The Kota ProtoLab provided visitors with a space for experimentation, interaction, and education throughout the duration of Kota: Digital Excavations in African Art. The gallery was occupied by the Pulitzer’s first game developers-in-residence, Rampant Interactive—a St. Louis-based game design studio—who led visitors in a series of guided activities, workshops, and discussions. In conjunction with the exhibition, these projects not only delved deeper into the hidden histories of Kota reliquary guardian figures, but also inspired conversations about the role of data technologies in art historical research.
Rampant Interactive’s residency unfolded as four phases of crowdsourced creative initiatives that evolved over the course of the exhibition:
Using a custom iPad app designed by Rampant, visitors explored cultural aesthetics and craftsmanship by creating their own Kota-inspired digital models from a combination of physical characteristics.
Many of the user-generated Kota models were 3D printed, encouraging visitors to engage with and arrange the objects through touch. Voluntary user data was collected in conjunction with the Kota-inspired designs, which created a secondary database that linked demographic information to formal and stylistic preferences.
Rampant analyzed information and trends among the virtual and 3D printed models using co-curator Frederic Cloth’s database of Kota reliquary guardian figures, comparing the emerging patterns to those found among existing Kota. During this phase, a group of local teens was invited to curate a temporary exhibition of the models, juxtaposing the 3D printed figures with objects of power and esteem from their own lives.
Additional collaborators were commissioned to rapidly prototype new projects related to Frederic Cloth’s database. Musician Phil Hayes ascribed musical cues to the key formal characteristics of the figures, enveloping the Pulitzer galleries in sound. Robotics specialist and game designer Rob Santos developed a custom-built table that animated trends in user-generated data in real time. A final panel discussion brought together the Rampant team with co-curator Kristina Van Dyke and leaders in the fields of art and technology to address intersections between art, education, and gaming.