This January I was asked to contribute to a performance and installation event called Revival, which took place at the Pritzger Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The theme of the event was Source Evolution, asking the question, “we can go back home, but can we go forward home?” The event featured a bunch of site specific pieces which were activated by ongoing performances, and audience participation. I was asked to interpret the “source evolution” theme through an installation. I was fortunate enough to participate in the event which was partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.
When I think of home I think of my mother, but when I think of “source” I often think of my close friends, whom I often describe as closer to me than my blood relatives in a lot of ways. They certainly know me better than some of my family. A lot of that has to do with us having a lot of shared experiences, like college with it’s stresses and pitfalls; collaborative projects where we shared creative energy and successes, and a whole host of other adventures. This installation is my attempt at making a interactive version of one of one of my favorite memories with these people whom I feel a very deep connection with.
The concept is a small campfire, under a canopy, though which you can see a bit of a starry sky. And accompanied by a soundtrack of crackling fire and conversation.
I started by creating the central element of the installation, the campfire. This kind of set the tone for the rest of the piece in terms of a slightly fantasy based color palette, but loosely based on a birch wood patterning. The shape is sort of a like a tent with space inside to fit a flame lighting effect.
Here is a video of the flame effect inside the logs with the lights off.
Here is a pic of a few of the rocks I made as seating around the campfire. They are made of carved stacks of polyethylene foam covered in fabric and painted.
Here is the installation a little farther along, at this point the wooden frame that all of this is built on is covered in all of the sewn elements. On the left is the installation with plush leaves in place, and all of the trees are made of tubes of fabric sewn around a two by four. On the right is the installation with the lights off. You can see the “stars” from under the canopy, and also the headphones that were connected to the installation which played clips of campfire conversations that the audience was invited to hang out and listen to.
Here is another view of the installation, with the lights half on. Here you can see a the headphones a little more clearly and the fire glowing in the middle there.
The concept had to be changed a bit to fit within the confines of the Pritzger, due to the many audio components of the other installations, the headphones were added to the concept making the installation something that could be shared with a few people at a time, and a respite from some of the other installations. The headphones played a mix of several different conversations that were taken from youtube videos of people hanging out around campfires. The silly, quiet, shared conversations of family and friends. While headphones are a solitary device, the idea of having them all play the same track simultaneously can make it instead an intimate experience shared with a very small group.
Here are a few of the tracks that could be heard on the headphones, the first is ten minutes of crackling fire. The second is audio of an elderly woman eating her first S’more. The third is a family sharing a campfire and a traditional song. These were all grabbed from youtube videos and I feel like they convey the sense of sharing and family that I felt while hanging out many nights around a campfire with my friends.
Here is a picture from the second night of Revival. You can see the closeness of the setting, and the warmth of the fire. Even with the very open set up of the trees and the canopy, the feeling was still very intimate and close.