Glow is a dusk to dawn performance and media art festival which took place for the first time on July 19th 2008 in Los Angeles. It is envisioned as a museum without walls, a way of bringing contemporary art to the public. “Media art meets the masses”, that sort of thing. The public in question for this particular event consisted of 200,000 people passing through a stretch of beach and an old historic pier all in a single night. The massive scale of the event probably left many of its commissioned artists wondering how they could ever go back to the narrow confines of the gallery again.
My favorite installation is by New York based Taiwanese American Artist Shih Chieh Huang whose recent exhibitions have taken him to the Venice Biennale, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan and the Shanghai MOCA to name only a few. His process-orientated work transforms mass produced objects and everyday detritus into kinetic sculptures which seem infused with life.
Before receiving the commission from Glow, he happened to be doing a two-month residency at the Smithsonian in Washington which allowed him to study the Smithsonian’s collection of iridescent marine life forms. For Glow, he filled the walk way under the historic Santa Monica pier with slow-moving sculptures of marine creatures intricately constructed from zip-ties, power adapters, plastic bags, wires and plastic tubes… To me his work is always very much about material. There is a lot of aesthetic discipline in the way he juxtaposes one piece of recycled waste and the next.
I missed most of the works displayed that night, but I especially regret not seeing Usman Haque’s ‘Primal Source’ up close. A giant water screen is conjured up on the sand. The sound created by the nearby audience constantly changes the light patterns projected onto the water screen. At some point during the night there were thousands of people surrounding this piece. If Glow is all about public spectacles, then this was certainly the showpiece. Usman Haque has a background in architecture and has been responsible for a number of impressive large-scale interactive installations recently. Check out his website for more.
You can just make out Usman Haque’s upside down waterfall on one side of this picture, the bright spot on the other side is my piece Moon Theater created in collaboration with Michael Kontopoulos and based on code by Andres Colubri. Moon Theater is designed to address issues of scale and social performance in a public setting. In the context of Glow, it is realized as an opportunity for communication and expression between members of a large crowd.
The piece successfully sustained a community around itself throughout the night, transforming strangers into collaborative performers.
Shadow puppets are mapped onto the movement of people’s hands and projected onto our artificial moon using code written in Processing.