Paddock Art Series #1: Nebula

Dec 5, 2017 | Art, Paddock Art Series

Karl de Jong’s 2017 Paddock Art, ‘Birdie McBirdface’. Photo by Tangent

Awesome Art Coming to the Grand Bizarre!

By Hayley Ware

It’s that time of year when everyone is hard at work planning, designing, creating and constructing fantastic creations to bring to Kiwiburn! On the Paddock we get to see the final product of all this work, though what goes into making it happen? I’ve been chatting with some of the Kiwiburners who received Art Grants to see what they’re working on!

First up is Karl de Jong, who made Birdie McBirdface, the giant balancing bird you may remember from Kiwiburn 2017! Karl is creating an art piece for the Grand Bizarre called ‘Nebula’, an interactive canopy with LED displays which are changed by sounds and music.

His inspiration was another piece called ‘Firmament’, a sculpture first created for Burning Man 2015. Firmament is a hanging net with computer controlled LEDs which light up in beautiful patterns while classical music plays. “It’s a pretty cool art piece and I kind of had the idea from that but thought it’d be cool to have it a little bit more interactive so people can actually move the LEDs into different shapes and see how that affects the light display,” says Karl, “and also what I’m hoping to do is have it set up so people can interact with maybe a microphone or an input where people can plug in an instrument and play music. So if I can get far enough I’ll have the instrument interaction, but right now it’s music that you can sort of play through apps and things which will be affecting the display.”

As you can imagine, there are a few different components to making this all work!

A lot of it is the electronics side, the controller that I’ve bought has a bunch of inputs for USB and SD memory and you can actually pre program what you want either on there or you have it running directly off a computer or something. You don’t have to spend days soldering up stuff cause there’s little plugs for the LED strips. They have 60 LEDs per metre and each one of them is individually addressable for colour and timing so you can basically have different combinations of RGB colour spectrum at each.”

“Mainly I think [the work] will be getting the type of material which is flexible enough so you get the strips to change when people move them. [I’ll] try out different combinations of getting them to twirl with each other or whatever, it’s gonna be a lot of playing around with the type of material which would be robust enough but also flexible enough. I’m not sure how long that side of it’s gonna take but once I get the strips and I start playing around with different materials it’ll be a lot of hacking up and putting stuff together and seeing what works.

Plus there’s the unfortunate task of designing around people who don’t give people’s art the respect it deserves.

“I’m expecting that there’ll always be someone that’ll come and try to hang off it or something, so [designing for that] is also gonna be part of the process.” Having to consider this might also have to change the way the interactivity is set up. “I’m thinking of having it [only accessible during the day] for people to come up and change the shape of it, and just see what sort of shape in turns into by the night time. Then have it set so that you can’t change it anymore during the night, and [people] can come at night and see what the display looks like on it. And that way I can have it out of reach so at night time if people are lying under it chilling out you don’t get [other] people getting too crazy and trying to rip things off.”
Remember, although many of the art installations on the Paddock are interactive, just because they’re sitting out there to be discovered and enjoyed does NOT mean you can tamper, play with, climb or swing on pieces without checking first. Read more here.

And then there’s choosing the music which the lights will change in time to.

“The guy that [created Firmament] tried different types of music and he found that orchestral music was the most impacting for people. So that’s kind of what I plan to do, but I think I’ll try a couple of different genres and just have it playing and people [can] come and bring pillows and rugs and just lie under there and kind of have more of a chillout zone than a party zone.”

The payoff from all this work is seeing how people react!

“It’ll be quite cool to get a whole bunch of different emotional reactions from people. With lights and music it always brings quite an emotional reaction and some people I think will just be in awe, you know you see people lying under Firmament and [they’re] just really happy and snuggling up, and then you see with some people it strikes a different chord like they might come up with a sad emotion or something like that. It’s gonna affect people differently but it’ll just be cool to see what people do. So I’ll probably be walking past a few times and seeing if it’s actually doing what it’s meant to do, it’ll be pretty exciting and that’s actually what I’m looking forward to most is seeing how effective it is when people interact with it.”

Keep an eye out for the dazzling Nebula at Kiwiburn: The Grand Bizarre!

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