Tuesday. Glenmore Reservoir. An 11-metre mechanical snake (Titanoboa) appears on the banks of the reservoir. Later sighted at Heritage Park.
Wednesday. University of Calgary campus. A two-storey high pink tricycle (Daisy) is sighted, on a trajectory for the Ronald McDonald House.
Thursday. WestJet hangar. A giant arachnid emerges from a crate....
By now, such creatures have been sighted all over town, but don’t worry, it’s not the first sign of the war of the machines. Rather, it’s “an example of what it looks like when art and engineering come together,” according to Mary Anne Moser, vice-president of strategic communications at Cybera and co-founder of Beakerhead, the project from which these robotic beasts have sprung.
It’s all part of a city-wide, weeklong play called Daisy’s Dilemma that’s serving as a teaser for said Beakerhead, an upcoming annual festival that will celebrate the marriage of art and technology. Moser co-founded the project in 2008 with the Discovery Channel’s Jay Ingram, and while the official festival inauguration is over a year away (September 2013), Daisy’s Dilemma is an ambitious preview.
“Every sighting will be a ruckus,” says Moser of the creatures roaming around Calgary. The machines themselves were built by various Vancouver artists, and Beakerhead has also imported a drumming group from New York called Momentum to interact with the critters.
The idea behind the mega-play is not only in creating a wow-factor with the giant mechanized monsters, but in the interactions they promote and the questions they raise. Why are they here? What are they trying to do?
“These are really neat creatures, and they do entertain people,” says Moser, “but wouldn’t it be neat if we took it up to another level and created a narrative... [and] bring them to life as a piece of theatre?”
After all, engineering and art are by no means mutually exclusive. Science is based entirely on curiosity and asking questions — as is art — and the problem-solving skills that are key to engineering require huge amounts of creativity.
“Our society has been segmenting people into creative careers or technological careers and it’s time to bring them back together,” says Moser. “[Beakerhead] is ambitious, it is audacious... but it’s not really high risk, because there are snippets of this that go on all around the world; there are already proven audiences for what it looks like when art and engineering come together.”
Looking forward to Beakerhead proper, Moser says “the goal is that everyone in Calgary will know that Beakerhead is going on between September 11th to 15th, 2013, because you’ll encounter, say, a mobile living room in the street, or motorized cupcakes, or a giant mechanical street creature.”
But as for what’s hitting the streets this week: if you’ve missed the creatures so far, never fear. There will still be plenty of public sightings before the play wraps up. (“The timing with the Stampede is deliberate,” hints Moser about the finale.)
“Beakerhead isn’t something that you watch, it’s something that you roll up your sleeves and take part in,” says Moser. “There’s a place for everyone to get involved.”
Keep your eyes peeled and listen for drums. Something big is coming our way.