Wired.com recently brought to my attention a new work of art– a virtual horse that takes shape as more people stop to view it. The piece, titled Looking at a Horse, just finished a showing at a digital arts festival in Brighton, England.
You walk into a dark room and projected on the wall in front of you is a frenzied mass of dots. A friend walks in and the dots are connected by a wireframe body–the thing you’re watching, you realize, is a galloping horse. As more viewers trickle in, the horse continues to evolve, adding polygonal musculature and a shimmering skin. Eventually, when enough people are watching, the beast transcends its earthly form and transforms into some other ghostly, ethereal thing entirely. Then, as people filter out of the room, it goes through the same process in reverse, dissolving back to the elemental cloud of points.
What you’re seeing is Looking at a Horse by Evan Boehm, an artwork that becomes more beautiful with each new pair of eyes trained upon it. It’s a clever piece, pairing striking animation and some simple body-tracking software to investigate a very basic question: What does it mean to look at a piece of art?
While I suppose it’s cool to have horses (and anatomically-correctly-moving ones, at that) included in a nouveau art display, it doesn’t quite inspire me. Because as we all know, nothing beats looking at a horse– a real one– even if he’s just standing outside eating grass. As much as it tries, this art has nothing on real life.