WASHINGTON — A couple waltzed across the floor in a darkened art gallery while Tchaikovsky’s music played.
As they danced, evanescent colors swirled around their legs and beneath their feet in shimmering shades of purple, blue and crimson. The patterns twirled across the surrounding 24-foot-high black walls in shapes spawned by the movement of their bodies.
In another crook, a toddler stomped his feet, creating a one-of-a-kind gyrating design. His older sister, clad in sparkling silver heels, had lain on the floor beside him, moving her arms up and down, and her legs from side to side, making a multicolored angel shape. “Look, Mommy, I made a rainbow,” she shouted with glee.
The ever-changing images are digital.
Welcome to the Artechouse, a 15,000-square-foot, three-level digital art immersion space situated along the southwest waterfront in Washington. Its mission: to display large-scale installations produced by artists who are merging arts and technology, such as this recent wall and floor projection, called “IceNeon,” which was created by Noirflux, an experience design company near Syracuse.
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Artists have been using technology for decades, but until now there were few, if any, spaces dedicated to their work. Artechouse, founded by Sandro Kereselidze, 41, and Tatiana Pastukhova, 30, consists of four distinct digital display spaces that have been viewed by more than 100,000 visitors since it opened in June.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people who came through our door have never experienced this type of art form,” Mr. Kereselidze said. “The emotions that we see throughout the installations are fascinating. I see people cry. I see people laugh. I see 4-year-olds, and I see people who are 80 years old acting the same. It’s hard to describe unless you are experiencing it — kind of like love.”
It is a hot ticket. Admission costs $15 and there is timed entry to control the influx to 60 people per session and not exceed the gallery’s 400-person capacity. Sessions are typically sold out with a waiting list. An immersive-interactive installation featuring Noirflux celebrating traditional Japanese themes, such as cherry blossoms and Koi, will be presented at the museum starting on March 15 to coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the city.
Artechouse is open during installations until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11:30 p.m. on weekends. The after-hours appeal is a bar area overlooking the exhibits that teems with millennials taking selfies and posting to Instagram, often holding an augmented reality cocktail — one that superimposes a computer-generated image above the rim of the glass — using their smartphones and the Artechouse app.
“A lot of museums close up at 5, but we wanted to create an evening environment where you can come on a date, like you would performing arts, or the theater,” Mr. Kereselidze said. “Museums are there to preserve. We are here to present. The exhibit is exactly the same in the evening, only you see the adults acting like kids.”
At Artechouse, art has “no limits and takes all forms,” Ms. Pastukhova said. “We wanted to create an environment where artists can push the limits and are inspired to create new artworks.” This year, there will be a revolving stream of eight major immersive, multimedia installations exhibited for one to two months each, in addition to side-gallery ones.
Artechouse’s space is designed and configured to make it easy for artists to help pull the visitor in. “The magic is what the person experiences interacting with the art,” said Lorne Covington, Noirflux’s creative director and principal. “Most art is an object or a thing. We work with something that is intangible — that direct experience.”
Visitors to Artechouse become part of the display. “If it’s working right, it’s working like a good dance partner,” Mr. Covington said. “You don’t want someone just mimicking your moves, but to respond to you and surprise you back, so you wind up in a give-and-take dance.”
This kind of activity demands a big space like Artechouse, which provides lighting systems and 17 hanging projectors hidden carefully from the public eye.
The elusive combination of art and technology is enticing in this era of the selfie. “These big, bold, immersive installations are ones that have a sense of wonderment about them and that notion of spectacle, that sense of being overwhelmed by the work, is very conducive to a social media presence,” said Edward Saywell, chief of exhibitions strategy and gallery displays at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
As museums around the world are grappling with what their role is and how to attract new audiences, it comes down to making connections with visitors, he said. “The power of art is to wake us up — it is to change us.”
In recent years, art schools have exploded with a new group of artists who are doing interactive art of a digital nature, said George Fifield, director of Boston Cyberarts, a gallery that regularly includes interactive art in its exhibitions. “At its best, with this art form, the audience never knows about the computer,” he said. “This is not about the computer. The art is interacting with your own body and making magic happen.”
Museums should be “creating a sense of wonder not just conveying information,” Mr. Covington said. “We think that is the future of all museums — not just Artechouse.”