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The ARC: a creative rethink at the intersection of art and science during SXSW

Walking in to Deloitte Digital’s interactive installation at their SXSW “Interplay Lab,” one could be forgiven for thinking that they were in the control center of a spaceship on the set of a science fiction film. The Audience Reactive Composition (ARC) was a stark (in a good way), grand experiment (also in a good way) that allowed festival goers to experience and explore creativity through music in an entirely new way with 2016 Grammy-nominee André Anjos of RAC, Baio, and Oberhofer. It was intended to illustrate how human connection, creativity and technology will shape the future of interactive experiences.

“It looks like pure technology,” said Alicia Hatch, Deloitte Digital’s CMO. “But it’s much deeper and really interesting once you dig in.”

The ARC at SXSW

Wide view of the ARC
Close up of the ARC
The ARC instruments
The ARC's five instruments
The ARC at SXSW
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Created by renowned installation artists Dave & Gabe (who were nominated for a 2016 SXSW Music and Audio Innovation Award) with a system developed by artist/programmer Yotam Mann and visual design/light animations by Beau Burrows, five new instruments, unlike anything anyone has ever seen, create rhythm and melodies that react to how they’re being played and makes decisions on where to go next. Intrigued guests worked alongside the music artists to create the unique, electronic sounds.

The main goal of the installation was to allow people to think about creativity, technology and disruption in an entirely new way.

“Disruption actually only happens when people are throwing out fundamental assumptions,” said Hatch. “Sometimes people mistake disruption for adding technology to something and that's not disruption. Disruption is when you completely revisit and tear down the walls in your mind and challenge and redefine [them] and SXSW is mecca of redefinition. Here, we're thinking about that, thinking about music at its core. Music is as old as time and we wanted to say ‘can we take something completely old and reinvent it?’ Can we tear down the fundamental assumptions and rethink it completely and see what happens?”

The greater lesson here is about how companies, and specifically, Deloitte’s clients, can think differently and be inspired to try and do new things to improve — and the ARC is intended to not be perceived as a novelty but rather a way catalyze that conversation.

“I can see it inspiring a number of our clients around what maybe the retail experience could look like or other types of digital going forward, interactive going forward,” said Hatch. “It’s not about having a screen and a wall between you and the digital experience, it's opening that up as well.”

As for the future of the ARC, it’s still a bit unclear, but Hatch mentioned that there may be a life for it far beyond SXSW.

“It all starts here and we've actually had already a number of requests to make this an art installation. This is not about selling something, though. This is about celebrating a new kind of thinking and that's really the value in it and that's what we are about.”

Doug Zanger

I am the North America editor for The Drum. A geographic mutt, I was born in Minnesota (lived outside of Minneapolis until I was 12), lived in suburban Philadelphia, attended college in Denver and London — and have proudly called Portland, Oregon (and the Pacific Northwest) my home for 24 years.

Sadly, I love Philadelphia/Portland/Oregon sports and Arsenal.

I am deeply committed to telling the best stories possible, to not only legitimately engage, but to contribute something meaningful to the industry as well. Yes, marketing can change the world, and we will always do our best to ensure we are doing our part.

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