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Interactive canvas lets viewers stir Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'

Greek multimedia artist Petros Vrellis would like you to be able to touch a Van Gogh without getting tackled by a security guard.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Ed is a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world who enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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  • Ed was a member of the CNET crew that won a National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors for general excellence online. He's also edited pieces that've nabbed prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists and others.
Edward Moyer
Video screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

Sometimes a painting is so beautiful you just want to reach right into it.

Of course, if you happen to be in a museum, that impulse could get you tackled by a security guard.

But Greek multimedia artist Petros Vrellis seems determined to let people satisfy the urge. He's currently at work on a project that would let viewers stir the skies of one of the West's most iconic paintings: Vincent Van Gogh's "The Starry Night."

Using OpenFrameworks, a development toolkit for artsy types, Vrellis is, as he puts it in the OF Web forum, busy "visualizing the flow" of the masterwork--and creating a setup that lets people manipulate that flow.

The end result is about 80,000 particles moving around 30 frames per second on a 1,920x1,080 resolution screen. According to the Creative Applications Network, the multitouch tracking is enabled by ofxKinect (a Kinect hack add-on for Macs) and ofxOpenCV (an open-source library of programming functions), while the music is a result of "much experimentation and luck."

Van Gogh and his work having been tapped for everything from coffee cups to shower curtains to action figures, we were a little skeptical. But though we're not 100 percent sure of the sound element, we find Vrellis' interactive piece enchanting--and even, given Van Gogh's tragic story, emotionally powerful.

Check it out below (jump forward to 1:42 for the interactive part).

CNET's Bonnie Cha contribute to this report.

(Via Thought You Should See This)