Glow Santa Monica

Beach on Highway 1

I drove down Highway 1 and the 101 to LA last weekend to check out the Glow Festival on and about the Santa Monica pier. Many thanks to Tom and Jess for letting us crash at their place again. The all-night art festival turned out to be mostly a big, messy beach-party. No worries, as we got to the Usman Haque piece before it broke and were able to squeeze in a few seconds of interaction with Moon Theater. We also had some solid tapas and sangria fueling us as we pushed through the crowds.

Moon Theater at Glow Santa Monica

Moon Theater, a project by Nova Jiang and Michael Kontopoulos, was the most intriguing and beautiful work I saw at the festival (admittedly, I didn’t get to see/interact with everything due to the crowds). It was of particular interest to me since I’m applying to UCLA this fall and both the artists are currently enrolled in the D|MA program. A projection of the moon onto a disc provided a stage for shadow puppetry. Puppet-like silhouettes were generated by a computer observing the shapes people made with their hands in front of another glowing-white disc embedded in a large white console about 30 feet away from the moon.

Moon Theater allows for the overlay of individual narratives through a controlled device in a new public format (i.e. you can make up your own stories/reasons for the characters appearing on the screen), which is its main attraction as a user. However, the separation between the projection and the control led to some confusion with the piece, with many people simply standing in front of the projector to cast their shadows. Simply raising the projector so people couldn’t get in its way would have helped the piece a lot. It also seems like it would be very successful in more of a gallery setting, where the connection between controller and display is more obvious — the crowds hid the relationship between the two components.

Primal Source at Glow Santa Monica

Haque’s work, ‘Primal Source’, alternated between sound-responsive flourishes and generative patterns projected onto a screen of mist sprayed over the beach. The work was photogenic and attractive even from a distance. The motion of the streamers after their release into the fluid space was beautiful.

The variety of visuals in ‘Primal Source,’ a strength overall, weakened the interactive aspect of the work. Fences held back viewers/revelers from the projection and overly-sensitive microphones — the people standing near me couldn’t figure out whether they were impacting the piece at all. It would have been fantastic were we allowed to play inside the projection space, as one can do with Anthony McCall’s ‘A Line Describing a Cone’ (pictured below). The fences, however, guaranteed people were mostly observers, rather than explorers of or active participants in the artwork’s space.

Line Describing a Cone at MMK Frankfurt

More photos on flickr.