No words. Just check out this video by Ian Watt.
This brand new work, which went live last week but was many, many months in the process, is at its base art by Norfolk artist stuntkid, aka Jason Levesque, but is moreover a collaboration project from the good folks at Grow, where Levesque works during the day.
He was nice enough to answer a few of our questions.
AltDaily: This work, which is located on the Virginia Furniture building across from Work | Release, is astonishingly fun and expertly crafted. Kudos to you and your team.
Which came first, the idea to have art animated by movement and light, or the seed visual concept? How did one grow from the other?
Jason Levesque: We wanted to create something new and dynamic. The idea for working with color channels came early and preliminary tests proved the effect to be pretty impressive. Being able to layer multiple images opened up a lot of opportunities. For a few months we experimented with different executions, but the transparent heads concept clearly won out. After we started developing the idea, the color separation effect took a ton of work to iron out. Balancing the red, green and blue channels in a way that gave them enough separation and managed to remain beautiful in daylight was a long process. Blues and greens share a lot of spectrum and the color values had to be very very carefully tweaked to avoid bleed over.
I appreciate the metaphor of the title of the work, “Transparent Seas”; there are oceans of life underneath the surface of our skins that are just as real as the flesh we see. There’s also a song of that name — any connection? Where did the phrase originate for you, and how does it inform the art?
Naming art has always been a major struggle for me. I feel like the wrong name can narrow the viewers’ interpretation of a piece by overly framing it. Naming “Transparent Seas” was a process as long as the illustration. In the end, the very brilliant Hannah Zaino ( then interning at Grow ) suggested the name. It stuck. It wasn’t overly prescriptive and could gently nudge a viewer in the right direction. For me, the piece is celebration of biology. I’m not a spiritual person, but I do look around me and see a planet that I am very much a part of. I don’t separate what I am from the ocean, or the soil. The atoms that make me up have, at some point, made up the bodies of countless other creatures and when I’m done with them, my atoms will find new homes in new living organisms. I find that fascinating.
Art is implicitly interactive — it takes both artist and viewer to make the engine turn over — but a work like this takes the interactive art concept to another level. The presence of the viewer leads to the revelation of the characters’ layers. How does your interactions with fans — and critics — of your art change the way you see yourself, and/or your craft?
“Transparent Seas” engages to entertain. It’s fun and when the light display is following you, you’ll see it doesn’t do so in a very stiff way. It feels organic, it’s playful. I want it it be enjoyed in many different ways by many different people. Public art belongs to everyone and the interpretations can be a very private thing that exists between the viewer and the piece. I prefer to leave it that way.
Who was the team who brought “Transparent Seas” to life?
I did the drawing of course, but half a dozen employees at Grow were involved in bringing the tech to life. Zach Young did all the heavy lifting when it came to programming and construction. He built several scaled down test versions of the work. He tested the motion tracking using Microsoft Kinect and Thermographic cameras. He build the code to run the interactive and really gave the whole piece life.
Jordan Crisman managed the project from start to finish. He found the vendors, managed the workflow and carved out enough time for us to keep the project moving. Project managers sometimes get overlooked but Jordan put as much time and effort into the project as I did and there’s no way we’d be enjoying this right now without him.
What can you tell us about the tech behind the installation?
We wanted the project to be interactive and with all the big brains at Grow ( thisisgrow.com ) we knew we could create something new and really special. We brainstormed several interactive models but settled quickly on motion tracking. Two thermographic cameras mounted high above the artwork feed positional data to a computer. The computer uses custom written software to track up to 7 viewers. When someone approaches the light show is interrupted and a single color highlights the part of the artwork closest to the viewer. The effect feels personal and playful.
You’re a rugged adventurer when you’re not arting or doing your day job at GROW. As we enter the beautiful season, what are some of your favorite outdoor experiences within a day’s drive you would recommend?
I am so god damned excited about the warm weather, haha. Within a days drive? I’ve spent a few days out on Lake Kerr, beautiful spot, clear water, deep red clay beaches and rocky cliffs. I expect to spend a lot of time camped out on the small islands out there.
“Transparent Seas” ups the game for public art in the NEON. What have been some of your favorite public works in the neighborhood so far? Where do you hope to see things evolve in the future?
Haha, well I’m flattered. I’m really impressed with the quick growth we’ve seen in the Neon District and while the various installations and murals in the area vary greatly in size and complexity, I try to look at them as a whole. Something we’ve been able to add to. I’m inspired by the momentum we’ve seen and I hope that the growth continues to inspire more artists to continue what we’ve started.