‘New Nature’ and ‘Pulse,’ Two New Interactive Art Exhibits in DC

NEW NATURE by MARPI at Artechouse

Artechouse has quickly become a favorite destination for DC area families. For those who haven’t been, Artechouse explores the intersection of art and technology through interactive art. Some exhibits are definitely more kid-friendly than others and the current exhibit, New Nature by Marpi, is one of the best so far for families to enjoy together.

As with other Artechouse exhibits, visitors spend time interacting with exhibits in four distinct spaces. All of the exbibits are based on plants and animals inspired by nature and all react to your movements. The first room you enter is the largest and interactive artwork is projected onto three of the room’s walls. Kids and grown-ups alike are welcome to sit and take in the exhibit from either one the many bean bags scattered along the ground, take a seat on a bench, or stand closer to the walls to watch the digital plants and animals respond to your movements. Another room contains a digital petting zoo where visitors can “feed” the digital animals with their movements. Two other rooms contain additional nature-inspired interactive exhibits.

My family, with children 12, 10, 8, and 3, loved the exhibit My children’s favorite rooms were the digital petting zoo and the big room. It is amazing to watch the vibrant and beautiful art respond to your movements.

Advance tickets are recommended for timed entries designed to keep crowds small. My family spent about an hour going through New Nature and some families spent even longer.

Tickets are $15.00 for adults, $8 for children under 12, and $12 for students, seniors, and military. New Nature runs through January 16th. Artechouse is within walking distance of The Wharf DC so it’s easy to make a day of going to Artechouse and The Wharf for lunch and more play. There is also a bar at Artechouse along with nights that are 21+ only. New Nature would also make a great date night or girls’ night out.

'New Nature' and 'Pulse,' Two New Interactive Art Exhibits in DC

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse at Hirschhorn

PULSE consists of three rooms, all of which have interactive works of art that respond to each visitor’s unique heartrate. The first room is the largest and displays PULSE: INDEX. In this room, visitors insert their index finger into a small tube which takes a photo of their fingerprint and simultaneously detects the visitor’s heartbeat. The fingerprint is then projected onto a large wall along with the fingerprints from the last 10,000 visitors and the user’s heartrate. (None of this data is stored). The second room houses PULSE: TANK. In this room there are two large tanks of water. Visitors are invited to place their finger or hands on sensors and the water in the tank moves in reaction to the pulses detected. The patterns created in the tanks are then projected onto a large wall where the pattern is constantly changing. The third room is PULSE ROOM. In this room, hundreds of clear incandescent lightbulbs flash in time to past visitors’ heartbeats. The end of the exhibit visitors can add their own heartbeat to the pattern by briefly holding onto sensors. There are also documentaries about various PULSE installations that have been on display throughout the world over the years.

I visited with my three year old son who was enthralled with the sensors and seeing the changing pictures, patterns, and lights. I’m looking forward to bringing my older children (12, 10, and 8) and anticipate them liking it very much.

Admission to the Hirshhorn is free. PULSE runs through April 28

Jamie Davis Smith