New interactive art display hits Philly before going to Italy

Synesthesia by Severino Alfonso and Loukia Tsafoulia opens this weekend.
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Philadelphians will get the unique opportunity to check out an art exhibit before it makes its way to Italy.

Synesthesia, an interactive installation created by Severino Alfonso and Loukia Tsafoulia of the Synesthetic Research and Design Lab at Thomas Jefferson University, will officially open this weekend.

The project is the inaugural exhibition at the new Micro Gallery from HOT•BED, a gallery and lifestyle space at 723 Chestnut Street. The Micro Gallery is a new experimental space within the organization, and this presentation will mark the first public preview of Synesthesia before it leaves to be exhibited at the renowned ECC Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, from May to November of this year.

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According to the release, Synesthesia stems from Alfonso and Tsafoulia’s extensive scholarly work at the lab, which serves as a collaborative research and prototyping platform where interactive design and emergent health sciences meet. The immersive installation investigates the relationships and intersections where responsive environments and design meet; a manifestation of abstracted bodily data, projected back onto an analog domain.

To help keep everyone safe and healthy, Synesthesia will be on view to the public by appointment only from Feb. 19 through March 6.

When Philadelphians enter into the exhibition, they will lay witness to tent-like objects made from textile, aluminum and fiberglass poles and 3D printed components. The intricate yet simple designs are there to entice and draw curious minds in while abstractions dance across the installation’s soft and ambient dormant state, only activated by communal participation. Both Alfonso and Tsafoulia encourage visitors to get close to the work and peer through small portals to get a look at the inner core of the structure. They also laid out what to expect: As viewers close in, their own eyes suddenly become superimposed onto the work’s surface, initiating an active conversation between the participants and the installation.

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Synthesia does rely heavily on its participants and community to make the project come alive. According to the release, its atmospheric, soft interface allows no physical bodies inside, but rather consumes them virtually, inviting the human body to approach in a “game” of curiosity. In Synesthesia, body and scene enter a mutual agency, a constant state of becoming. Physical bodies reside inside the installation both temporarily and indefinitely as data. Acting as a living organism, Synesthesia produces dynamic, unexpected and sensorial experiences, never static nor predetermined but human.

With the community participation aspect in mind, this traveling exhibition is capable of engaging a vast array of people coming from differing communities, places and backgrounds. As it travels, the more cultural significance there will be.

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The new exhibit is meant to bring people together, but’s also made to bring together man and machine, “providing a rational and emotional sense of what it means to live among technology that can itself converse.” As said in the release, the installation’s main aim is to raise awareness on the design potential behind responsive environments and by understanding their nuances, limitless possibilities and opportunities can appear.

Synesthesia is the pilot to a series of interactive installations by the Synesthetic Research and Design Lab. The installation is possible through the collaboration of experts and students across various disciplines at Thomas Jefferson University including architecture, textile, industrial, user experience and interaction design. Due to COVID-19, HOT•BED is appointment only; however, walk-ins are allowed and dependent on the number of people in the space at the time.

To make your appointment today, reserve at calendly.com/hotbedappointments/synesthesia and for more information on the organization, visit hotbedphilly.com

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