Animal Companion - urbanSTEW

Animation by Lisa Tolentino and Chris Todd.

Animation by Lisa Tolentino and Chris Todd.

Animal Companion is an interactive installation commissioned for the Heard Museums 2015 summer exhibit on Superheroes. In this installation participants engage in an open and exploratory audio/visual environment presented in a gamelike format. The importance of animals in both contemporary and traditional superhero and Native American stories is a resonant theme for this installation and is the primary inspiration for our content development. Inspired by the Inupiaq videogame “Never Alone,” urbanSTEW provides participants with a rich environment weaving storytelling, cultural information and contemporary technology/gameplay. Similar to the beginning of “Never Alone,” the installation allows participants to explore the environment as a means to find their animal companion. 

In collaboration with the Heard Museum, urbanSTEW identified 6 unique animals for the installation.

Bears are known for their great strength and wisdom. They are very serious and noble leaders with healing powers. They can be protectors of people and can use their powers to make sure people don’t misbehave. Even though they are large they can run very fast. They are good companions to have if you get injured or if your enemy is very powerful.

Raccoons are very clever and can use their paws to do many things, including escape from danger.  They already have a mask, made from the markings on their fur. They are curious about many things. Smart and mischievous, they can solve puzzles, open doors and even open cupboards with latches.  They can be funny and are capable of looking cute and harmless - but beware! They are actually very cunning. They can climb, be very sneaky, and will even hide in small spaces to watch what an enemy is doing.

Ravens are a very important as a superhero who can transform. They are especially honored by people of the Northwest and the Arctic if your journey takes you there.  Ravens are very intelligent and have great powers that can help people.  Ravens are also very clever tricksters. Known as risk-takers, they sometimes get into trouble - though they are usually smart enough to figure a way out.  In addition to being clever risk-takers, ravens also use their ability to fly to see the big picture. 

Sea otter companions are loyal and honest. They are fun with big personalities. Sea otters are smart, mischievous and not afraid of people. Clever and athletic, they are excellent swimmers but can also move on land, which makes them very adaptable. Otters can stand the cold and live in many different places. Depending on your challenge a sea otter's versatility can be very helpful.

Wolves are animals of courage and strength. They are loyal companions and good hunters. Wolves are strong leaders that hunt in packs, which means they can call on pack members for help.  Wolves are fierce protectors when you are in danger. Wolves have a wonderful sense of smell and can run for miles. They can transform into other animals and even humans.  Because wolves are familiar with many parts of North America, they are helpful on long journeys.  

Animation by Lisa Tolentino and Chris Todd.

Animation by Lisa Tolentino and Chris Todd.

Contributing Artists:

Jessica Rajko (hardware and UX design)**
Stjepan Rajko (hardware and vision systems software)**
Lisa Tolentino (animation and interaction software)**
Robert Esler (interactive sound design)**
Chris Todd (animation)

**urbanSTEW directors