“Bionic Bloom” distils sensory experience to increase audience reach

The beauty of flowers and the patterns of floral aesthetics have occupied the creative minds of visual culture since time immemorial. A range of art practitioners have visually translated the abundance of nature into the medium of expression at different periods in art history. Current artists working with new media technology perpetuate the preoccupation of traditional art genres with floral designs. One of these works is the interactive wall art installation Bionic bloom – a project designed, conceptualized and executed by architect and digital artist, Dennis Peter, at the invitation of the Crescent School of Architecture, Chennai, India. Professors Uttam Solanki and Kalai Vanan who teach upcoming technologies and software at the same university have made crucial contributions to the processes involving the design and manufacture of this facility.

The flowers follow the movement of your hand Picture: Dennis Peter

In an interview with STIR, Peter talks about his interest in the built environment, how he developed an interest in computer design, emerging technologies and DIY electronics, and what inspired him to dig deep into the the stuff of generative arts, “Although I have practiced as an architect for most of my career, I have had various interests over the years. My journey into generative art began with music (and pure curiosity) I had been making music for many years before then I came across a friend who introduced me to the process of generating visuals for my music using data and code. , I was convinced that this was the way to go for my artistic practice – even though I had no computer training at the time. A year later I picked up a 3D printer and I learned to design electronic circuits. Thanks to this knowledge, I was able to bring my work outside of the digital world and in the physical world – coming full circle, in the realm of space (architecture). ”

A sectional view showing the mechanism behind, Dennis Peter |  Denis Stone |  STIRworld
A sectional view showing the mechanism behind Picture: Dennis Peter

In 2020 Peter probed the temporal ideas manifested in the discipline of interactive art, music, visuals and spatial design with his work as non-linear. It was with the sound representation of the Mumbai This city swells on Skip-A-Beat which Non-linear made its debut. Using freely available maps and GIS models of the city, Peter created the visuals for the sound representation. The project was initiated during the Selector Pro: Visual Music Residency which was prepared by the British Council, Future Fiction and Skip-A-Beat.

Petal attachment in progress, Dennis Peter |  Denis Stone |  STIRworld
Fixing the petals in progress Picture: Dennis Peter

The 90 mechanical blooms, parts of the installation Bionic bloom, are individually controlled by viewers’ hand gestures. The four-week brainstorming session on the design and development of the installation saw the designer-artist engage in a variety of techniques including 3D printing, computer vision, optimization of computer manufacturing and interfacing with electronic microcontrollers. Giving a presentation of the realization of the installation, after having received the invitation of the university, Peter informs: “The brief was to design an interactive installation which would involve the students of the university and expose the students to technologies and manufacturing process outside of the immediate. field of architecture (yet closely linked to design and architecture) which would open up more possibilities for them. We worked mostly within the limitations of the hardware and technology available at the university. Developing the bloom mechanic was an iterative process where we explored the best possible dynamics we could achieve while keeping in mind the limitations of the engines we had.

3D printed frame on which the petals are attached, Dennis Peter |  Denis Stone |  STIRworld
3D printed frame on which the petals are attached Picture: Dennis Peter

The interactive art produced by Peter requires an art space that could easily and successfully facilitate interactive rendezvous with the public. Unlike galleries in the North, which are equipped with machinery and devices to accommodate technology-based artists, in India such a scenario is still in its infancy. “Many interactive projects have extremely specific material requirements that most traditional art galleries in India do not have,” Peter mentions. However, this does not restrict his practice: “I don’t think an interactive artist should get bogged down in the technological limitations available to him; if you, a person, are only as good as the technology that is immediately available to them, then they are probably not a very good performer. Working within constraints and limitations can bring out the true fidelity you have as a technical artist.

Faceted panels reflect light from different angles, Dennis Peter, Dennis Peter |  Denis Stone |  STIRworld
Faceted panels reflect light from different angles Picture: Dennis Peter

Contemplation and sensory experience are two key responses to all art forms, but not in this particular order. Any shift in perspective via such responses equals the success of the art. In times punctuated by “-ism”, Bionic bloom is “not a very demanding piece from a spectator’s point of view. This does not require further thought. More often than not, if the viewer does not stand in front of the artwork for a considerable period of time to derive meaning from it, the art could be doubled over to fail in its purpose. The sensory participation required from the end of the audience, “requires observation”, says Peter. The simplicity and sensory appeal of the work attracts the attention of a wider audience. “Even though the design process was complex, we believe its beauty lies in the simplicity of user interaction,” concludes Peter.

Artist Dennis Peter |  Denis Stone |  STIRworld
Denis Stone Image: Courtesy of Dennis Peter

Interactive installation by Dennis Peter Video: Dennis Peter

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