As someone who’s heard a few too many horror stories about broken glass and viruses, it takes a lot to convince me that drunken pool parties are a cool idea. But this installation by Brooklyn art studio Red Paper Heart pretty much does the trick. The concept, called The Pool Party, was devised last summer after the bro-centric daily deal site UrbanDaddy invited them to plan a Hamptons party promoting a tequila. The company brought it back—plus synchronized swimmers and tux-wearing scuba divers—for their annual holiday party last month.
"The Pool Party was an idea that came from a desire to create animations that someone could physically swim through," says Red Paper Heart’s Alexander Brimijoin. The studio had searched for a way to project on water for years—ping-pong balls were suggested as a joke—but had no luck. When UrbanDaddy came to them asking for an interesting concept for their Hamptons pool party, Brimijoin and his team did a test with ping-pong balls and a kiddie pool in their Brooklyn office, almost as a whim. "Suddenly, the joke idea became the frontrunner concept," he says.
As the day of the party approached, UrbanDaddy bought 100,000 ping-pong balls ("our ping-pong ball distributor loves us right now" says Editorial Director Jessica Rueben), while the Red Paper Heart team got to work programming a custom C++ app that would let them animate according to sound intensity. The animations—in polka dots and plaids to reflect the Hamptons vibe—were planned to begin slowly as people arrived, escalating until midnight, when attendees could actually jump in. "We knew we had done our job when people jumped into the pool even with gowns and shirts and ties," Brimijoin remembers.
The Hamptons party was seen as a huge success, so UrbanDaddy invited the design team to recreate the piece for their annual "crazy holiday party," as Reuben describes it. "We’ve been throwing successively more insane holiday parties year after year," she says. "We told them it was time to bring The Pool Party to the city—only this time we wanted to add synchronized swimmers and scuba divers to the mix. They did not protest." Besides the added theatrics, Brimijoin and his team designed an iPhone app that let them control the animation intensity and color during the show."This way our patterns echoed what the dancers were doing," he says. "The end result was a dance performance where movements were made larger through the use of animation."
It’s a fairly magical sight and sound, and big ups go to UrbanDaddy for underwriting what basically amounts to an awesome experiment.