The Studio of Eric Valosin

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Venae Cavae Opens Tomorrow!

It's a miraculous thing when a piece comes together and actually exerts a real effect on the world around it. Marc and I had designed this piece with relational aesthetics in mind, that is, the "art" is just as much the interactions and relationships that are cultivated as a result of viewing the piece as it is the piece itself. Tonight as we were finishing up installing for Activate Market Street, I really think we saw Market Street activated. I think we saw a glimmer of revitalization.

But the Real Magic Happens Thursday 10/10 (Activate) and Friday 10/11 (Open Doors)
at 6pm at 77 Market Street
for the openings! (shameless plug)

Have you ever been to Newark, NJ? It's not exactly a place many people want to linger after dark. And yet, in the light of our projection, stranger after stranger began to interact with each other as if in the company of old high school buddies! One man, after passing by and catching himself integrated into the video in his peripheral vision, stopped in his tracks and started asking us about it. He had no artistic background, and seemed at first to be very much the sort of person one might expect to be roaming the streets of Newark after dark. Rough around the edges to say the least. But as we began small talk about the work, something strange happened... He gradually opened up and found in us a camaraderie he must have badly needed. He unloaded a heart-wrenchingly terrible backstory - the kind that, in my experience, is usually followed up by a plea for your spare change. But no money was ever requested. Only an ear. No joke, Marc and I stood with this man and listened as he actually got choked up over his need for a revitalization story of his own. We called each other by first name, shook hands, and talked until he felt like he was ready to move on, and then he thanked us, swallowed hard, smiled, wished us the best of luck, and then started off down the street with a "God bless you guys." Stunned and a little caught off guard, we offered to keep him in prayer and wished him well as he left.

Social barriers of race, class, and background came crashing to the ground as people made instantaneous friendships inside our little virtual world! I was invited into my own projection by a guy who wanted me to join him on the girder for a silhouette snapshot, as if standing in the same virtual zone as him was like joining the same fraternity; as if it just wasn't right to be separated by virtual thresholds! I watched as a very compelling sort of kinship formed among people who occupied the same girder.

I drove home tonight proud of our completion of the installation, yes, but downright giddy with the thought that this is exactly why I make art - to create spaces where people can meet themselves and each other anew, and just maybe sense God in the midst of it all. I for one felt God today amid our new comrades, these strangers, and relationships were cultivated that would have had no business happening otherwise.

But that's of course skipping ahead quite a bit...

There were several harrowing days of install before we got to enjoy these moments. HUGE thanks to Aferro Gallery for being so supportive, generous, and curious. Their belief in this project made it possible. Here are some shots from the journey: 

(and if you'd like to go back in time to the beginning of the project, here are the other posts about it, in chronological order:

Two parts to the installation: the projection (which is being set up here) and the sculptural installation of Marc's architectural forms. After testing a few projectors and deciding on the best option we encountered harrowing moment #1: scraping off the window of frosted glass where the Kinect would peer out, praying that it wouldn't refract the light away from the sensor and make the whole project impossible last minute. This was unlikely, but a very real and VERY scary possibility, since I don't think there would be a way to fix it ...

...This test thankfully confirmed that everything worked as it was expected to, with no technological disasters on the part of the Kinect! You'll hear Marc's reactions as I go out and test it for the first time in situ.

Harrowing moment #2: Marc's plaster beams had picked up quite a bit of moisture in storage and were therefore much heavier than they used to be...

...and did I mention that they are meant to be free-standing? Yes, that is indeed a 200 lb plinth balanced precariously on the intersection of 3 other pieces all cantilevered together by nothing but wishful thinking! ...Apparently wishful thinking goes a long way around here. What doesn't go a long way, however, is measuring wrong and setting up all 400 or so lbs of plaster in the wrong spot, right in front of the projector....

...a projector that doesn't quite throw a wide enough image to fill the whole window unless it resides just behind the wall. Here was our first makeshift projector mount, extending off the back of the top of the wall to give it more distance. We certainly earned our merit badges on this one.

...that is until we realized that it needed to be a good foot and a half higher than our first platform would allow. So I pulled some tricks out of my old grad school hat and built a ceiling mount!

I'm hoping this mount is useful to the gallery in the future as it is perfectly positioned to project the size of the window!

Next we began lighting the sculptures in order to get cast shadows that would echo the landscape in the video, which was, after all, derived from shadows created by these very forms in the first place.

A panoramic shot of the sculptural installation in progress, paper over the window on the left to hide our work until the big reveal!

Rubble is good for hiding technology. The Mac Mini that Aferro Gallery so generously lent us to run this project. Harrowing moment #3 came when I realized how horrendously short we were on wiring, needing the projector, computer, and Kinect all to be hooked up together on completely opposite ends of the room. Luckily, another old grad school trick in my hat (cuz that's where you keep tricks) involved a 25 ft VGA cable in my studio that just barely reached and solved the problem.

Marc's flowering buiding, Paraxusmos

 Harrowing moment #4 came when everything was all hooked up and ready to go, and I hit play, only to find that the projection was but a fraction of the window size, even with the projector as far back as it could go. The answer came with a bit of poking around in the computer settings, and once I adjusted the resolution to that of the video as opposed to the projector's max resolution, it all began to fall into place. Here we have a first glimpse of the projection with the sculpture.
And we here get our first peek at real passers by out on the street, as we watch from inside. We still hadn't quite resolved the lighting (harrowing moment #5) so the image is a bit washed out, but that was soon remedied by some clever masking and snooting. You can thank your theater tech professor later if you understood that.

Aaaand... Voila!

(more photos and videos to come - Marc got some great ones. I believe he has some including our encounters with our new friends, too.)

And so now, there's nothing left but to hope the technology does what it's supposed to and continues to cooperate in the time between now and the opening, inevitably frantically fix something, and then enjoy your company! See you there!!

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