For it's second year, the visual arts component of Day For Night took on a more ambitious challenge. Working in a new venue, with very particular constraints, we invited a group of roughly 15 artists to engage with a space and create never previously seen large scale installations.
As the curator of the event, my goal is to push forward a specific type of work. We are in the context of a music festival, and not catering to the art world, but we also believe in people's intelligence. In other words, the work has to be eye-catching, but not just eye-candy.
The works span from projections on odd surfaces, to laser fields and groups of kinetic sculptures. They all somehow deal with the manipulation of light and sound to create a new space.
Tundra's "Outlines" was made of 400 single diode red lasers, strobes, speakers and custom controllers. The lasers went through a 10 minute sequence, which repeated over the course of 2 days. The laser field was accessible from 360 degrees, with an additional "path" in the middle that allowed viewers to be surrounded by the beams.
Beyond the immediate impression of a high tech alarm system gone bonkers, the artist statement suggested "going past your imaginary boundaries". It is as if the barriers themselves, once imbued with a life of their own, became a field of potential rather than the obstacle itself. The tools of control becoming a material with as much aesthetic value as the objective it is made to prevent you from.
This video describes the process of assembling the 2016 edition's installations
Shoplifter's "Ghostbeast" took over a large cage at the entrance of the main building. Using her signature medium of synthetic hair, Shoplifter created a sleeping "beast" in the cage, with projected content on the hair bringing the beast's sleep to life, and with a deep audio rumble giving it a snore, or a heavy breath.
Nonotak returned to Day For Night for a second year, with two pieces : "Highline", a series of reflective panels with LED tubes, spanning about 60ft, and "Shiro", an installation designed to house the musical performance of Takami Nakamoto and Noemi Schipfer (The "NoNo" and "Tak" of Nonotak).
"Highline" despite needing a distant vantage point to be fully appreciated, had the audience standing inches away from the reflective surface taking selfies and pictures of their friends. Commentary on our narcissistic time? Probably, but when seen in conjunction with the post-apocalyptic soundtrack that the lights were synced to, the world that was being projected back to us felt more like a clinically emotion-less future where the image we project is mediated by aesthetics we don't control, don't understand, but need to keep standing out.
VT Pro, lead by creative director Michael Fullman, created Bardo with is team, a piece that was somewhere between light show, light sculpture, and overly invasive surveillance system. The piece had two modes : an interactive mode where it tracked users in the space and focused groups of lights on them as they moved, and a programmed mode, where the lights followed a choreographed sequence. "Bardo" is a Tibetan word that describes "intermediate states" between life and death, as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Both VT Pro and AV&C, featured below, are companies, not artist collectives or individuals. Their work consists in executing (brilliantly) their client's vision. It was of particular to me to give them a chance to create a vision of their own, and to explore the idea that a company can be represented as "an artist" as much as an individual or a collective can.
AV&C returned to the festival, after their impressive "lull" installation in 2015. They explored a more geometric approach to light, in particular reflected light. Still playing with volume to make light visible, and using scrim to catch patterns of imagery that only resolved once it had bounced on one of the mirrored panels, robotically spinning on a central chandelier-like structure, they explored an environment, both sonic and visual, that felt like a bit of a platonic cave, where we can only see the product of the light beam on the walls of an enclosed cavern that we dwell in. Mediated by moving reflectors, modulating the light, the result is only a "reflection" of the real.
A more complete breakdown of their piece can be found here.
I've described this piece in more detail here
Golan Levin had been working on versions of Ghost Pole Propagator for several years, and Day For Night gave him a chance to execute the idea on a large wall facing the entrance of the festival. Using laser projection and a kinect camera to capture passerby's and "extract" a bendy skeleton out of their physical presence, the installation produces something akin to prehistoric drawings. Ironically combining cutting edge projection technology and image analysis to produce what seems to be an extremely simple and "old" aesthetic, Golan played with our need to see technology driven art produce things we have never seen by showing us things we may have seen before, but never thought we would see again.
The piece was more thoroughly described here
UVA's "Musica Universalis" was one of the clear highlights of the festival. Comprised of 8 instruments, each supporting a sphere, a light and a speaker, they created orbiting motions around their respective "planets", sometimes in, sometimes out of sync.
The piece was featured in the below series about UVA produced by Nowness.
Robert Seidel's work often combines organic and sculptural shapes with painterly motion design, driven by projection. I was particularly attracted to his work because of the contrast it offered to the "colder" more geometric work we had in some parts of the venue, and because his work is often particularly tied to the merging of old and new media (painting and sculpture in dialogue with motion design and "mapped" projection).
Ezra Miller, the youngest artist at Day For Night, has been working on code driven art for several years, mostly for the web. I was interested in giving him a canvas that would be 100x bigger than the biggest computer screen he would have ever worked on, and tie his work to the environment. Ezra took a camera feed from the main stage and used his real-time shaders to distort and react to the musical performances. Similarly to Robert Seidel and Golan Levin, it was interesting to see how old media such as watercolor or painting find themselves re-interpreted as code, and how attractive it is to see that translation done successfully.
Some quotes from the press coverage of the arts :
"Day For Night was an interdisciplinary love fest of light and sound that may have figured out the future of immersive music and art festivals." — Justin Joffe, New York Observer
"And if Day For Night is trying to disrupt the monotonous, stale festival scene with something new, engaging and thought-provoking, they’re doing a mighty impressive job. Houston, we have a solution." — Justin Joffe, New York Observer
"Between sets by Aphex Twin, Banks, and Sophie, attendees of Houston's second annual Day for Night festival made time to take in the best of the local art scene — whether it was the installations on the festival grounds (flickering light installations by the likes of Nonotak and Shoplifter) or sights around Houston like the famed Rothko Chapel." — Katherine Cusumano, W Magazine
"Although [Day for Night] just turned two, it is already establishing itself within the crowded sphere of its kind as a small but highly considered event..." — Claire Voon, Hyperallergic
"Part of why Day for Night stands out stems from its organizers’ strong efforts to give visual artists both equal and distinct footing to the musical lineup — the main draw for most attendees." — Claire Voon, Hyperallergic