Creating an Interactive Installation

November 3rd, 2023

Alongside our in theatre productions, Patch have been creating and presenting a new style of interactive installation work for museums, galleries and festivals. Our interactive installation Sea of Light has been seen by more than 45,000 children and travelled to Sydney, Hobart, Darwin and more. The Lighthouse – featuring Firefly Forest – has been loved by audiences at Adelaide Festival, Perth Festival and Arts Centre Melbourne.

In the following interview, our in-house creatives Geoff Cobham and Michelle (‘Maddog’) Delaney discuss the process of creating an interactive installation – from idea to experience.

Geoff & Maddog trying on The Lighthouse costumes

What are your roles at Patch and how do you work as a team?

G – I’m the Artistic Director at Patch – I come up with the ideas for our shows and installations and work with Maddog and other creatives to bring these ideas to life.

M – I’m the Creative Associate at Patch – during the creative process I spend a lot of time making things (and lots of time at Bunnings!).
Once we have an idea we purchase the required technology together and I get to work on plans or models. Sometimes we bring other artists or technicians in to help make the prototype. We then play with the prototype in our studio to refine it (or recreate it entirely).

What is an interactive installation?

G – An interactive installation is an art experience that involves the audience being at the centre of the experience and often manipulating or impacting the outcome. I found my love of this style of presenting art from attending this amazing art meets landscape festival in Holland – Oerol.

How do you get ideas? Where do you draw inspiration?

M – Our ideas often build over time – so something that might not have succeeded for one work may return years later or spark a new, related idea.

G – We are often inspired by Chinese gadgets or toys. We make analogue versions of something digital or play with the scale of something. We see something that is fun and try and expand or combine it with something else, building our web of ideas. Some of our best ideas come from problem solving. It is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes combining two ideas together onstage brings the best results.

Mirror Mirror

Once you have an idea how do you test it?

G – First we keep saying “Yes and” while we develop an idea. But eventually it has to pass the budget test. Often at this stage we find a cheaper, simpler and better way to execute the concept. Next it has to pass the child test, to see if children enjoy it, but if we think it is fun it usually is. Being bold and persistent with what may seem like a silly idea is very important.


Can you talk a little about how you collaborate with other artists and creatives?

G – We spend a lot of time getting the creative team on the same page. We use Milanote (an online tool used to create visual boards) to record and share ideas so we can develop the work together when we are not in a shared physical space.

M – We identify artists who are like-minded but have different skills to us and give them specific tasks – for example, an animator to develop video content or a costume designer to create a costume.


When do you invite an audience in to try an installation? Does the audience influence the development of the piece?

G – When we have the beginnings of an installation, we bring 5-years-olds in to play with it. Observing what they are drawn to and how they interact is key to the next stage. Often at this point we have an epiphany and discover the part of the project children engage with – this is usually much simpler than what we were trying to do. Children tend to find shortcuts to the playful part of the work. For example, when making Mirror Mirror I originally hid the light remote which controlled the colours of the lights, but when I gave the remote to the children and showed them how it worked the piece became more powerful – a remote is the magical thing.

Maddog testing bubbles for The Lighthouse

How do you ensure the work you create is exciting for 4–10 year olds and also interesting to adults?

G – Patch philosophy has always been to “explore the world from a child’s point of view, acknowledge the relevance of their thinking and promote imagination, wonder and discovery.” We do this in a very sophisticated way. We know if we explore the big questions we are interested in and make things that we find wonderful, then all ages will enjoy the experience.

M – So many adults leave our work surprised by how much they enjoyed it, saying things like “I enjoyed that as much as the children!”.


If you had no budget or time limitations, what interactive work would you like to create?

G – You may think this a strange and flippant answer, but we would probably fail. Limitations bring life to our style of creativity.

M – Yep! Some of our best work comes from finding a cheaper solution or something that can be bumped in within 4 hours or fits in a 4.2M truck. Because Geoff and I have production backgrounds these “limitations” guide the design process and usually have a positive effect.

Explore Patch's Interactive Installations here

Originally posted Feb 2022 and updated Nov 2023.