Company Post

Fit the Culture | An Interactive Portal

It is always exciting and inspiring to see how TouchDesigner is being used by students in schools - sometimes for the first time - as a creative tool and to experiment and solve problems.

Art project Fit the Culture is an interactive portal between Russian and Austrian culture created by a joint student team MOSGRA from British Higher School of Design in Moscow and FH Joanneum in Graz. The installation took place simultaneously in both cities from 17th to 21st of May inviting visitors to hop on a journey through 'stereotypical' cultural environments. Visitors were dared to look beyond the cliches of the unfamiliar culture and find emotional connections in the most entrenched touristic icons.

Fit the Culture is the first collaboration between these two geographically remote design classes made up of 10 students from Austria and 4 from Russia under the supervision of tutors.

We spoke with Tanya Samarakovskaya and Olga Kazmina about the project and their teams' experience of working with TouchDesigner.

Olga Kazmina: It wasn't an easy task to find a connecting point between a megapolis like Moscow and a pretty small town like Graz. The collaboration lasted for 3 months and started with a short exchange student trips to make a first impression of each other. From the beginning we were looking at stereotypes trying to connect Russian and Austrian mentality. Research took a month before we chose the one idea.

In Russian culture we have an etiquette to take the hat off when greeting and shaking hands. And we wanted to bring the case upside down - you have to put on foreign hat to be welcomed in a foreign culture and hop on a fun journey of illustrated stereotypes. Everyone loved the idea and we began the production.

Of course it was hard to develop one project that should have taken place at the same time in two cities 700 kilometres away from each other. We divided tasks between universities. The Russian team was responsible for visuals and project branding, the Austrian team took on programming.

Tanya Samarakovskaya: Everything went cool until the time we tested the prototype. Austrian students were familiar with Unity and used it to create the interactive part. Students of the Russian team mostly had a design background with just a few who had a little knowledge of code so the main obstacle for us was to build the interaction. We started to look for an environment that can substitute Unity and empower non-coders with straightforward tools and interface to build interactive scenarios.

From this point of view we found TouchDesigner to be the best solution. Many interactions were discovered through pure experimentation with nodes. Experimentation always gives unexpected results that in most cases turn out to be awesome. The illustrations created an absurd world of stereotypes, TouchDesigner added some cool gradient effects to make it even more acid-like.

We didn't try to make breakthrough and trendy art visuals, our aim was to bring fun into interaction and make people comfortable in a crazy stereotypic world of another culture. Like as when visitors put on an Austrian crown and Euros rained down into their pockets! Or played some Mozart music to make a Sachetorte spin around to a waltz. We were also glad to find a tool inside TouchDesigner that helped to capture screens when people interacted with the installation and to upload it on the project website automatically.

Team: British Higher School of Design, Course "Interactive Design"

Danil Tsytkin, Tanya Samarakovskaya, Helen Agafonova, Olga Kazmina

Head of course: Dmitry Karpov

Curator: Anastasia Yudina

Team: FH Joanneum, Course "Communication, Media, Sound and Interaction Design"

Martin Haindl, Florian Hasenhüttl, Jennifer Höll, Katrin Höllebauer, Stefanie Horvath, Nadine Killmeyer, Narges Mohammad, Sebastian Sammer, Ziga Pavlovic, Clemens Rant 

Head of course: Daniel Fabry, Josef Gruendler