Thursday, December 25, 2008

Disc Dance

Tah-dah! (...the sound of horns and an exciting beat...) Finally, the long-awaited (by me) images of my Disc Dance installation! It was created as the centerpiece of an exhibit called Transformations (actually, it now seems to be called SmartART), a collaboration of four mid-size science and environmental museums, including The Ecotarium in Worcester, Massachusetts; ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont; Musée de la nature et des sciences, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada; and The Children’s Museum of Maine in Portland.

It’s just been installed at the Ecotarium, and will travel around to the other three museums over the course of the next few years. After that, it will go into a rental pool for ten years, and then will revert to me. Thanks to Betsy Loring, the Ecotarium’s Manager of Exhibits and Collections, for taking the photographs of the completed piece (seen below). You can see more images of work in the exhibition here.

I thought it would be fun to take you on a quick trip to see how this project developed over the past year. Here’s the idea I came up with after a period of consultation and back-and-forth with folks from the participating museums. The idea was to make plexiglass buttons of various sizes (as I’ve been doing with painted tin disks) and hold them in a grid on the top of the installation. Light would cast the colors on people walking below.

I discovered when I actually created some pieces out of colored plexi and lit them, that light doesn’t really work that way. You have to be VERY close to it to have the light cast a discrete shape that can be perceived as a circle. Very shortly, the light just starts to make a vaguely-colored puddle. Plus, Mr. Gravity makes the grid s-a-g, and all it takes is one person jumping up to grab it to make all hell break loose (you’ve got to think about that sort of thing in a place where there are thousands of visitors a month). So, I realized that the image area needed to be on the sides, not the top. Here’s what I was working with in my studio, mocking things up on scaffolding, trying to see how everything would work at that scale (It turned out in the end that scaffolding was a good thing to build the piece with).

I still wanted light to be cast on the people inside the installation, so I modified a disco ball; here is a shot of it in the studio.

And here’s the final piece at the Ecotarium. You can see the lights and disco ball on top. I owe huge thanks and appreciation to the professionals at the Ecotarium who mounted the lights and built the frames that hold the artwork, as well as the whole standing structure.

Here’s how it looks inside the installation. There are three layers of plexi in the cases. The inside two layers have circles in different sizes and colors made with transparent vinyl film. The outer layer of plexi is a translucent white. When you’re inside, you see the circles overlapping in three layers, and their projections on the inside of the white “screen.”

Outside, you see the light projected from the inside, as a softer, flattened image.

Pretty cool, huh?


Eva said...

Totally Cool! Thanks for sharing your awesomeness with the world! I've always loved your disks and now I've got another reason. Mazol Tov!

ohjoyohjoy said...

This is great Janet! Having had the privilege of seeing this as a work-in-progress it is fun getting a peek at the final piece. I plan on taking my grandson to see and experience it for real. It made me think of this past summer when he scored a disco ball and a lava lamp at the same yard sale! He told me he wanted to make his room look like the inside of a nineteen-seventies van. LOL (Where does he come up with this stuff?)
Also, in an earlier post you asked about ideas for skirt material for your "Disarmament" sculpture (I find the series very compelling.) I have recently been art-making with an old roll of copper screening that I think you may like. It holds shape and has a really cool ethereal quality. I also love that it has and will develop more of a patina over time which echoes the rusted elements of some of your work. It was a give away from a friend though, so I don't know how easy this is to find...

janetvanfleet said...

Thanks, Eva.

Wow, ohjoy, I love the idea of copper screen; I don't think I've ever seen it, but I'll look for it. It does sound quite wonderful; you would be able to see those great table legs through it.Maybe I can find some online...

I do owe some credit to you for consulting on Disc Dance when you were up in Vermont. I think it was your idea to put the disks overhead, which moved me away from the freestanding-wall idea I had initially, a concept that was completely unworkable.

Cathy Dellinger said...

Amazingly cool! Awesome!

Maggie Neale said...

Janet, this is a fabulous to revisit with a bit more time. You are brilliant. Thank
you for sharing the process which can really send the maker through the hoops.

More later.

Candy Barr said...

Hey Great Project Janet! And having the process on your blog for us to see is great too! I want to see a YouTube video of someone in it now too! Bringing ART to the people ...oh yeah!

jafabrit said...

that is fabulous, I so want to touch it and experience it in the real.

Unknown said...

Well, you certainly can -- it's going to be in circulation in New England for the next few years, and then you can ask your local science or environmental museum to rent the exhibit!