Launched with a focus on film 23 years ago, Amsterdam’s annual Cinekid festival now aims to showcase many forms of kids entertainment, and one of its most popular on-site features is its interactive Medialab. A walk through the exhibit, usually teeming with happy, active kids, provides a first-hand glimpse at how the 12-and-under crowd experiences new media and interactive realms. In fact, the forward-thinking installations often point out new ways kids content creators can engage their audiences.
Medialab programmer Joost Broersen looks for installations that will withstand the laying on of thousands of curious little hands and hold visitors’ attention during the festival’s 10-day run. ‘We search for projects that offer kids the possibility to explore, or allow them to create things, and they should have a learning curve in that kids can start with it and grow into it,’ explains Broersen. The Digital Puppetry display from last October’s event is one such example. Kids used pink Post-It notes to ‘catch’ animated accessories – hats, dresses, wigs – as they flew by on a screen placed in front of them. They could then ‘stick’ the pieces to digital images of their bodies being projected onto the same screen. ‘It was like a big treasure chest filled with outfits,’ says Broersen. ‘It’s a little discovery of the magic, and at the same time, the fun of playing with it.’
But since child-specific interactive festivals are practically nonexistent – save for the recently announced INplay slated for this May in Toronto, Canada – finding relevant works can be a challenge. Broersen, however, unearths interesting new exhibits by keeping his eyes and ears open, taking word-of-mouth recommendations, networking, and searching blogs and websites for the latest interactive media developments. He even scouts out promising global art school graduates and visits media festivals, such as Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, where he found Godmode. This project allows kids to draw puppets and place them in a special duplicating machine that brings the puppets to life by projecting them on the ceiling. And when he can’t screen projects first-hand, Broersen evaluates material via video, as he did with a work from Japan that ended up in the program last year.
The effort seems to be paying off – Broersen says the number of kids coming through the Medialab has grown year-on-year, and attendance topped 8,000 kids in 2009. Cinekid is also exploring the possibility of bringing the Medialab to other related festivals outside of Amsterdam, having already experimented with a smaller version at the 5th Caribbean Cinekid Festival in Suriname. ECA