The early days of interactive exhibits are littered with heartbreak and a fair amount of shattered glass. Consider Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp who is often credited with creating one of the first interactive installations with his breakthrough (um, literally) Rotary Glass Plates installation.
“Rotary Glass Plates is a motorized device that demonstrates the continuity of visual impressions,” explains the exhibit notes at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, where the interactive installation is currently on display. “Its five glass blades are painted so that when set in motion and viewed head-on, the machine forms concentric circles on a single plane.”
The work required the viewer to activate the machine and observe it, straight on, one meter away – hence, the purported interactivity. For 1920, this was cutting edge – in more ways than one. Duchamp’s pal, photographer Man Ray, intended to capture the experiment, however, when they turned it on a belt broke and snagged a piece of the glass that went glancing off the photographer’s forehead. Fortunately, it shattered only when it hit the floor.
Though we applaud Duchamp’s early efforts at creating an interactive experience, be assured, Snibbe Interactive’s Social Screen won’t raise your museum’s insurance premium. The only moving parts are your visitors themselves as they dance, interact and generally cavort in a virtual environment that’s a window into the imagination sans the glass. Sure, Duchamp might say “no pane no gain” but we say an interactive museum installation shouldn’t require one to duck to be interactive.