NYU ITP Winter Show: Virtual Virtuousity

Even the iconic Wooden Mirror had gone completely virtual. Maybe it was me, but this wintry NYU ITP show seemed to be less physically endowed than this school’s last public event held in the Spring.

There were fewer spinning gears and pulleys, squishy finger puppets, whirring propellers, and swinging light bulbs.

Sure there was Magnetron (Michael Colombo), a reworking of Edison’s recording cylinder using recycled cassette tapes, In Rotation’s (Ann Chen, Claire Mitchel) gear-intensive plate-based music maker, Strings (Johann Diedrick et. al.) for allowing the tone deaf to stroke pretty notes on electrically conducting fuzzy wires, and many other projects that required some minimal digital–of the finger pressing type–control of a device.

But this past show accelerated towards the purely virtual, thanks in part to in some cases virtuosic use of Microsoft’s Kinect. One such example of this was Imagine Nothing (Angela Bond et. al.), which lets even non-dancers like myself direct Kinect’s infra-red eye to project beautiful swirls of color as I flailed my arms.

Also surprising were the number of projects that, as startup entrepreneurs would say, “addresses a real-world problem.”

There was Databetes 7729, which visualized Doug Kanter’s blood sugar levels. And DIY Health Reel, assembled by several ITP students, had the ultimate self-help goal of aiding neurotics and health-conscious souls to improve their lives. Their therapeutic tool is based on a camera worn around the neck that snaps pictures every 30 seconds as your trek through your day. I’m not brave enough for this.

And before I forget, Matt Richardson’s Fade Away project existed somewhere in a unique territory east of the virtual, west of the real, and north of the practical. He directed a laser gun to fire out a Twitter stream on a phosphorescent screen.

Oh, the Wooden Mirror, which using louvered wood tiles to create shadowy pixels and greeted me and other visitors at the Spring Show? It was in the shop for repairs. In its place was a flat-screen, virtual “Fake Wooden Mirror’ that simulated the original.