Artechouse is not a traditional museum experience. That's why you should go.

Artechouse is not a traditional museum experience. That's why you should go.

The exhibition "New Nature" at the Artechouse encourages visitors to interact with art. (Michael Reynolds / EPA-EFE)

You could easily overlook the entrance to Artechouse. The bustling place known for the fusion of art and technology is surrounded by a Potbelly, a Starbucks and nondescript corporate buildings. I was not convinced that I had arrived at the right address until I discovered a small, glazed lobby.

Down a few steps down, projections of abstract landscapes, ethereal sounds and animations powered by LED lights filled the vast, dark room. It's all part of Artechouse's latest exhibition, which runs until January 13th. Unobtrusively placed motion sensors worked synchronously with the art of the Polish artist Mateusz "Marpi" Marcinowski, who moved with the visitors.

It's not a traditional museum experience, as tourists expect to see a few blocks down the mall. Instead, Artechouse is part of the local and national trend to use interactive art technology. The Hirshhorn Museum does the same with "Pulse", which has heartbeat monitors that capture the fingerprints of visitors and thus shape the art. "Carne y Arena," an installation that closed late last month, used VR technology to oust visitors in the footsteps of immigrants.

If you want to visit Artechouse, you should know the following before you leave.

Be open minded

When entering Artechouse, it is important to free oneself from expectations and preconceptions – at least, says the Art Director of Space, Sandro Kereselidze, who encourages viewers to "lose" in the exhibition.

Tour guides lead groups down the stairs to a cellar-like space, explaining the concept behind Marpi's "digital pets" – abstract-looking creatures that respond to visitors' movement. It took me a second to adjust to the darkness and ambient sound. Past an elegant bar and down another flight of stairs, my eyes were focused on the far-reaching tentacles of animation projected onto a 270-degree screen.

In this central area, you can relax on bean bags or interact with pets by moving your body or using an app designed specifically for the show (more below). When you are close enough, bubbles appear on the screen that mimic your movements like a digital shadow.

It is best to follow the guidance of the children. Do not be afraid to get up close and personal with the projections – even if it means taking the advice of Artechouse employee Hakeem Cunningham and following the "YMCA" to see how the animations respond.

In another room, referred to as the "digital petting zoo", you can play on TV screens with eye-catching creatures in the style of video games. Marpi's work was inspired by his early interest in evolution, Tamagotchi's keyband game of the early 2000s, and multiplayer online role-playing games. But do not expect the friendly 8-bit Tamagotchi-style animals – the creatures seem to work as a digital Rorschach test. Depending on your interpretation, you can look from CGI-styled bamboo to a pearl necklace.

Try breaking apart the Berrylic spheres and hear the sound effect of the carillon as you brush a chrome plant. Finally, go through a third smaller room and notice how the vertical, colorful LED trees light up as you move.


The "digital pets" in the Artechouse exhibition "New Nature". (Michael Reynolds / EPA-EFE / REX)

Art develops and learns

"New Nature" differs from Artechousou's earlier exhibits in that it uses machine learning, which means that the "creatures" will evolve throughout the duration of the show. In the first few days after opening, employees noticed that creatures have changed, become smarter, and have come to their food sources faster, says Tatiana Pastukhova, the company's founder and founder.

This means that visitors and artists do not know how the species will behave and what it will look like at the end of the run.

Buy your tickets online and download the apps

After purchasing tickets online, Artechouse also offers walk-in tickets, but timed sessions can fill up – download the free "New Nature" app, which lets you easily feed pets. You can also move the creatures on your phone, an image that is imitated on the big screen. Tickets cost $ 15 for adults. For children and seniors reduced prices are offered.

There are also augmented reality drinks. Download a second free Artechouse app to experience. The bar serves a selection of cocktails for $ 12 each. Point your phone at your cocktail and an animation will appear on your screen. (Downloading two apps may seem excessive, but it will play a key role for you.)

The Artechouse website requires visitors to arrive 10 to 15 minutes earlier and stay in the room for 45 minutes to an hour. And if you feel hungry after that, remember: The Wharf is just a 10-minute walk away.

Continue reading:

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15 unusual things in D.C. that tourists should look for

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