In a year of quarantines and shutdowns, Scottsdale Public Art is offering residents a way to reconnect next month.
Its annual Canal Convergence features eight physical, light-based artworks that aims to reconnect visitors with themselves, their neighbors and their urban and natural environment.
While the artworks won’t be hands-on as they’ve been in past years, “the tradition of exceptional light-based public artworks remains the same,” said Public Art Manager for Canal Convergence Jennifer Gill.
“Reconnect,” the central theme of this year’s experience along the Arizona Canal at the Waterfront and throughout Old Town, includes artwork inspired by COVID-19 and the pandemic.
“Together! Responding to COVID-19,” created by Israel-based OGE Group, is a 32-foot-high light sculpture showing multicolored hands coming together to form the shape of a heart – honoring those lost to the virus as well as healthcare heroes and frontline workers.
“When the pandemic started, we thought to find an artistic response to the situation that also cheers people up – one that reminds us that we are not alone and that we go through this together,” said Gaston Zahr, OGE-Group co-director.
Like the rest of the artworks, “Together!” will also have an augmented reality component.
OGE Group’s AR component is a message board where people can leave other messages to loved ones, first responders, healthcare workers and more. To submit a message, go to together-in-light.com.
When Canal Convergence attendees approach “Together!” with the Hoverlay app open, they will see the messages.
“We believe that the impact and changes are so profound that we need to talk and speak to each other. It is personal and should be personal,” Zahr said.
Also inspired by the pandemic is “Information Flow,” a 200-foot-long interactive light sculpture stretched across the Arizona Canal.
“Information Flow” looks at how technology has connected people in the pandemic.
“This is a way of looking at the systems that we use and trying to think about how they’re influencing the way that we live our lives,” said Justin Winters, the lead artist on the project and the lights designer for Walter Productions.
“Information Flow” has six interactive pressure pads located along the canal banks that, when activated, sends a pulse of light from the pad to a connected floating receiver.
The light travels to the “central information tower,” where it’s processed and redistributed throughout a light sequence performance.
“Information Flow” has lasers – a far cry from Walter Productions’ popular nightly fire shows from past years: “Floatus” and “Water Serpent.”
“For the last couple of years, we’ve had stuff that has fire; so, for this, we were trying to figure out a way to create something that’s visually stimulating without incorporating that element. So, we leaned more towards LED-based stuff and using materials that have very visual properties,” Winters explained.
Winters added he and the Walter Productions team decided against another fire show because they wanted a more personal experience that didn’t encourage crowds.
To bring “Information Flow,” a “physical visualization of network topology,” to life, Winters and Walter Productions combined acrylic, steel, dichroic films, thousands of programmable LEDs and interactive code.
It challenged them to get all of the systems to interact as a cohesive unit and create a LED-based artwork that stretched 200 feet.
Winters hopes that “Information Flow” will encourage people to think about the way technology interacts in their lives.
Also returning to Canal Convergence is Boston-based Masary Studios, which needs the public’s help in creating their sound and video projection artwork titled “Massively Distributed.”
“Massively Distributed” invites people to capture sounds and visuals from the Scottsdale area, create “dynamic sound and visual compositions” and submit them via a web-based app that will be available at the end of the month.
“This year has challenged us, as artists, to think differently, to create work that is durable and safe even in a pandemic,” said Ryan Edwards of Masary Studios.
“But as public artists, we are already in that space, for the most part. I think this pandemic is emphasizing how important public art really is, and the artists and presenters who embrace that are really thriving.”
While selecting artists and curating this year’s collection of artworks, the health and safety of attendees was important to Gill and the Scottsdale Public Art team – as was ensuring the art is engaging and creating memorable experiences.
Physical art installations at this year’s Canal Convergence also include:
• “Across the Divide” by Phoenician Casey Farina, a generative video installation that uses projection mapping over multiple windows in the Scottsdale Fashion Square underpass on Camelback Road;
• “Fences” by Philadelphia’s Immerge Interactive, an interactive light installation, where patterns are generated by the motion of foot traffic along a custom LED display;
• “Hidden Garden” by Koros Design, a series of four inflatable light flowers sculptures wrapped around real trees;
• “Kukulkan’s Portal” by LA-based Liquid PXL, a light-based, geometric sculpture featuring 10,000 individually programmable LEDs; and
• “Spectrum (Frame Version)” by Paris-based Olivier Ratsi that features 20 suspended rainbow-hued LED frames stretching 40 feet across Marshall Way Bridge.
“We hope it will be a great event and that the community engages with all artworks,” Zahr said.
“These times are tough, but there will be better times again,” he continued. “Together, we will get through this.”
Canal Convergence takes place Nov. 6-15 at the Waterfront.