The Waltham museum will host the sixth annual Boston Cyberarts Festival through May 10. According to its Web site, this festival is the largest collaboration of artists working in new technologies in all media across the country.
From far away they kind of look like sea shells covered by a thick, wavy plastic casing.
But up close everything changes.
The installation, "Another Side of In," uses electronic sensors to grow brighter and project sound and changed pitch when a person draws near.
"The computer knows what's going on in the room because it can tell how far away the people are," explained artist and tech guru Jamie Robertson. "When you walk up to that piece, the computer knows to make it get brighter."
"Another Side of In" exhibit is just one of the many pieces on display inside the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation. The Waltham museum will host the sixth annual Boston Cyberarts Festival throught May 10. According to its Web site, this festival is the largest collaboration of artists working in new technologies in all media across the country.
'Another Side of In" highlights the combined works of three artists, Waltham Mills artists Robertson and Marjorie Minkin and Minkin's son Mike Gordon, the bassist from the band "Phish."
Roberston's sensors are only a piece of the story.
Visual artist Minkin has held a studio for close to 30 years at the Waltham Mills Artist Association building at 144 Moody St.
For this exhibit she used a familiar product: Lexan.
Minkin heats, shape and paints the material. It took her close to two years to create 22 of the Lexan sculptures. Only five are on display in the festival.
For Minkin, the installation was a long-awaited opportunity to work with her son.
"It's really a lot of fun. We had talked about doing something together for many years," she said. "It was Mike who really wanted it to be interactive and for each piece to be a sound onto itself."
Minkin said her son's music was her inspiration.
"I created these while listening to the sounds Mike gave me. He used sounds from the album 'Inside In,' that was the title of his solo album," she said. "He extracted and customized the sounds and then looped them."
Robertson, an electronics designer and guitarist, is the man behind the technological aspect of the installation. He's spent half of his career working as a director of research and development for the Walt Disney Imagineering company.
"There's a speaker system inside each piece," he said. "They also have a (sensor) system. It detects people standing in front of each piece. They can tell how far the people are standing away from it and the closer you are, the louder the sound is."
Robertson said each of the pieces that appears in the exhibit has custom-designed electronics inside them that allow for an interactive experience for museum-goers. Each piece also has a wireless electronics system that transmits proximity information to a hidden computer. The computer also controls the lighting for each sculpture.
"All these electronics and the software were designed specifically for this exhibit," he said. "And that's kind of what I do."
Brandeis University Professor Mark Auslander and a group of eight students will share "Memories of the Charles Waterfall Project" on May 1 from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. They created an interactive exhibit using the waterfall below the Moody Street bridge as the projection screen.
The Brandeis team will project a series of still and moving images on the waterfall, allowing spectators to journey through Waltham's past and present.
"We really wanted to do something that used the river. We wanted something that ties together the entire city of Waltham, past and present, but also introduces our students to all the wonderful media-technologies here," Auslander said. "The waterfall will open a doorway in time to tie together the many economies in Waltham."
Auslander said his students worked closely with members of the Waltham Historical Society and the Waltham Museum to create the project. Students also interviewed people who had experiences working on the river or rafting on it in the past.
"We wanted to take different snapshots of the city and project back to Waltham its amazing history," Auslander said. "It's that energy of that fall that made possible the Industrial Revolution here, so it's appropriate to take us back in time."
The opening reception for the Boston Cyberarts Festival in Waltham is tonight from 6 to 9 at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, 154 Moody St. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $10 for Brandeis University Students and Waltham Mills Artists Association Open Studios members.
Jeff Gilbride can be reached at 781-398-8005 or at email@example.com