Vanessa Till Hooper is on the leading edge of art and technology. The Boston-based artist combines her talent for art with training as an architect and high-tech skills to create interactive artwork.
Hooper’s latest project is a light wall that fuses technology and the internet to put viewers in control. Titled Visual Voyage, the installation is tailored for travelers in Port Everglades Cruise Terminal 25, which is the winter homeport for Celebrity Cruises’ new ship Celebrity Edge.
Visual Voyage features a stylized map that continues along the equator. It stretches across two large sections of wall in the cruise terminal’s check-in hall covering about 298-feet with 10-foot tall panels. Colorful LED lighting illuminates the panels. Passengers waiting to embark on a cruise can connect via smart phone to send the lights racing across the map.
Broward Cultural Division’s Public Art & Design committee commissioned the artwork. Port Everglades Assistant Director Peg Buchan said Hooper’s artwork stood out for its “youthful generational appeal” that relates to travel and prompts visitor participation.
“Port Everglades was excited by the concept of a modernistic art creation. Hooper’s work complemented the fresh contemporary vibe of Cruise Terminal 25 and—much like cruising aboard the Celebrity EDGE—the artwork seems to exemplify a new era,” Buchan continued.
As the installation’s finishing touches were completed this November, Hooper took the time to talk about her lifelong exploration of art.
“In the Fall of 2017 I left the creative technology design firm Materials & Methods in order to strike out on my own as Studio HHH. Visual Voyage was the very first project for me as an independent artist/designer. It was perfect timing, and an incredible opportunity for me to quickly grow my team, and to establish the aesthetic and design principles of the studio.”
What was your inspiration for Visual Voyage?
“I was inspired by the individual getting on a ship and the experience that’s unique to traveling by ship. When we travel by plane, we skip over time zones and you’re suddenly in a new one. When you travel by ship you get to experience each of these moments distinctly, as well as crossing the equator and the International Date Line.”
How does the interactive light wall work?
“On the Port’s website [passengers will access the light wall in the terminal via their mobile devices], when you interact with the installation by pressing a button that says EAST or WEST you can move the sun’s light in that direction. Each two panels of the installation represent one segment of the 24-hour clock of the globe. Then you send the light—one hour at a time—all the way to one.
How long does it take for the light to traverse the map?
“It depends on how many people are working the opposite direction. If you’re in the space alone and you click and click, you can get over there in about 30 seconds. If a lot of people are trying to move the light in the opposite direction it might take you longer.”
What impression do you hope Visual Voyage will impart to viewers?
“It should be delightful. It should be visually appealing and add richness to the environment but at the same time be playful and engaging. It should inspire visitors to the terminal to think about their voyage in a new way, and to muse about the global map and imagine where they might go next.
The check-in hall is approximately the length of a football field. How did its size impact the design?
“Our approach to this project started with thinking about its scale, it is a unique challenge to work in a space that is so large that it would be impossible to interact with it through touch, we had to find a method of interactivity that could be achieved from anywhere in this great hall.”
Do you have a strong background in technology?
“I have developed one somewhat reluctantly, I love the flexibility and fluidity of using technology to enhance human experience, so I’ve had to learn quickly.
What led you to specialize in interactive art?
“I have a bachelor’s degree in art, and a master’s degree in architecture from Southern California Institute of Architecture. As I entered into my practice, I was immediately drawn to creating environments that use technology to enhance personal connection and cross-collaboration. The work we do in my design practice, Studio HHH, has become a combination of both
art and architecture, using technology to spark curiosity and engagement. I seek out new opportunities to combine art and experiential design, allowing the public to connect with art in new and exciting ways.”
What other interactive projects have you completed?
“In 2016 our team was invited to create an original piece of art onboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship Ovation of the Seas. We developed our second gesturally interactive art wall with layers of digital art content that the passengers could change and manipulate with arm motion or simply by walking past the wall.”
How is Visual Voyage unique from your other public artworks?
“It is unique because of its tremendous scale, and because of the way viewers interact with it. This artwork is designed to be delightful and engaging for all types and ages of travelers who pass through this great hall, from all
over the world.”