Sunday, October 20, 2013
Downtown Dallas hummed with artistic energy at spectacular Aurora 2013
We've never seen the Dallas Arts District buzzing like it did Friday night.
DALLAS "Convergence" seemed an apt theme for this year's Aurora, the Dallas Arts District's annual public art installation. Each year, the event pulls together international, national and local artists emphasizing artwork constructed from light technology, such as video projection and even robotics -- though this year was the biggest yet, with nearly 90 artists participating. An estimated 30,000 people wandered through downtown Dallas Friday night, blocking streets and filling parking lots for an immense taste of art.
Visible from miles away, spotlights beckoned people toward its expansive Arts District, and nestled among its buildings -- many of which are works of architectural grandeur themselves -- were seemingly endless pieces, illuminated with LED bulbs and fluorescent tubes. The event's most noticeable piece, "Blueprints and Perspectives," by the collective 3_Search, transformed the Wyly Theatre facade into a dancing exploration of computer generation and architectural infrastructure. But, one has to wonder, where is the line between aesthetic interest and artistic relevance? (Or, is there one?)
Some of the event's smaller-scale projects pointed to a distinction. For instance, while "Blueprints" was unquestionably interesting due to its scale, "Arbor Borealis" by AudioPixel/Aaron Wilson took viewers' experience to a new level. Driving home the idea that art can (and perhaps should) alter its viewers' perspectives -- or at least draw attention to sensual perspective -- the piece was constructed from LED spheres to create, according to the artists, a "forest of light," in which viewers could immerse themselves among its three-dimensional grid. As one moved closer to the piece, the lights converged to create illusory "moving hologram," altered by and reactive to viewers' movements and sounds. Depending on one's vantage and proximity, the pieces' colors changed and merged, which was not unlike the imperfect analogy of a grid illusion. "Arbor Borealis" challenged viewers' experiences of their own physical space by drawing attention to both anatomical limitations and capabilities. It reiterated the timeless question of whether or not seeing should be believing.
Similarly, John Barker created "Cloud Pavilion" on Annette Strauss Square, an immersive performance utilizing fog and light to create a dreamlike atmosphere, highlighted with ambient music by the band Water Falls. Children tossed illuminated balls on the lawn as others lounged on the grass, surrounded by the fog, seemingly lightyears away from the event's urban setting. Fittingly, the Dallas skyline seemed both distant and a crucial part of the lit-up canvas.
By its nature as a free public art event, Aurora seeks to present artwork of the highest regard to the city, simultaneously intriguing and educating. Its scope and spectacle attracted a large, diverse crowd, but the quality and interest of its strongest pieces no doubt pushed many viewers to experience their bodies and minds in new and exciting ways. And, interestingly, many were not only experiencing the artwork, but also taking part in it -- both receiving and creating the work by participating in interactive installations and also videoing the individual pieces with iPhones and iPads. What became of the majority of the photos and videos snapped at the event? Many were posted and proliferated on social media, perhaps in a significant moment in technological history for Dallas arts: The well-documented event allowed viewers to inadvertently play a role in making art. By videoing an installation, we re-create it, add to it and share it. It's certainly another level of "convergence," referenced in Aurora's 2013 theme.
Note: Aurora 2013 was sponsored by The Dallas Morning News, which owns Pegasus News. We were not involved in the promotion of the event.
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