The 2019 edition of Telfair Museums' PULSE Art + Technology Festival is poised to be more fun and interactive than ever.

Over the course of this year's festival Jan. 23-27, there will be a host of exciting programs and exhibitions for kids and adults of all ages with a centerpiece focused on video game designer Keita Takahashi.

 

Beginning with an opening night reception and video performance by multimedia collective Medeology Collective, there will be game development, coding, and STEM workshops for youth, a Savannah Games Showcase, and a Free Family Day on Jan. 26 with a performance by That1Guy, a one-man-band that utilizes strange homemade instruments in his weirdly wonderful performances.

There will also be related programming on Jan. 25 in partnership with W Projects and Vice Media that will feature four documentary shorts focused on different aspects of forward thinking engineering projects like global transportation and aquatic robotics. You can read more about the Jan. 25 “Designing the Future” screening and panel discussion in the weekly column SavArtScene on Jan. 20 in Savannah Morning News.

The biggest draw this year with likely the widest appeal is the core PULSE exhibition, which will include over a dozen playable video games in all sorts of oddball iterations.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a collection of games and associated ephemera by Takahashi, an award winning video game designer. He is best known as the creator of “Katamari Damacy,” a 2004 game published by Namco for the PlayStation 2 where the player controls a katamari that rolls around the world picking up larger and larger objects like a junk heap snowball until it gets big enough to become a star. The game's design is quintessentially Japanese, but it became a surprise hit in the U.S. and spawned multiple sequels.

 

The brains behind PULSE is Telfair's Senior Curator of Education Harry DeLorme, who explains that Takahashi has never had a proper museum retrospective of his work, so he thought this year's exhibition was the perfect showcase for all the creative avenues Takahashi has explored over the time.

“I think he's a pretty big deal and he deserved more space,” DeLorme said. “Nobody has done a museum survey of his work. His work has been shown in museums, but nobody has done an actual survey. This is kind of a mid-career exhibition survey of his work.”

Takahashi has explored many aspects of art and design outside video gaming, so there will be plenty of interesting surprises in store for viewers this year, both digital and analog.

“I'm just a game designer, so I didn't have any idea that I will have my own exhibition that covers my career until Harry asked me about it,” Takahashi explained. “That was a good opportunity to look back at all my works. I went back to Japan for shipping my old stuff to Savannah and had a reunion with my stuff again after 20 years. I knew it, but I just realized again what I have been doing does not change at all since art college. That's funny.”

In addition to the playable versions of Takahashi's Namco games (“Katamari Damacy,” “Katamari Reroll,” “We Love Katamari” and “Nobi Nobi Boy”), the exhibition will also include Takahashi's independent games, immersive installations, an augmented reality game (“Funomena”) and the 16-button wacky romp “Tenya Wanya Teens.” There will also be hand drawings and other non-digital components related to Takahashi's various design excursions on display throughout the exhibition.

Also featured at this year's PULSE will be a number of games born here in Savannah, like the locally developed “Squidlit” and the SCAD+ project “Battery Jam,” a highly competitive game where multiple players try to smash their robotic opponents to shreds.

Takahashi will also be giving a presentation and hosting a discussion on opening night at 6 p.m. Jan. 23. There are a number of other wildly interesting components to this year's PULSE that you can find out about by going to telfair.org.

The event is free to museum members. Daytime events and workshops are free to students with advance registration. Regular museum admission is required for non-members. Opening lecture and reception is $8 for non-members.