Looping In For Retro-Futuristic Fun

At Houston convention center, traveling installation offers an escape

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: December 12, 2018

The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston is featuring Loops through Jan. 6 on the plaza in front of the building. (Houston First Corp.)

The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston has installed an old-fashioned yet futuristic interactive installation called Loop to entertain guests during the busy holiday season.

“Loop blends a participatory experience with the whimsical, creating a unique visit to Avenida Houston which is front of the facility,” said Christine West, cultural programs manager for Houston First Corp., which promotes the convention center and 13 other Houston venues.

Olivier Girouard and Jonathan Villeneuve originally designed Loop in 2016 for the seventh edition of Luminothérapie, an annual light installation at the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal.

A cross between a music box, a zoetrope and a railway handcar, Loop is a retro-futuristic machine, more than six feet in diameter, that creates animated fairy-tale loops.

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Sized for two adults, the Loop uses black-and-white images, tinted through a strobe effect, to recall early movies that are visible inside as well as outside the cylinder, so they can be viewed close up or far away.

Through the combined efforts of visitors working the hand lever, the image cylinder spins and lights up, creating the illusion of motion in the drawings.

“It’s an overall sensory experience, with lights and sound,” West said. “You sit on it like a saddle and push the bar, and it's silly fun.”

The speed at which the images move, the frequency of the light flickering and the rhythm of the audio composition is determined by how fast the participants move the lever.

“We renovated the convention center in 2016 and now there’s a large plaza with seating and restaurants,” West said. "This part of downtown used to be a dead zone. It’s alive now and we thought putting (Loop) on the hardscape on the plaza would be unique and fun.” 

The group also thought it would enhance the experience of the convention center guests, she said.

“Interestingly, we thought it would attract a lot of kids, but we’ve found out that adults are gravitating to it as well as children.”

The installation started Nov. 30 and will run through Jan. 6. 

“People have been lining up for the experience,” she said. “It’s very Instagrammable.”

Houston First is leasing Loop from the city of Montreal.

Designer Girouard said he got involved in the project after the city of Montreal ran a contest to find the next installation for Luminothérapie.

“My partner and I were attracted to the contest and came up with the idea of marrying a merry-go-round with a heavy tech experience,” he said. “We combined that experience with the push-me-pull-you from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons.”

The designers were paid “approximately $300,000” for their creation.

“We expect the imaginative artistry of Loop to enchant visitors and allow them to enjoy our space in a new way,” Girouard said. “We were inspired by the mechanical poetry of the zoetrope to give the public — thanks to digital technology — an extraordinary immersive experience. We want to stimulate everyone’s imagination and encourage all to participate, helping people see public space differently.”

Loop is traveling the United States, and will move next to Shaker Heights, Ohio, and then to Chicago.

 


 

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: December 12, 2018