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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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)