its creators, it differs from Kusama’s work in that it is capable of responding to people and to its environment.
The work of Hellicar and Lewis has been featured at The Creators Project and the duo are “interested in creating groundbreaking experiences that use art, technology and design to take people into the moment and impart lasting memories.” In an interview, they noted how they had undertaken a similar project in the past called The Hello Wall, a dynamic outdoor installation where users could control the projections on an external wall in Wembley by tweeting at it.
While Hellicar and Lewis have used Twitter's real time capabilities to foster a dynamic perpetuity and engagement that is both brilliant and unprecedented, the creation of Twitter personas for artworks in itself is intriguing. On Twitter, the inanimate, the intangible, and even the immortal can all lay claim to accounts; San Francisco’s Fog, the Bronx Zoo Cobra, and Voldemort are all suspiciously active! So why can’t art transcend notions of the self, at least on social media? Thus, not only was The Hello Cube an incredibly interactive installation, but its presence on Twitter essentially transformed it into an anthropomorphic object, increasing its accessibility in both a literal and psychological sense.
It would surely make an interesting experiment to see how people interacted with a painting were it to have a twitter account. Wouldn't it be fun if museums created Twitter personas around special exhibitions? What would Rembrandt tweet? How about an account for Abstract Expressionism? Of course, these accounts may have to be temporary but a lot could be learned in a series of short bytes of information. One sees a considerably twitterable future.
For now, we have the delightful The Hello Cube, which having been removed from the Tate, bade farewell to its visitors and declared that it was ‘time for a cube to enjoy the sunshine...” Of late, it was tweeted that The Hello Cube will once again start taking commands this Friday, but as the installation politely requests: "Just don't forget to say Hello!"