Imagine an event that blended technology and art by merging the classic interpretations of art with the 21st-century charm of the silicon age. This was the goal of The Creators Project, and its San Francisco debut at Fort Mason March 17 and 18 went above and beyond its innovative objective.
The digital age brings stunning virtual realism with graphics-focused programming languages like Open GL that have become the modern designer’s paintbrush. Emerging technologies are redefining the boundaries of interactive art and transforming the antiquated static relationship between art and the viewer.
Saturday’s event also included an impressive lineup of bands. Many of these artists incorporated digital art within their performances, such as the graceful designs of Zola Jesus’s backdrop or the rampant yet calculated visual bombardment during Squarepusher’s mesmerizing DJ set.
Long gone are the days when we were impressed by the ability of digital arts to replicate our reality. Now, the art form introduces a seemingly boundless surreality that blurs the already faint lines between the digital and the physical.
— Ian Birnam and Daniel Means
Although Zola Jesus has a petite stature and shy demeanor, her stage presence is anything but that. The singer/songwriter’s hauntingly sweet voice shot through the Festival Pavilion with an unparalleled authority. Her beautiful combination of industrial rock, electronica and classical music made for a serene yet powerful concert experience.
Of the bands that played at The Creators Project, Zola was one that heavily incorporated art with her performance. Her music video director, Jacqueline Castel, created a backdrop for Zola’s set exclusively for the festival that morphed throughout the performance, captivating the eyes of the crowd while Zola’s euphonious voice enchanted their ears. Her music embodied the soothing qualities of the swirling, white background, as the combination of electric violin and synth created a peaceful atmosphere.
As calming as the scene was, Zola’s performance was engaging enough to keep the audience enthralled. The singer pranced around with grace, belting out melody after melody. Although her arm swinging was somewhat comical, the singer’s energetic stage antics and robust vocal chops mesmerized the crowd with an airy yet compelling aurora.
— Ian Birnam
The Fall of Troy, The Used, Underoath. If you grew up as an aggressively angsty teen during the early aughts, chances are you — like myself — recognize some of these screamo bands. Though we may frantically try to suppress recollections of these anxious times in the nether regions of our memories (nestled right beside the bed-wettings and being caught masturbating), some things simply can’t be forgotten.
HEALTH sounds a lot like a reunion of your buddy’s high school hardcore band, but now equipped with enough electronic apparati to turn the volume up well past 11. The group stormed through opening jam with a hurricane of rapid fire drum-beats and lightning fast punches of affected guitar.
The group’s studio recordings, which come off as comparatively tame and danceable, are but the neutered version of their radically aggressive live performance. Each musician was teched-out with a cache of effects pedals and a personal sampler to rock out at will with.
HEALTH’s performance infuses electronic production with their undeniably hardcore roots, forcing a state of screamo nostalgia, which turned out to be good, masochistic fun.
— Daniel Means
Karen O is one bad bitch. Strutting around the stage in a glimmering red outfit like some sort of sultry demon-child, her piercing screams and soothing harmonies led the charge as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs gave one of the most impressive performances at The Creators Project. Between Nick Zinner and David Pajo’s guitar mayhem, Brian Chase’s steady rhythmic drumming and Karen O’s sinful vocal treats, there was no stopping the ecstatic crowd from becoming immersed in the band’s wildly delectable performance.
No matter how relaxed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs initially sounded on any of their songs, they found a way to turn it into a crazed frenzy. Sure, there was sometimes an acoustic guitar or a mellow synth riff, but there was never a tranquil moment during the set. If Zinner didn’t crank up his guitar’s distortion to head-banging levels, then Ms. O would bounce all over the standard vocal range to shake up your eardrums. With a set-list encompassing tracks from all three of their studio albums as well as a couple from their Is Is EP, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs left the crowd enthralled as they concluded their triumphant return to the Bay Area.
— Ian Birnam
Meditation & Strata #4:
A successful piece of art must be well-learned in the ways of seduction. It should subtly strum at our emotions and evoke a sense of intimate understanding, then do it all over again for the next onlooker.
Korean artist Minha Yang’s interactive installation “Meditation” has mastered the game of creative love down to a science. At first glance, “Meditation” is comprised of a speaker playing ambient noise at the center of a dark screen covered by outward flowing red ripples.
Yet, as one moves closer to the piece, its infrared sensors track the body’s every motion. It mirrors the user’s movement by sending a stream of topographic red lines soaring in the same direction. Upon this realization, many viewers began testing the visual waters by moving rhythmically before the sensors in a ritual dance of attraction.
After passionate moments with “Meditation,” viewers lay down before “Strata #4” by Quayola. The digital piece showed a live deconstruction of 15th-century Flemish paintings into 3D geometric planes. “Strata #4” zoomed viewers into different triangulated details of the enlarged paintings — displaying a synthesis of antiquity and modernity.
— Daniel Means
While every art piece was interactive in some way, SuperUber decided to opt out of physical interaction in favor of manipulating art through mobile phones. The OctoCloud piece allowed users to slingshot balls across a sculpture via the provided Android phones — or their own by connecting to SuperUber’s network. The goal of the OctoCloud was to combine as many technological disciplines as possible while still maintaining an aesthetic appeal.
The virtual layout of the sculpture was implemented using projection mapping, while a physics engine enabled the balls to understand the shape of the sculpture and react accordingly to it. The sculpture’s mountainous design changed colors as players flung the balls around the peaks and valleys, attempting to shoot them into the deep blue center. The interface became invisible through continued play, as flinging the ball became so natural, you wouldn’t even think of glancing at your phone.
This minimalist approach is one of the key ideologies of SuperUber, and is what made the OctoCloud not only an entertaining game, but an art piece that blurred the lines between the virtual and physical worlds.
— Ian Birnam
United Visual Artists, a London-based group known for their oversized digital displays, brought a space-age monument for all those willing to make the not-so-distant trek to Fort Mason, San Francisco.
The colossal “Origin” is a 40-by-40-foot, three-dimensional cubic lattice wrought from steel, light and raw artificial intelligence. The sound-coordinated LED lights on every edge of the structure synced up with the booming platoon of subwoofers playing music by the electronic artist Scanner.
Stepping into the cubic confines of the installation brought an entirely new sensory experience. The first movement began with slow droning bass rhythms accompanied by vectored flashes of light across the tiered-cube. “Origin” was giving us a lesson in sensory learning, teaching the spectator to associate movements of light with the tactile sensation of the trembling bass.
Then the audio-visual spectacle accelerated to warp speed, sending beacons of bass-infused light across the viewer’s field of vision — inducing a sensory-overload . “Origin” brought its own cold-steeled composition to life by animating the digital into the physical.
— Daniel Means