During two weekends in April 2017, visitors to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art(SFMOMA) were greeted by a curious sentinel. In the entryway atrium, a Velodyne HDL-32E was elevated on a seven-foot pedestal. As the lidar sensor spun at 10 revolutions per second, 32 low-power lasers swept the room to create a 3-dimensional image that was displayed on a nearby monitor. Curious patrons were encouraged to wave their arms, to move around, and to drape themselves in different materials while watching their bodies change shape in the 256-color rendering.
The Lidar Sensor Exploration activation was one of many thematically-linked installations created at SFMOMA by the LA-based artist collective, Cloud Eye Control, as part of the museum’s Performance All Ages programming. The collaborative performance group creates original works that combine interactive media with live performances. The two-weekend event was titled Cloud Eye Control: Half Life and included hands-on workshops plus scenes from the collective’s production Half Life.
The goal of the installation’s many elements was to prompt reflection upon relationships between technology and identity. In an interview with Lindsey Westbrook for SFMOMA, Cloud Eye Control member Chi-wang Yang explained the emphasis was on “different kinds of technologies that are changing how we think about our bodies in an environment.” [i]
Christian Davies, Program Associate in Performance and Film at SFMOMA, described to the Velodyne 360 Blog some of the various elements spaced throughout the museum. “We were doing body scans on the second floor,” said Davies. “How the computer sees you and what it reveals and doesn’t reveal.” Another installation was Landscape Walks, involving animated landscapes—ruined cities, glowing forests, data streams, and pollution scenes—projected on layered screens that audience members walked through. Meanwhile, so-called psychic blobs wandered the hallsThese “blobs” were played by actors wearing body suits covered with multi-colored strips of paper based upon camouflaged ghillie suits.[ii]
A crowd favorite was the Psychic Armor Workshop, where patrons constructed headdresses and body armor from paper, card stock, and skewers. Once clad in their “armor,” participants were encouraged to interact with other exhibits, including the lidar station. “The [Cloud Eye Control] artists wanted to change the shape of your body,” said Davies. “Explore the role the costume played in the performance. Headdresses could be seen in the monitor. A visitor could wave their arm, which had this giant triangle on it.”
One such visitor was Velodyne employee Dan Rohde, who brought his wife and kids to the event. “This was our first experience at SFMOMA,” said Rohde. “My family enjoyed being able to see the sensor live and in person. To get a better sense of how lidar works. They were so proud to see my end product on display!”
“With other installations in the museum you just look at it,” said another man, visiting the museum with his children. “With this, you can interact with it and actually see how you are a part of it. It certainly entertains the children. It’s funny, I had no idea this technology existed or was a part of self-driving cars. For my kids, they’ll get used to this technology. It’ll be a part of their normal life.”
Continue scrolling to see more photos from the great event!
[ii] “Cloud Eye Control + SFMoMA: Overview.” SF MoMA. April 2017