In 2016 we organized creative efforts around a group installation “The Luminous Garden” — an otherworldly garden biosphere, one with luminous flora and fauna and interactive kinetic sculptures.
Please see our summary slideshow of the experience, which simulates taking a walk through the garden: http://www.slideshare.net/ShellyDFarnhamPhD/take-a-virtual-walk-through-the-luminous-garden
Our basic framework was to provide an overarching experiential design theme “taking a walk in an otherworldly garden arboretum”, and then recruit other artists, technologists, scientists, and designers to take on aspects of that theme, playing with technologically infused, interactive and self-illuminated organic objects or sculptural garden elements.
A primary goal was to foster interdisciplinary collaboration through a larger group installation, and we feel we were quite successful. We had 19 participating projects and over 80 artists, technologists, and designers actively collaborating, learning from each other and creating inspiring works. It was very well received by locals in Skykomish at Electric Sky, and later enjoyed by thousands when installed later in the summer at Lusio (Volunteer Park) and Arts-a-Glow (Burien).
Conceptual Background for Collaboration
We sought to expand people’s conceptions of what it means to do art installations in group shows, which are usually experienced as collections of individual contributions, rather than as one larger collaboration. We also sought to break the boundaries between the artist, the art installation, and the observer by providing an immersive experience — one that really provides the participants with the feeling of being transported into an otherworldly garden biosphere, one with luminous flora and fauna and interactive kinetic sculptures.
More About our Design Framework
Our basic framework was to provide an overarching experiential design theme “taking a walk in an otherworldly garden arboretum”, and then recruit other artists, technologists, scientists, and designers to take on aspects of that theme, playing with technologically infused, interactive and self-illuminated organic objects or sculptural garden elements. Like the flora and fauna layers in a biosphere, we encouraged people’s works to be layered or interactive, and to fit into a larger speculative narrative. An important goal of the installation was to create an immersive extraterrestrial landscape. Participants were instructed to imagine they had just landed as tourists on an alien world, and as they walk through the interstellar, magically luminous garden, they would experience a reconceived nature – one with radically different, visually stunning, and unpredictable plants and animals, in addition to informative sculptures and/or architectural artefacts. Along the garden walk, elements were labeled with interpretive site placards in the style of arboretums.
Opening Night Party
We hosted an opening night party at Electric Sky will be open to the public, 8:00 pm – 11:30 pm, Saturday June 18th. Invite your friends! (Please note, to spend the night in the campground or otherwise participate in Electric Sky, you need to register for the event.)
A number of projects are already in the works, see the list original here, and the slides illustrating the walk experience here. Participants were encouraged to join in ongoing brainstorming and planning meetings, pre-event work parties, and on site installation and takedown. To help facilitate collaboration, we provided material support for several of the projects through our microgrant program. Please join the discussion on our Facebook group or reach out to any of the artists/technologists listed! If you want your project listed to help find collaborators, please contact shelly <at> totallylegitllc <dot> com
About the Organizers
Shelly Farnham is the creative director for this project, and Jeff Larson a lead artist/designer. See more about the organizers below. They and other members of their Totally Legit art group will provide the basic design framework, infrastructure, and lighting (including the basic narrative, the path layout, the entry gate, the interpretive placards, electricity, and wifi), and recruit other individuals or art groups to take on specific aspects of the installation, including a gazebo, insects, shrubs, trees, flowers, fencing, interpretive sculptures, and so forth. Their unique interactive technology contribution will be the construction of the entry gate with responsive lighting and sound that fluctuate to indicate the entry and exit of our participants, and the number of people who are inside the garden. These gates will be designed to set the otherworldly, luminous tone of the entire garden experience.
Shelly Farnham, Creative Director. Shelly is an artist, technologist, and community organizer. She is a co-founder of the art group Recreational Light and Magic (a.k.a. Totally Legit LLC), Executive Director and founder of the community technology 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Third Place Technologies, and the lead organizer for Electric Sky. She has a B.A. from Georgetown University double majoring in Fine Art (oil painting) and Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Washington, leading to a career in community technology R&D. While working as a research scientist in technology research labs in the past fifteen years, including Microsoft Research and Yahoo!, her career as an artist simultaneously evolved to encompass large scale, collaborative installations, many of which incorporate interactive technology, social media, and various forms of self-illumination. In addition to serving as a creative director for large-scale collaborative art projects, as a community organizer she has played the lead role for many arts organizations, arts fundraising events, art groups, and art exhibitions. Most recently, her organizing efforts have focused on developing the community of people in the Pacific Northwest at the intersection of art and technology, including: organizing the Art and Technology Workshop in collaboration with Microsoft Research, Cornish College of the Arts, and the Stranger Genius Foundation, leading to a paper published at the 2015 International Symposium of Electronic Arts; serving for 5 years as the Dorkbot committee lead; curating art and tech exhibitions including Oscillate, Winter Lights, and People Doing Strange Things with Electricity; forming her art and tech group Recreational Art and Magic (a.k.a. Totally Legit LLC); organizing a one day art and tech conference called Frayed Wire; and most recently organizing the art and tech weekend campathon, Electric Sky. Learn more about her career as an artist, and find her arts resume, and portfolio at http://ShellyDianeFarnham.com. Learn about her simultaneous career as a scientist and technologist, and find her CV at http://thirdplacetechnologies.com/shelly-farnhams- biographical-statement/.
Jeff Larson, Lead Artist/Design. Jeffrey Larson is a Seattle-based artist and illustrator, working primarily for local technology companies. He received a BFA in design from Michigan State University before transplanting to the Northwest. Aside from his abstract oil paintings and mixed media collages, Jeffrey is most well- known for his Lighter of the Month Club series, and his collaboration with Skill Shot, Seattle’s pinball zine. Websites: http://slowercase.com/, lighterofthemonthclub.com, and http://skill-shot.com.
Recreational Light and Magic (a.k.a. Totally Legit LLC). Recreational Light and Magic is a Seattle-based, interdisciplinary group of artists, technologists, designers, builders, and community organizers who share a passion for collaborative installations at the intersection of art, technology, and the built environments. They have strong ties to the town of Skykomish as the home of their Skywalker Cabin, a creative collaboration retreat space. Recent projects include Attacks from Mars, a giant pinball machine with interactive lighting, The Skykomish Bridge Project, a public art installation transforming the Skykomish bridge through reactive lighting, and the Zymphonic Wormhole, a giant wormhole structure with reactive lighting and sound, for which they received a grant from Burning Man. See http://RecreationalLightandMagic.com.
Third Place Technologies. Third Place Technologies is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focused on exploring new ways to leverage social media, open data, and collective action technologies to empower communities and increase community well-being. One of their goals is to help foster innovation communities of practice in the Pacific Northwest, including the art and tech and civic tech communities. Through Shelly and other members of the board of directors, they helped organize the Electric Sky event. See http://thirdplacetechnologies.com.