“An eye is a small price to pay for all the wisdom and memory of the nine worlds.” That’s what the Norse god Odin uttered as he sacrificed his eye to drink from the waters of Mímir’s Well. Every culture has stories like these, handed down through the generations, allowing us to glimpse a distant land and explore the collective memories of its people.
In 2015, “memory” was the theme of the 10th Annual Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, a free overnight contemporary art event that takes place across the streets of downtown Toronto. To celebrate the opening of its landmark development in Toronto’s Downtown West area, Allied Reit challenged SapientNitro to come up with a unique experience that would encourage Nuit Blanche attendees to stop by the QRC West building and discover its beauty for themselves.
To make the experience unforgettable, we knew we’d have to create something truly unique that wasn’t just visually stunning, but could forge a visceral two-way connection between the viewer and the piece. Our idea was to bring an ancient story to life and send Toronto art fans deep into the recesses of Norse mythology with a fully re-imagined version of Mímir’s Well.
Transporting visitors to another time and place meant turning them into participants using responsive technology. Using Unity 3D animation, parametric speakers and Kinect technology, we recreated Mímir’s Well in the lobby of 134 Peter Street, inviting visitors to gaze into its waters and slip into a deep history of wisdom and memory in a purely personal way.
Stepping up to one of the nine sides of the well, users were met with their reflections, which soon morphed into an animal of Norse lore. As visitors experimented with their newly adopted forms, a rich universe of sound enveloped them while their surroundings transformed into one of the nine Norse worlds. From the dark, foggy caverns of Svartalfheim, to the crackling molten valleys of Muspelheim, to the light, serene paradise of Asgard, these vividly animated lands and their acutely textured soundscapes unspooled a symbolic story of memory. With their senses immersed and their changed selves staring back at them, visitors were able to imprint their own experiences on the well and form their own interpretations of what they were seeing and feeling.
Using this responsive environment, we were able to whisk visitors away to an ethereal realm of myth and magic. There, they were left to contemplate their own memories, while they pondered what Odin may have sought on the day he sacrificed his eye to drink from Mímir’s Well.
Adults and children alike agreed that Mímir’s Well was one of the highlights of the evening, with thousands of guests visiting throughout the event, many of whom spent a great deal of time investigating the memories of these distant lands.