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Art by Us

Either we change or the climate will

How can art-houses cinemas connect audiences beyond watching movies together? Connected Cinemas, a European project, in which art-house cinemas and other organisations are involved, are exploring the idea to make movie theatres more like cultural hubs that approach topics relevant to their audience. Via the research group Civic Interaction Design, we were asked to create an engaging interactive installation that connects the audience of art-house cinemas around the topic of global warming.

While most people know about the issues around global warming and climate change, they are not completely aware of how, in practice, it will also impact them. For this reason, we wanted to create an experience that shows not only the explicit but also the implicit effects of climate change on the daily lives of people in Amsterdam. Furthermore, it was important to us to create an experience in which people can actively interact. By taking part in the experience, people realise that they have an impact themselves - on the installation but also in reality - but even a bigger impact acting together with others.

Creating the installation

To tackle the challenge, we tried different types of visual media, including projecting weather predictions on the floor, and dynamic paintings. While installations are a unique experience and might not be very intuitive, the most direct and understandable way to connect to the users was through the art of paintings. Art speaks to people, no matter if there is an interaction or not, and serves as a good way to attract citizens to the installation.

Furthermore, we wanted to engage the visitors in the installation and also communicate not only their individual impact but the bigger picture. This could be best achieved through a phygital multiplayer experience. While, every visitor has an impact on the interactive painting, more visitors mean more input which automatically changes the painting accordingly.

To show how we and the city have to change to limit climate change, we decided to depict a scene in the streets of Amsterdam and create different scenarios of how the future could look like. The visitor can walk towards the painting while walking towards the future. While this is showing the explicitly visible cause (how we live, how the cityscape changes) and effect (weather) of climate change in the city of Amsterdam, we also wanted to convey the implicit changes in everyday life in Amsterdam.

We wanted to clearly show that global warming has an impact across the whole planet, and what happens in one part of the world affects the rest of us, regardlessly. For example, predictions show that half of the land currently suitable for Arabica coffee production will no longer be suitable by 2050. Hence, less coffee will be available to us, even though the weather conditions here in Amsterdam may not change as drastically. Therefore, we placed the interactive painting in an exhibition of known paintings, such as The Milkmaid from Jan Vermeer, with a little twist that indicates what could happen to us in the future. Can you guess what the Milkmaid 2.0. is missing?

Art by Us makes the visitors aware that they can shape the city, just like they can shape the exhibited art. In an interactive experience, they can co-shape the future, witnessing how society has to change to prevent a climate crisis or what will happen if we just let climate change runs its course. In the end, like in any art exhibition, it is up to us to make our own conclusions and take due action. In Art by Us we want to make something clear: We have the power to determine how we live and how that impacts our daily lives.

Watch the video about the interactive installation Art by Us

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