In less than 48 hours, an assembly of artists from across the globe will make Breckenridge's public spaces their canvas, challenging even the longest of residents to see the town they've come to know so well in a new light.
WAVE is a free, four-day celebration of light, water and sound from June 1-4. For it, organizers at BreckCreate have planned numerous events, performances and interactive installations in and around the Blue River Plaza.
That's when a series of cutting-edge, contemporary public art pieces — from spheres that respond to touch to wild landscape-changing projections — take over Breckenridge's bridges, waterfront area and even some of its downtown buildings.
Many of the artists arrived last week, and they have been working overtime since to get set up. Three of the teams of artists made time last weekend to talk about what they have cooking, but the trio reflects only a sample of what's to come. For a complete schedule of events, go to BreckCreate.org.
An interactive installation created by New York-based new media artist Aaron Sherwood and performer, choreographer and visual artist Kiori Kawai called "MICRO" will feature 200 silicon-coated orbs suspended in midair.
Each orb contains a sensor and a speaker inside, and people will be invited to experience the interactive world of sound, light and dance created by the pair first-hand, as the orbs respond to the slightest touch with different sounds and lights.
The project is a marriage of Sherwood's background in music and electronics and Kawai's as a performing artist and choreographer.
"Choice makes everything," Kawai explained, "so your touch makes different colors and sounds."
The effects can be mind-blowing, and older participants, sometimes apprehensive to touch the orbs at first, can even a little fearful of what might happen, Kawai said. One poke, however, quickly turns into two, then three, she continued, and before you know it, age fades away and child-like wonder takes over.
Originally, the installations were designed to complement Kawai's performance art with sounds and visuals.
"As we were making these tools, we were having so much fun using these tools that, at the end of the performance, we started letting audience members come up and play with them," Sherwood said. "Over the years, it sort of progressed to instead of doing performances, we started doing installations and then short performances with these installations."
For WAVE, Sherwood and Kawai are also teaming up with the Alpine Dance Academy.
Belgian Tom Dekyvere is a rising star on the international light festival scene. He speaks half a dozen languages in various fluencies but rejects the label "artist" in all of them, saying he doesn't even know what that is.
"Even today, I still don't consider myself a light artist," he said, speaking more specifically about his medium. "I think light is a material, like other materials, and I use it."
Dekyvere, who uses all differnet sorts of light from the spectrum, found early success at a local light festival in Europe. Before that, he was consulting and fabricating pieces for other artists, and painting houses on the side to earn money. He used that experience to grow his own abilities, slowly shifting from consulting and helping other artists to creating his own pieces.
"They got the product, but I got the knowledge," he said with a smile.
Like many of the artists at WAVE, Dekyvere is constantly evolving, and he's intrinsically interested by the natural world. In addition to different types of light, he incorporates 3-D printing, laser cutting and various fabrication techniques, many of which were picked up when he was helping other artists.
Dekyvere said it takes a lot of work, and for his piece just north of the Dredge Pond in downtown Breckenridge, he's using more than 10,000 feet of translucent rope, all lit with multi-color LEDs, to capture the natural "friction and the obstructions," of the river in addition to the "harmony of entities growing into each other" with "a very big wink" to nature.
"You have to understand that these ropes are all knotted together by hand," he said of the labor that's involved. "You have to climb in the trees; it's very, very hard work," but it's not just putting ropes in trees.
"It's form and form. It's a root structure made on-site," he explained, adding that for the first time ever, he has a device that detects the sound of water and water movement into the Blue River.
That device transforms the sound of water into lights, and "what (people) will see is the visualization of the sound of water here in Breckenridge — live," Dekyvere said. "So the way the lights react and the color, they will be generated from a cable that goes into the water and listens to the water, so that is what the work is all about."
REFLECTION, PROJECTION, VIBRATION
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Andrew Wade Smith takes public art to a new level, mixing video, music and sound design with digital projections, all manipulated in real time, to produce what he considers a 21st century collage.
For Smith, collage is seed for all of his art. It isn't anything new, he said, but rather modern technology allows him new applications of a style that was first introduced to him in grade school.
"For me, in the second grade, when they put out all the magazines, the scissors and the glue, that was for me when I felt this power," Smith said. "Not power in the political sense or anything like that, but personal power to affect your environment. You sense it when you see other people's work, when you see someone take dirt and water, make clay, and it becomes a pot. Whatever it is, you have that moment."
The result of Smith's work is an alternate reality created by him and his team that defies convention. For one of his pieces in Portland, the exterior of an otherwise average building was transformed into a show-stopping spectacle, making it appear as if giant hands were actively reaching out from the building's windows holding lit candles.
Smith's exhibition in Breckenridge will take over the exterior and the upper level dance studio of Old Masonic Hall in Breckenridge. Upstairs, he has 12 panels fixed to the studio's mirrored wall, while old TV sets and electronics have been hollowed out, with another projector allowing him to produce all different kinds of images on those as well.
Shadows and movement also come into play, and to make it all happen Smith utilizes a team approach with Eric Buchner doing the music and cymatic demonstration and Shawn Wentz focusing on movement. As he was running tests on the outside of the building this weekend, people stopped and couldn't help but take in the show.
"What I'm trying to do with my work is nothing short of change people's perception of light, sound and environment," Smith said. "That's kind of the grand picture."