The CyberZoo is an interactive art installation created by Burlington-based artist Jake Blend and developed through The Bright Ideas Project, a crowdsourced proposal system that searches throughout Vermont to find, fund, and support creative ideas that come to life during Burlington’s citywide New Year’s Eve celebration.
Jake Blend is a professor at UVM and the prototype lead at Burlington makerspace Generator. Shortly after The Bright Ideas Project became public, we received a proposal for an art installation from Jake, dubbed “Pokegone.” The project was set to feature a forest of whimsical, illuminated robotic animals that would be synced to react to spectators and the midnight ball-drop. Although the name and idea evolved over time, Jake’s vision of an interactive wonderland filled with futuristic animatronic creatures remained the same.
In the early fall, we began discussing logistics for Jake’s experiential installation and started poking around for different partners that could help support his idea. We connected with OnLogic, a highly innovative and sophisticated computer technology company based in South Burlington. They seemed like a perfect counterpart to Jake’s crew of Generator-affiliates, but little did we know that the folks at OnLogic would become much more than a sponsor.
Having been previously aware of OnLogic’s tech leadership, Jake was excited to have a partner that understood the inner-workings of the installation — one that could hopefully help take the project to another level. To get the ball rolling on this dream-team, we held a meeting at OnLogic’s headquarters with Jake, Chris Thompson (then-Executive Director of Generator), members from the OnLogic design and engineering team, and representatives from Signal Kitchen and Burlington City Arts. After some great planning and a tour of OnLogic’s impressive facilities, we were set to begin building the idea.
At a subsequent meeting of the minds inside the makerspace, Generator-based artists Alex Costantino, Kristian Brevik, Leif Hunneman, Jody Brown, and of course, Jake & Chris, shared big ideas of a life-sized monkey dance-off, a laser-beaming owl, a flock of 30 birds, squid, whales & other cybertronic, weatherized and, honestly, mind-boggling critters. The OnLogic team complemented these ideas not only with ways to bring them to life, but also ways that they could amplify the audience experience and the animal’s functionality with their own technology. We left the meeting with a clearer vision of the project, psyched to see this collaboration in action.
Now, after months of brainstorming, The CyberZoo is (almost) ready to be seen. The installation features the work of six artists from Generator, and brings to life an enchanting garden of artificial life headlined by a giant, soundscape-serenading ghost-whale, blots of pulsing jellyfish, flocks of birds, swarms of insects and plots of environmental flora.
Highlight’s The Bright Ideas Project is proudly powered by VSECU.
You can explore The CyberZoo at Main Street Landing’s secret garden courtyard [124 Battery Street, Burlington, VT] on December 31st from 5:00PM – 12:30AM. Tickets are on sale now ($10 adults, $5 kids) at http://highlight.community/tickets.