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Zachary Booth Simpson
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artist statement | technical statement | process



artist statement
Shadow Garden is series of interactive pieces where participants discover a world that reacts to their shadow. The participant walks between a projector and a screen thereby casting a shadow. A computer paints images, through the projector, that appear to interact with the shadow in real-time. The psychology of the shadow as an extension of one's body is such a natural concept that participants immediately grasp the interface. The connection between shadow and body is so innate that many participants claim they feel the projected images touching them.

The work uses the theme of a garden to de-emphasize the technological in order to evoke wonder and awe. Often, digital artwork over-focuses on the technical by choosing modern themes consequently isolating the participant from the virtual world into which the artist invites them. The organic nature of gardens puts the participants at ease and focuses their attention away from the technical gadgetry and towards the beautiful interactive imagery. Six independent systems are displayed on the same screen: a flurry of butterflies; a stream of liquid sand; trails of swirling flame; swarms of creatures like fish or ants; a diversity of growing flowers; and undulating colors of galactic star clusters.

Fundamentally, the pieces are neither about shadows nor gardens but rather the feelings created by interactivity. For example, participants attempting to catch butterflies will talk to each other saying: Shhh! Don't move, I've almost got one. Sometimes they will shake with tension brought about by trying to hold still. Or, when playing with in the insect swarm, participants will timidly insert their hands to create a shadow and then jerk away with fear as soon as the creatures swarm towards them.

As they warm to the creatures, participants play with them as if they are a school of fish and begin to enjoy them. It is such feelings, both mental and corporeal, that we seek as artist to evoke through interactivity.