Shadow Monsters, an interactive installation by New York-based British artist Philip Worthington, invites Museum visitors to take part in a fully immersive art experience. Participants create their own shadow plays as their silhouettes are recast in fantastic forms.
Essentially a digital version of a traditional shadow-puppet theater, Shadow Monsters turns a childhood game of imagination into a reality. People's hands become mouths with razor-sharp teeth; tongues, eyes, and fins appear from every appendage; and birds and dinosaurs squawk throughout the Museum's vast Cullinan Hall—all thanks to vision-recognition software that augments visitors' gestures with sound and animation.
Describing his idea for the Shadow Monsters project, Worthington (born 1977) said, “Looking back to my own childhood, I remembered the feeling of casting huge shapes in the light of my father’s slide projector, creating monsters and silly animals. I enjoy working with simple, intuitive things; playful feelings that touch us on a very basic level.”
Following the 2005 debut of Shadow Monsters in London, the installation has received wide acclaim for its active engagement of audiences, forward-thinking design, and successful manipulation of digital software. For the Houston presentation, Worthington worked with MFAH staff to take advantage of the theatrical stage of the Museum's Cullinan Hall. As with Soto: The Houston Penetrable in 2014, the hall’s soaring architecture is transformed into a playful and welcoming environment.