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‘Loop’ animates fairy tales with movement and music

January 3, 2019

Beep beep.

Olivier Girouard, the artist behind downtown’s “Loop” public art installation — which closes Sunday — likens his interactive zoetropes to a modernized version of the railroad handcar Wile E. Coyote used to pursue the Road Runner, cranking a lever to pass through mine tunnels in pursuit of his nemesis in “Looney Tunes.”

The seven illuminated spheres, about 6 feet in diameter, that line Avenida Houston in front of George R. Brown Convention Center are stationary, but Girouard said users will enjoy the sensation of motion once they step inside.

Each structure allows two people to sit and face one another, pushing a lever back and forth to power drawings on a cylindrical “loop” on the interior and exterior of the sphere. Seemingly animated, the illustrations speed up based on how fast the user cranks the lever. Same goes for the corresponding music, which quickens with force.

The images depict classic fairy tales, including “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Alice Through the Looking-Glass” and “Puss in Boots.”

Girouard called the art installation, which originated in his home of Montreal before its current U.S. tour, “futuristic,” comparing the technology to animated GIFs on the internet.

“They’re dreamlike,” he said. “You have the impression it might be a time-traveling machine.”

A former composer, Girouard experimented with computerized acoustics and electronic synthesizers to create the gusts of breath the wolf uses to blow down houses in “The Three Little Pigs” and the foreboding music that grows louder as the whale’s mouth opens in “Pinocchio.”

While Loop’s moving pictures will not frighten children, Girouard said they will entertain adult spectators.

“We wanted Pinocchio to really be in danger,” he said.

Loop’s whimsical stories “harken back to the early days of cinema,” said Christine West, cultural programs manager for Houston First Corp. The public art is designed to “open up a sense of wonder” for visitors of all ages, she said.

Katie Riedinger admits she didn’t recognize the fairy tale she saw inside the sphere she visited with her daughters, Trin, 9, Hope, 10, and Faith, 12.

Faith immediately identified the story as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Riedinger said the family, frequent visitors to adjacent Discovery Green, chose to experience Loop at night, an atmosphere her children found exciting.

“It’s a very creative way for them to experience art,” she said. “I love the fact that you had to work out and you had to be active. They enjoyed working together to watch the story.”

There was a line outside the sphere, “but they did not want to leave,” she said. “They were sort of mesmerized by it.”

Allison Bagley is a Houston-based writer.

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