Passion And Fantasy At Light City Festival

Posted on March 15, 2016 by Bruce McKaig

Australian artist Yandell Walton has always had a passion for art. When she was young, the loss of a friend left her searching for the means to express her feelings of grief.

During the Light City Festival, she will illuminate an extensive walkway in front of the World Trade Center with a large-scale project titled Human Effect, literally and metaphorically examining the human footprint on the global environment.

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Animated projections of plants and flowers create a virtual greenhouse that reflects the presence and movements of visitors in real time; leaves, flowers, and stems will undulate, recoil and jump in response to a step, a nod or a wave of the hand.

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Versions of the project have appeared in a half-dozen cities since 2012, however the installation at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor will incorporate two projectors for the first time, making a larger interactive space.

Walton teamed up with software developer Jayson Haebich and animator Tobias Edwards, and developed her aesthetic choices partly in response to Haebich’s demonstrations of various technical options.

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Collaboration is an essential dynamic for her work, but she hammers out specific details and choices herself, then passes the blueprint on to the programmer and animator.

She studied printmaking, photography and video, working with shadow and light, projecting onto surfaces and structures to create an imaginative link between internal and external that permeates her installations.

Walton will be in Baltimore the week before Light City to adapt the content and programming to the specific site and to install her project for the week-long run.

Baltimore artist Robby Rackleff will bring a historic fantasy of Baltimore Harbor to Pier 6 by means of an intricate video animation projected on a 40-foot screen suspended along the nearby pedestrian bridge.

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His project, Pyrrha, is named after a mythical place in Italo Calvino’s 1972 book Invisible Cities, and the looping animation illustrates what Rackleff fantasizes the harbor used to look like. He uses Legos to build model parts, then photographs and completes the construction in Photoshop.

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Before Rackleff moved to Baltimore, he heard stories from his father about the city back in the 1960s. His father was in the navy and Baltimore Harbor was one of the places his ship docked for maintenance. The descriptions of the harbor and Federal Hill included bars, strip clubs and steel workers. Long before living in Baltimore, Rackleff had images in his head.

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The animation is active, but he sees the experience as closer to a Hudson River School painting than a video game panorama. Other projections he has made are based solely on imagination, while this piece is anchored in the site-specific history of the Baltimore Harbor.

Light City Festival begins Monday, March 28. In studios, workshops and sites around the Harbor, the components of these projects are being tested and installed; intensive preparations continue to accelerate day and night, until they can all ultimately be switched on.

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