The Monster of Screen Worlds

Having explored Screen Worlds, our ACMI Volunteer Pinky Watson sheds some light on Shadow Monsters, a curious work residing in a small nook of the exhibition.

Shadow Monster in action

Shadow Monster in action

Here is Shadow Monsters from the perspective of an exhibitions devotee.

Sometimes overlooked as people walk right through its camera and screen, Shadow Monsters lives in the Sensation section of Screen Worlds.

Behind a door at the front of the Sensation section is the computer and software that creates this wonderful, interactive exhibit and brings it to life. Mac IOS, Java, iMovie and QuickTime all work together seamlessly to make the shadows dance across the screen.

As you make your way around to the seats in front of the sheeting, you might hear a monster let off one of its signature squeals, tweets or rude noises. It’s fully understandable if you’re not able to resist the urge to have a bit of a giggle.

Here’s a sample clip of what to expect:

“Don’t be scared” says the sign near the light-box, encouraging an intrepid audience to gather around and interact with Shadow Monsters.

People take turns to make their own monsters in front of the light-box. From little old men kneeling on the floor, hands raised, making shapes and chuckling at the squealing sounds, to toddlers on their father’s shoulders laughing uncontrollably.

Even the way too-cool teenage boys with ‘Justin Beiber’ hair stay a while to see the monsters flap about on the screen. They smooth their hair a lot and stand watching, until they realize they need to move on.

The exhibit is by media artist Philip Worthington, who created it for, among other things, the Experimenta Playground International Biennial of Media Arts, held in St Kilda in 2007. Knowing this doesn’t seem to change the fact that it fits so snuggly into Screen Worlds.

Trusty Visitor Service Officers, or VSOs, are nearby to help explain the exhibition works. “If this isn’t perfect for school holidays, I don’t know what is!” a VSO remarks, looking at a mother who dances like a geisha, on her own, until her son joins her and “makes a pelican”. Shadow Monster lets out a loud oink from the pelican’s mouth sending both mother and son into gales of laughter.

A little girl creates her own shadow critter

A little girl creates her own shadow critter

Getting up to leave and turn your back on the exhibit isn’t easy. The sign beckons you to “Move in front of the light-box and make a shadow monster”. One boy, Jerome, knows this better than most. He’s 12 and has Down Syndrome. After reassuring his mother of his whereabouts, she meets him at Shadow Monsters. Jerome is fully engaged, arms waving, laughing, watching his shadow and enjoying the noises. He moves all over Screen Worlds and comes straight back to the light-box to create more fanciful creatures. So many people do.

Screen Worlds certainly has a lot to offer and Shadow Monsters is a little gem that one should definitely not pass up.

– Pinky Watson, ACMI Volunteer

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