At the new international terminal of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport,the world’s busiest garnering more than 90 million travelers per year, several new permanent installations went in that include two interactive pieces that help define the boundaries of interactivity. In addition to being the busiest, the airport also holds one of the largest collections of public work in the world. In this context, it becomes appropriate and possible to make comparison and contrasts the range in interactive work.
AirFIELD, by Uebersee, is a sculpture suspended from the ceiling consisting of circular panels made from special liquid crystal that change from transparent to opaque via an electric charge triggered by data from FlightAware. It interprets arrival and departures data in real-time, but also how many passengers are on the plane, distance and several other factors. The data informs a nearly infinite range of animation patterns. So these passengers are impacting what the sculpture does, but would never be able to see that impact. Also, while these individuals affect the sculpture, they’re not choosing to, and they’re only doing so as a part of a whole group. AirFIELD flies in the Airside Court two-stories high and fully viewable from 360 degrees from the ground level and the second level. It’s placement also allows for the viewers to have a multitude of angles that have very different readings of the sculpture’s animations and shape (inspired by the flight curves of arriving and departing flights). It hangs making it impossible to touch, but it’s massive size makes it impossible to miss. Pushing the edges of being considered media, the piece uses it’s 1,500 individual pixels activated by the feed of digital data creating a screen of sorts, but not one that you could read, instead only interpret—so the interactivity is passive. It uses and plays with light, but by stopping or allowing light to pass through it, not by producing it.
Light Waves: Atlanta, by Chris Janning, on the other hand represents an active relationship. Its lights and sounds span a 600-foot corridor with colored glass installed so that moving lights shine through them creating a multitude of colors, shapes and patterns. The piece comes alive with a musical score activated sound-by-sound as travelers move through the corridor activating the sensors with their hand and cuing a symphony of instrumental and nature sounds native
to Georgia. The hand sensors also make the moving lights regulate between calmer and more energetic movements. The space makes it impossible not to interact with the piece and the corridor is a space where all arriving passengers must walk through.