The Buoyant Oracle – A Sculpture That Talks Back
The Buoyant Oracle is a playful interactive feature that provides the opportunity to chat with Buoyant Force. Created by the Playful City Lab at American University led by Benjamin Stokes, Hazel Arroyo, Chris Karr, and Mitchell Loewen in collaboration with Sue Wrbican and Tephra ICA, the installation features an evolving cast of guest oracles and narratives over the next five years.
The interactive feature is activated by using your phone to scan the on-site QR code. Once activated, in a conversational mode, the sculpture sends participants annotated photographs similar to polaroids that reveal the layered history, artist philosophy, and production process behind the monumental artwork. Connected to the surrealist tradition of the sculpture, the participant may encounter an Oracle when engaging with the feature that will pull different “readings” of paired poetry and remixed images of the sculpture. The goal, with an eye to social distancing, is to provide a light-hearted layer of engagement to connect during this unique time with the whimsical nature of Tephra ICA's largest installation to date.
As a design project, the Buoyant Oracle explores how digital modes can strengthen the connection to place, borrowing concepts from game design such as: offering choices, cultivating playful participation, and embracing unpredictability that results in each participant having a unique experience of their own. The experience only requires a mobile phone — no fancy apps or even a data plan are needed. Try it yourself by visiting the sculpture in-person at Reston Town Square Park and look for the blue sign with a speech bubble located next to the sculpture!