SETTING THE SUN INTO THE SKY
It was very cold the night that SOLAR FLARE finally took to the sky. Not, perhaps, as cold as the days leading up to installation, but when you’re standing in slushy snow for 20 hours, boots soaked to the skin and mittens wet to the brink of mere formality, you feel f*ing cold. When all the coffee shops and bars closed, we warmed up by taking turns sitting in Wayne’s car, heat blasting, listening to late night radio on the French station.
In some ways, this is every installation – the prolonged build up, fevered preparation, and then one long shot of intense muscle power. Somehow, despite impossible odds, you finish. There is a brief moment of glorious and emphatic relief when you stand back to look at the beast you built. This lingers sometimes for several hours. And then, once the fooferaw subsides, you slump back into a state of post-creative depression and don’t update your blog for a week…
We owe the fact that SOLAR FLARE could be finished to the hard work of our pals and installation crew, Lane Shordee, Andrew Frosst, and Ivan Ostapenko (who showed up miraculously just when we needed him). Who could ask for a better or more hard working dream team? Especially on a chilly winter night…
We spent a majority of the daylight hours mounting the core of SOLAR FLARE from its eight surrounding mount locations – leveling the sculpture, tightening cables, re-leveling the sculpture. Throughout this process, people walked past, took a peek at the mid-installation core, and (convinced the piece was done), marveled “Oh. I must say, I’m a little under-whelmed…”
Once the sun set, the final light components began in earnest. The temperature also dropped, which meant that our one sodium halide bulb was our main source of warmth (particularly up on the scissor lift) for many hours. Finally, a chance to test our assertion that warm light creates psychological illusions of warmth.
At some numb moment in the middle of the night, Wayne wired in the interactive components of the sculpture into the street lights surrounding the sculpture. Decidedly analog by comparison with our foiled LED gizmos, SOLAR FLARE’s adapted interactive mechanism is a crudely cut tin cylinder surrounding the central bulb of the sculpture.
The cylinder is geared to a small electric motor, activated by motion sensors placed on either side of Stephen Avenue camouflaged by the busy urban details of the cityscape. When tripped, either one of the motion sensors switches the motor to 3-volt rotational speed, creating a slow glimmer of light on the surface of the sculpture for a matter of seconds.
In a flash of brilliance, Wayne wired the transformers in series, meaning that when both motion detectors are simultaneously tripped, the motor switches to a 9-volt setting, and the sculpture shimmers rapidly – a reflection of the surrounding action.
Strangely, both people and cars set off the motion detectors, allowing for a very passive, sometimes entirely unnoticeable form of interactivity. The overall visual effect, though, is surprisingly mesmerizing, especially considering the pedestrian simplicity of its design. (Videos to come soon!)
Finally, SOLAR FLARE took form in earnest. Below are two of my favourite images of the piece, with Lane and Ivan up on the scissor lift, setting the sun into the sky.
And then, at 4:30 in the morning, we were suddenly done. SOLAR FLARE was finished – at least, as finished as she’s going to be in this particular venue. Without any pomp or circumstance, our exhausted team piled into cabs and cars and left the scene of the crime – a quiet street with a new glowey spiky object floating overhead, suspended in time and space.
In the lull between installation and SOLAR FLARE’s official launch and public Light Performance tomorrow night, we’ve fallen through many levels of postpartum elation and depression. But the sun has been set in the sky, and our work is done for the time being. Stay tuned for images from tomorrow’s performative experiment with 1,000 2-ft sparklers – a Winter Solstice ritual summoning the sun.