Jon's Blog

Mission To Cuenca

Projection on the serpent body.

I went on a mission to Cuenca, Ecuador just lately. Clay Bodine, one of the founders of Fishbon, and former board member, Laura Inks-Bodine, moved down there last year. They’d set up Fishbon Del Sur and were putting on their first full-blown event.
I brought down three old projectors to leave there and some lighting and other equipment.
The goal was to learn how Cuenca worked and try to meet local artists and work with them. It all happened. Together with Lakomuna,Kym Cochran and myself, we created a serpent that snaked through Clay and Laura’s courtyard. The three projectors shone close-up footage of Ethan Turpin’s Video Feedbacteria along the Serpent’s body as way of making abstract snakeskin. What was really cool was that the imagery projected through the material to the other side. This helped pull the piece together.

insideTheSerpentInside the body.


The Lakomuna serpent head.

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Hoptopia Projection

Zach Rosen is passionate about beer and especially figuring out how to pair it with other elements as a pathway to perception. This last weekend, Brew Reverie, a company  he helped found, put on Hoptopia, an extravaganza based on this very theme. Naturally there were many delectable beers to sample, all of them from local breweries, but there were also foods to try specially concocted by a master chef to match a particular beer’s intricate flavors. And it worked. The tastes balanced each other to a tee.

In two rooms upstairs, we set up video, sound and lighting to pair with two other distinct types of beer.

Hoptopia Pairing Room One
Hoptopia Pairing Room One

In the one room, we used yellow and reddish imagery of slow moving lava lamps globs and colored suds and bubbles to create the ambience. This, backed by  yellow and red lighting and the right ambient music, actually matched the served sample very well. Perhaps you’re thinking that it was all due to  directed perception on the part of the sampler. But I assure you, I walked in there with the remains of a dark beer from the downstairs  and it didn’t jibe at all. However  the crisp, slightly sharp and complex sample beer from the room did!

Hoptopia Pairing Room Two
Hoptopia Pairing Room Two

In the second room, I don’t think we did quite so well. The scene was wonderful; We aimed three projectors at the floor flooding it with overlapping black and white water imagery that gave  it complexity and depth. Unfortunately the sound for the room didn’t register and left it feeling oddly empty. The green lighting didn’t help either. In my opinion, this combination didn’t match the proffered beer. In retrospect, I’d say that the video worked but should have been slightly slower, the sound could have been vastly improved and that red and/or blue lighting would have worked much better than the green.

It’s all an experiment.

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Testing Flatlite for the First Time
Testing Flatlite for the First Time

Yesterday, my friend Ricardo gave me several boxes of lighting that were being thrown out. It included a collection of something called Flatlite. I’d heard of this before but never seen it. They’re flattened strips of electroluminescent wire that can be cut to shape and apparently sequenced. It needs a pretty hefty transformer to make it function. Happily two of these were included.

My friend, Erika Woo, came by and we checked it out.

The strips we have are pink when not lit up but turn white when turned on. I tested them with lighting gels and, lo, they accept all colors.

She suggested we visit the Flatlite video gallery to see what people have done with it.
Check it out. It’s very cool and, as it turns out, is very expensive stuff.

Now we have to figure out what to do with it and how it can be sequenced.

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Starfield Galaxy

Starfield Galaxy at Lucidity 2014 from JOn Smith on Vimeo.

The theme for the 2014 Lucidity Festival was “Universe”. As the head of ambient lighting for the festival, I wanted to make an abstract of a galaxy for part of the main roadway. It needed to be at least 200 feet long and give the sense of millions of stars. I looked over a variety of options then Jonah Haas, one of the founders of the Festival, hooked me up with me up with Bruce Beeley of I knew about the type of lasers he had and got very excited. Bruce agreed to bring 7 Sprights and 5 LS20Gs. The former make static starfields, the latter create slowly moving starfields. I knew that if I set them up just right the moving lasers would make everything feel like it was in motion. In order to place the lasers in the best locations, I had my crew strap five 30′-40′ lengths of Bamboo (thank you Bamboo DNA) into the surrounding trees so their ends poked out over the middle of the road. We strapped the lasers to these and literally flooded the entire length of road with points of green light.

I knew that when a vehicle went through it the ensuing dust would make it three dimensional. When Bruce told me he’d also brought up a powerful hazer that would create this effect..well, I was overjoyed. On Saturday and Sunday nights we set it up. The results were…and I don’t use the word lightly…awesome! I got my galaxy and then some.

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The Font: Experiments with Sound and Water

The Font: Experiments with Sound and Water from JOn Smith on Vimeo.

When artist Carlos Padilla described himself as a sound sculptor, he immediately got our attention. The following week we met with him and started experimenting with his sculpture, The Font.

It should be noted that the imagery of Faraday waves in this movie are completely raw with no filters or other modifications.

The next step is to find the right surfaces to project the waves on to. I can hardly wait.

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Test Projections on Rocks at Joshua Tree

Tests Projections on Rocks at Joshua Tree National Park from JOn Smith on Vimeo.

Curiosity is strange animal. “Hey, David, let’s go to Joshua Tree and bring some projectors.” I wanted to see what large rounded desert rocks would look like with water textures and other types of imagery projected on to their surfaces. After two days and one night of hardcore hiking in the far eastern part of the park, we went through the main entry after dark and found some suitable rocks. When the right imagery worked, it was jaw dropping.

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Projections on a Blue Whale Skeleton

Projecting on a Blue Whale Skeleton from JOn Smith on Vimeo.

A couple of weekends ago Ethan Turpin and myself projected black and white water imagery on to the blue whale skeleton at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. It was a test to see what would happen and, boy, did it ever happen!

We need to do it again so more people can see it rather than just the two of us. It was unbelievably cool.

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