A ghostly bird emerges from an envelope and a pair of triangles transform into a dog in “Animated Kandinsky,” an interactive version of Wassily Kandinsky’s vibrant 1932 “Decisive Pink” (“Entscheidendes Rosa”). The mix of gaming features with the geometric shapes is a playful experiment in the subjective interpretation of abstract art.
“Animated Kandinsky” is available to try for free on the Itch.io indie game platform. Nivetha Kannan and Sarah Kwan, two students at Carnegie Mellon University, set out to examine the “relationship between traditional abstract art and current animation.” Their interactive version of the 1932 piece (held in the Guggenheim, which prefers “Decisive Rose” as its translation) invites users to click on just about any shape — excluding Kandinsky’s playful signature in the corner — and see it animate with sound, movement, or a figurative interpretation. You can move around the huge pink square that gives the painting its title, or see some repeating moon shapes morph into the face of a sneezing man.
For Kandinsky in particular, adding sound makes sense as it was part of his own experience with color. He’s quoted as saying that “the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with bass notes or dark lake with treble.” Similar to animating Old Master paintings or remixing Renaissance art into modern scenes, the animation also makes you reconsider the elements of the painting by putting them in a new context.
The “Animated Kandinsky,” even with all its bells whistles, is much flatter in its colors than the original oil painting with its gradient of yellow and textured borders around the shapes (it’s also missing some of the finer geometric details). But what it’s lacking in depth it makes up for as an example of how digital interaction can cause you to pause and spend more time with the small pieces of a painting, and appreciate how what at first seems like a random assortment of abstract shapes has a real harmony when you’ve totally wrecked it.
Animated Kandinsky is available on Itch.io.