Matching Mudras at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

The Matching Mudras interactive at the Seattle Asian Art Museum uses visitors’ own bodies to foster physical learning of the iconography of selected Asian spiritual sculptures, encouraging visual literacy of the hand poses (mudras) to engage with artworks on view.

 

This interactive experience is embedded in the gallery organized around the theme of “Divine Bodies,” how artists have expressed divine power and transcendence through physical features. Using a two-way mirror, a monitor, and a camera, visitors see themselves in the nearby artworks as they try to match the outlined mudras, while learning about the meaning of the pose in between takes. Photos taken throughout both show accuracy and provide some fun.

 

With a limited budget of $5,000, customizing motion-sensing camera technology was out of reach. Inspired by the MIRROR home exercise system, the two-way mirror proved to be an affordable technology solution that maintained the project learning goals of an interactive experience that centers the visitor’s body.

 

A human centered-approach to this interactive aligns with the new thematic reinstallation of Seattle Art Museum’s Asian collection. After a transformative renovation, the Asian Art Museum, one of SAM’s three sites, reopened February 8, 2020 with a presentation that embraces the geographic, cultural, and historical complexity of Asia. You will not find galleries labeled by geography. Instead, works from different cultures and from ancient to contemporary times come together to tell stories about Asia in a non-linear narrative. Given that visitors prior to the renovation skewed traditional, not reflective of this dynamic cultural presentation, SAM’s interpretation plan sought to balance gallery themes that are central to Asia’s arts and societies while also drawing connections that resonate with our common humanity.