Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Art in the dark


By Aaron Warbone
Posted: February 21, 2024

SARANAC LAKE — On the closing Friday of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, Echo stood on the balcony of the Waterhole in downtown Saranac Lake and looked out over the patio at a kaleidoscopic movement of colors, shapes and drawings, fluid and kinetic, projected on the outside wall of the Compass Printing building.

These projections, which Echo helped install through the experimental art space The Station he co-created in Onchiota, were part of a series of pop-up video art projections called the Carnival of Light, which Echo said were a test-run of a projection art festival he’s hoping to make a permanent feature of Carnival.

Projection art is an emerging field in Saranac Lake.

Kirk Sullivan, the chair of the Saranac Lake Arts and Culture Advisory Board, has been organizing projector art at the Riverside Park bandshell for years through his production company Bing Bang Boom, with local artists, student artists and animations he’s produced cycling through each month. After seeing The Station’s expo during Carnival, Sullivan called up Echo on Tuesday to collaborate on curating a rotating mix of more local visual art there.

There were three projection installations from The Station during the week-and-a-half of Winter Carnival — the sides of Compass Printing, Edward Jones and Bear Essentials — where work from local artists like Luisa Mei and Anastasia Osolin, former residents like Steve Pavlovsky, who owns Liquid Light Lab in New York City, and other artists like Eric Martich with Permian Strata, Vanish Works and Empty Flash were shown.

“This is just a test,” said Echo, who goes by Echo only. It’s an experiment — just like the art itself.

He was inspired by festivals like Troy Glow, Luma in Binghamton and the projection art seen around Montreal. He’s never been to one of these festivals.

“So I had to make one, right?” Echo said.

While throwing parties at The Station, he always wanted visuals, so he ordered a video mixer that changes and morphs images.

“And it just spun out of control from there,” Echo said. “From then on I’ve been sort of hooked on it.”

With a desire to expand projection art in town he felt Carnival, an event “about lighting up the winter” was the perfect time to debut it.

At a techno party at The Garagery on the opening weekend of Carnival, attendees got to fool around with the equipment themselves — creating, altering and forming the visuals. Their reaction? Echo imitates it with wide eyes and a jaw on the floor. He said people were amused and joyful, like kids in a sandbox.

The live process he describes is like mixing music or DJing, but with visuals instead of song. Echo, whose background is in music production, said it gives him the same feeling as when he first discovered the synthesizer.

“I’m working in pretty much the same way,” Echo said.

It’s a “liberating” feeling and a “magical” process, he said.

“When you don’t understand something, you’re just exploring it with no limitations,” he said.

With sound, there’s a bit more consequence. Visual art can be kinder to experimentation, he said.

The visuals can come from computer generated images, scanned hand drawings, microscopes or cameras. Some images are based on liquid. Some are based in science. The experimentation comes in layering, coloring, splitting images, multiplying and mirroring them, or turning still images into fluid movements.

“It’s a whole world,” Echo said.

Projection art is unique in that it doesn’t take any space. It’s a “zero-impact” art form, Echo said, just light thrown up on a canvas. It gives the illusion of form but is formless. And it can only exist in the dark.

“In the daytime, this would not exist,” Echo said, while looking out at the Compass Printing wall from the Waterhole balcony.

Sullivan said he was inspired to bring projection art to Saranac Lake after seeing it in Montreal, too.

“It feels like a new, fresh, interesting way to feature local artists and other artists in locations where you don’t typically expect to encounter art,” Sullivan said.

Echo sees it as a new way to look at something common, like transforming the side of a building in a parking lot into a canvas, or showing a microscopic view of a piece of bark color-coded and refracted.

On March 15, Echo and two other local artists will be doing projection art for a Burlington Electronic Department, Roost.World and Luisa Mei show at the Waterhole.

It’s an accessible medium, he said. At home, someone can just hook a camera up to a television with an HDMI cable and point the lens at the screen to create blooms of color and video feedback. There’s free software online and inexpensive tools for sale. Echo plans to set up these tools at events in the future so anyone in the public can use them.

Echo said he will definitely bring the projection art to Winter Carnival again next year. Starting in the spring, he’s planning interactive exhibits at The Station with the tools. Over the summer, he’s planning workshops with the equipment at The Station. Then, in the fall, when things get darker earlier, he wants to have a public street exhibition.

“Anyone can come up and twist a knob or push a button and look at the wall and watch things change,” Echo said. “It’s really fascinating to be able to change your environment on a massive scale.”

Echo is currently teaching a class at North Country School involving projection video art. Last week, the school held a dance and students there got to mix the visuals for the event. It’s an art people of all ages can enjoy, he said.

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Copyright © 2024 Adirondack Daily Enterprise

2024-02-22T14:07:17+00:00NCS Happenings|

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