‘Glow’s’ Use of Light, Video Leaves Artists, Visitors Beaming

Santa Monica throws an interactive arts bash
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SANTA MONICA, CA — “Glow,” a combination interactive art event and night of fun held Sept. 25 on Santa Monica’s beach, pier and at Palisades Park, attracted more than 150,000 visitors who sought to bask and play in the artificial light produced by the work of international, national and local artists.

by Robin Berger

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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Sandbox, Relational Architecture” 2010 Glow Festival, Santa Monica. Photo courtesy of Antimodular Research Glow 2010 is the second electronic arts event, and like Glow 2008, was a free dusk-to-dawn festival that invited active audience engagement. “In these post-recessionary times, people from all over the region could marvel at a wide variety of creative and often whimsical exhibits,” said City Manager Rod Gould of the 20 installations, about half of which had video.


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Sandbox drew huge crowds all night. The installation included two small sandboxes raised on platforms, where visitors were invited to dip their hands, and 8,000 square feet of beach below, where other visitors cavorted.

Lozano-Hemmer, a Canadian born in Mexico City, said he used surveillance equipment -- similar to what US border officials use to track illegal immigrants -- to juxtapose the powerful with the powerless.

An 80-foot boom held Raytec RM200-AI-120 LED Infra-Red illuminators and two Allied Vision Technologies’ Prosilica GC650 industrial Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras over the beach to capture the cavorters, turning their images into moving dots in the small sandboxes. Meanwhile, above the sandboxes, Sony DSR-PD150 camcorders captured the visitors’ hands and projected them in gigantic dimensions over the cordoned beach area.

Lozano-Hemmer’s technical assistant, David Lemieux, said infrared lighting was used because it is visible only to CCTV cameras – thus indiscernible to the cavorters and impervious to shadows that would hinder the projection of the giant hands. Reducing the image of the cavorters to moving dots in the sandbox, he said, was done using the raw image from the CCTV cameras plus custom software.

“The difference between the frames creates the movement of each dot,” said Lemieux.

Up the coast by the shore, two large screens featured Steve Roden’s “coast lines” video installation. Roden traced a map of the Pacific Coast from Santa Monica up through North America and from Santa Monica down to the tip of South America on 16 millimeter film using Sharpies. He then hired a telecine expert to make positive and negative video images in three and a half minute (going north) and 4-minute (going south) loops, which alternated on the two screens.

“It’s like visual music – watching it and feeling what rhythm is right,” said Roden.

Housed in what otherwise serves as a Senior Center on Ocean Blvd. at Broadway, was Christopher O’Leary’s “Alter Egos.” It featured video avatars that watched the visitors who came to see them, amassing and disappearing to mimic the crowd’s growing and thinning numbers. O’Leary used a Canon 5D to capture the video loops and customized a software app created from the Max5 interactive programming package (Max/MSP/Jitter) provided by San Francisco-based Cycling 74 to determine the makeup and number of avatars.


In addition to providing the concept, real estate, funding and publicity for Glow 2010, the organizers used the opportunity to showcase Santa Monica’s electronic infrastructure by expanding the number of installations and improving the city services and social networking connected to the event.

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Coastlines by Steve Roden involved having two live screens at the shore display hand-drawn positive and negative video images of the Pacific coast. Photo courtesy of Bill Short That included having Santa Monica’s Information Systems Department augment the city’s 25 existing WiFi hot zones with additional access points, creating one large WiFi hot zone for Glow, said Jory Wolf, Santa Monica’s chief information officer. “We then pumped in a heck of a lot of broadband – one gig – for all of the users, who would be using their smart phones to blog with the artists, download and upload videos, photos and music,” he said. “On top of that, we talked to AT&T and Verizon to boost their capabilities in the area.”

Glow had public and private sponsorship, and Seso, a company based in Los Angeles, provided Geodelic and Android-based mobile guides featuring backlit maps and directions. In addition, visitors were encouraged to email their photos for a “Live Photo Gallery” display at the Glow website, www.glowsantamonica.org.

Radio and local cable television also participated, with KCRW creating an audio guide that was downloadable to cell phones, with an MP3 file for each of the 20 installations that featured the respective artists talking about their creations, plus music clips. And Santa Monica‘s CityTV, the government community cable channel, recorded the event for both the official record, and for broadcast programming.


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Lighting Options Abound

In Government Video’s June issue, Art Kingdom provided an excellent run-down of new lighting products primarily for studio and fixed-location shooting.