Following the success of Penduluminosity, I partnered again with Reza Fuard and we set out to create an experiential feast for Art in the Dark. The event has all the challenges I love: crowds of the public, an outdoor setting, the combination of tech with creativity, and an audience with high expectations of originality. I had been recently interested in two-way mirrors and “infinity windows” but I wanted to go further to create something internationally unique. The cube idea, presented standing on one corner and possibly rotating, came when I was brainstorming at an art festival near Coromandel.
Before becoming involved in Art in the Dark I had been a big fan of the event. I would visit every year, spend as long as I could, and even go for multiple nights. I would also go in the daytime to see the equipment, rigging systems and artwork unmasked. By the time I was involved, I knew Western Park very well, the character of the visitors, and the way the best exhibitions included such measures as waterproofing, rigging reinforcements and safety features. I knew my plan would need to be robust and dependable, and how to create an experience that blends with the location and context.
My next challenges were around materials and technicalities to create the cube. After investigation, I settled for high-powered LED strip and L-shaped steel edges reinforced by a nylon tension line. The sides were 1.2m each in length allowing for 1000 individual RGB lights to be used. I am not a trained builder and I consider my workshop to be "amateur" but I am determined to get great results from my computer work, soldering and "spanner turning".
The main piece to develop for Yashoda was not the "cube" itself (although that was a major project) but the rigging and rotation system, dubbed 'Iron Man'. Iron man needed to safely hold a 70kg assembly, allow the cube to rotate freely, rotate the cube, and send electrical current as well as an unbroken data stream. It needed to be exceptionally rigid given the outdoor setting and moving parts. And it needed to be waterproof. It would also need a generic but adaptable rigging system for interfacing with a variety of attachments including truss, trees, scaffolding, and carabiners on pulleys.
I had planned to import a high performance slip-ring to allow for rotation, but after researching NZ alternatives I found a startup with prototype wireless slip-rings and negotiated a loan as sponsorship. Power by Proxi became a featured part of the work, credited where possible for their breakthrough invention. I added a purple glow inside Iron Man to highlight the Proxi-Ring while it was in operation.
The rigging and rotation system was unapologetically over-engineered as it would later be suspended above people - even above a dancefloor. A delivery and installation plan was created for the 100kg work including flat-pack transport, load-rated equipment and safe two-person assembly. It was developed to exacting specifications and I also designed and created a fit-out in my van to allow for safe transport of the mirrors, valuable parts to be secured, and to have no effect on carrying passengers.
After extensive development, testing and waterproofing, Yashoda was installed for the first time at Art in the Dark.
The weather at Art in the Dark was as challenging as the previous year. Lightening storms and major winds closed several displays and meant the audience could only use the paved areas of the park. Despite this, Yashoda lit up every night.
I left my job with the Green Party and became my own tour manager, phoning and negotiating with potential venues to create a 4-month tour of 8 unique placements. I am a good negotiator with a lot of event management experience, so I was able to fill my schedule with relative ease. I was also able to negotiate my payment packages in a way that were affordable and rewarding for each of the placements - every situation is different.
Each new location required a different experience to be developed. For the premiere at Art in the Dark, Yashoda ran a scripted sequence with custom-made sound and lighting programs (as seen in the video above). At Kiwiburn (pictured above) with a smaller audience I designed the experience for a longer and more interactive involvement. Participants were able to directly "play" the lights on a MIDI keyboard, and rotate the sculpture with their hands. At Prana Festival the work was adapted to analyse a microphone and respond to the live sound. At Splore I developed sequences for a classical music experience.
By the time of the Lantern Festival, I had also further developed the data speed and power transfer the combined systems were capable of safely delivering. With new control complexity built in to the MIDI keyboard and myself as the operator, I was able to give an ultra high-powered show for a large general audience - and even add a new controllable lighting feature to the center of the cube.
The flood-light channels were adapted for fully motorised rotation at a concert location.
The experience of Yashoda was developed originally for Art in the Dark, but further adapted for its later audiences. The project wrapped in March 2015, the Proxi-Ring was returned to the sponsors, and most other parts have been used elsewhere or flat-packed for storage. It would be possible to show Yashoda again or sell the work to a suitable permanent venue.
This was an immensely rewarding project for me. The challenges in planning, organising, relationship management, practicalities, and creativity were perfect to engage my best response. The experience of the artwork never lost its novelty and excitement, especially with new adaptations being made for each placement. The final "space landing" bringing down the sculpture at Sundaise Festival was ceremonious, and the disassembly was meditative. It was an inspiring time filled with satisfying innovations and new project ideas.
It is not my first piece of experiential development, nor is it my latest. But the four-month Yashoda tour was my first session "full time" on this kind of work, and an example of what I can achieve when my "day job" so closely matches my skill-set.