Brooklyn Academy of Music
Are there parents out there who don’t feel guilty and confused when it comes to children and screens? Do we teach them to code while they’re still in training pants or do we keep them from anything flat, shiny and pixelated until they’re 18? Now in its third year, this Brooklyn Academy of Music festival with a dual focus on technology and creativity suggests a digital middle way, screens as a place for discovery and play.
Taking over the BAM Fisher building in Downtown Brooklyn, Teknopolis noodles around with motion- and touch-based technologies. (Time-based tickets dictate a 90-minute visit, so be prepared to move and touch fast.) The first two floors, designed for children 6 and up, use a mix of digital and analog machinery, inviting participants to manipulate music, text, ink drawings and photographs.
The installation “Más Que la Cara,” by the Brooklyn-based innovators Zach Lieberman and Molmol Kuo, creates a living mask of your child’s face, allowing augmented facial expressions, like an emoji come to life — fun, or creepy? In “Body Sketches,” participants can hand-draw patterns that are repurposed to create virtual costumes. (The best part about virtual costumes: minimal laundering.) In the balcony, TMEMA’s “Manual Input Sessions” let participants use hand gestures, even naughty ones, to create an augmented shadow play.
Older kids and adults who think that goggles are a good look can opt to include a virtual-reality experience. “VR-1,” by the Next Wave Festival artist Gilles Jobin, is an immersive dance piece that allows a helmeted you to jump into the body of a hopefully flexible avatar and virtually dance alongside other participants, like a next-level silent disco. “Play Room” allows musicians with a sci-fi streak to invent weird instruments. (Weirder than the fluba?) There’s also “L U N E,” which allows users to build a virtual pillow fort. How is this better than a real pillow fort? This one is made of stars.
The BAM Fisher Rooftop hosts several 360° films. One, “Crow: The Legend,” has Oprah Winfrey in her V.R. debut. Another, “Man on Spire,” a collaboration with The New York Times and Koncept VR, follows the professional climber Jimmy Chin up the spine of 1 World Trade Center. The Times also created “A Classic Circus Folds Its Tent,” a tribute to the final Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show. There’s an augmented-reality arcade where ticket holders can try out various apps, like Flarmingos, which adds boxy, pinkalicious flamingos to everyday surroundings, a reality augmentation I would happily support.