The Myth of Failure

Failure is defined as the omission of performance or occurrence- the lack of success. More often then not, we are taught to avoid failure and to succeed if at all possible. Some synonyms for failure are nonfulfillment, defeat, negligence, dereliction… words all steeped in negative connotation. Quite simply, in the minds of most, failing is loosing. During our time in Dallas, however, failure revealed itself as a positive catalyst towards success. 

We arrived in Dallas with a specific site to light- the Mustangs of Irving (the largest equestrian themed sculpture in the world). As the Mustangs were a specific request from one of our backers, we were hopeful that this equine sculpture would work well in collaboration with lighting- the last thing we want is to disappoint a backer. We arrived in the daylight to a scene of massive bronze mustangs sprinting through gushing fountains. Our hope was to not light the horses, but actually the water moving beneath their feet. Sadly, we soon found out that this sculpture was already very well lit at night. Given that we would not be able to contribute anything of value to the sculpture, we set out to find a backup plan. 

Our next stop was Pioneer Plaza- a park set in the heart of downtown Dallas featuring another massive equine sculpture/installation and a small, but very open cemetery occupied by pioneers and notable characters in Dallas history. We had a vision of what we wanted to see, but when we began to set out our lights, we realized very quickly that we had two problem. Our first problem was the intense light pollution. Along those lines, our second problem was that for a scene this big, we simply did not have enough lighting. After trying many scenarios, we grew continually discouraged and frustrated. We had hoped to acquire 8 very large 135 watt LED lights by the time we had landed in Dallas, but due to back orders with our light company, we did not yet have the lights we needed for a scene as large as Pioneer Plaza. Despite wanting to admit it, we knew this was a failure. We painstakingly chose to pack up for the night and walk away. While we don't love revealing our defeat, we snapped a photo of the lackluster outcome of the installation at Pioneer Plaza- it never really became much of anything other than an orange tree. 

While we were certainly upset by two botched installations in a row, we planned our third attempt with the notion that this failure was leading us to something better. Failure allowed as a chance to experiment and better our work. 

Irving, TX, just outside of Dallas, is laden with canals and vast stretches of pathways for walking. Accompanied by the canals are various quaint bridges. One steel arched bridge in particular beckoned to us- the charm! We agreed upon the bridge as our installation site. For some reason, Monet came to mind … the way he painted water… the way he chose colors that were more imaginative than realistic… the way his paintings are so often serene- like they are a daydream. 

As we began to set up, a wonderful woman and little girl approached us- they appeared to be family, but not mother and daughter. The little girl was very excited. Almost in unison with the woman, the little girl asked "what are you doing with the lights." The little girl loved photography and was hoping that we were creating a viable photo subject. We explained our light installation. The little girl and the woman were concerned about the time because the little girl had to be home by 7pm. When we told the little girl and the woman that it might take longer to install the lights, the woman asked if she could help us. Reluctantly, we agreed to her assistance. We handed the woman a tape measure that had been preset to a little over 4ft. "Could you help us measure the space in between each light?" we asked. "Yes! Of Course," she exclaimed. She measured swiftly and with determination. Helping us to mount the lights evenly, she measured several lengths of just over 4ft.

We exchanged friendly conversation with the woman and the girl. The woman wanted to know why we were doing this work and what it really was. We discussed the ephemeral qualities of the installation- the fact that it was experiential more than tangible. To our delight, the woman supposed, "so, then, you are creating something which does not exist?" "Yes, exactly," we said enthusiastically. The woman then continued to measured another length- we installed the next light. We subsequently completed the installation with vigor and reflected while repeating the steps- measure then light, measure then light. These are the fruits of failure.

We want to thank you all for patiently waiting for our blog posts and for following this project. Your support is so crucial to to the continued success of this artwork and any work we complete in the future! If you really enjoy what you are seeing and experiencing, please consider donating to Knomad Colab HERE.  Austin is next!! Cheers and have a lovely weekend! 



With Bells On

Last week, we traveled to Savannah, GA in search a light-worthy site. Since we were unable to do our planned light installation in Southern Pines (security asked us to leave our designated site), we decided to do two separate light works in Savannah. We came to this charming southern river town thinking that we would do a light installation in the Bonaventure Cemetery. Instead, we were drawn to bells. 

The first installation was at the Old City Exchange Bell, one of three historic Bay St. Memorials. Believed to be the oldest bell in Georgia, it was imported from Amsterdam in 1802. For close to 100 years, the bell served as a fire alarm, was often used in celebrations and tributes for fallen heroes, and signaled the closing time for stores. Once an important contributor to the hustle and bustle of 19th century Savannah, the bell now stood dormant… only a reminder of what once was. 

Upon seeing this bell, we felt a strong connection to it's current state of neglect. Once the lights came on, people who had never noticed it before suddenly flocked to it. They stopped to read about it's history. One gentleman, who lived in Savannah, stopped and asked, "has that bell always been there?"

Some people didn't even know that it existed!

Our second stop was a one octave set of percussion bells at Forsyth Park, another gem of historic Savannah. Chalked full of lofty trees laced with spanish moss, gushing fountains, and still more memorials, Forsyth park is a main hub for social engagement in Savannah. 

Although the bells were installed with public interaction in mind, it seemed that they were more of a sculpture than an instrument. Our interest in this set of chimes was two fold. First of all, we wanted to use the lights as a catalyst for public engagement with these lonely bells . Secondly, we sought to explore the concept of synaesthesia, the color organ, and visual music.

The idea of light and sound as a collaborative pair is a popular trend in both contemporary visual art and music. However, this is not a new notion. Engineers, artists, and inventors from as far back as the 16th century have been intrigued by the idea of music and light intertwining to create a synaesthetic experience. In the mid-1700s French monk Louis Bertrand Castel created one of the first ocular organs- an instrument with 60 colored glass panels, each with a curtain that opened upon the striking of a corresponding key. In the 1800s, Bainbridge Bishop patented his first color organ, an amazing specimen which projected colored light onto a screen as music was played through the organ. Many others, including Alexander Scriabin, who wrote a synaesthetic symphony titled Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, investigated the connection between light and sound throughout the 19th and 20th century. Today, we explore this notion of synaesthesia to an extreme degree thanks to an abundance of modern visual and audio technology.

Our work, while it did explore light and sound in combination, was not so concerned with the light responding in accordance to sound. Rather, we wanted to investigate the impact of light on people's desire to play the instrument.      

Interestingly enough, one passer by stopped and exclaimed, "I want to hear what the color blue sounds like!" We assigned cyan to the note G and dark blue to the note A. Still, others approached the bells, excited to play. They claimed that the lights drew them to the bells and made them want to play- something they said they did not experience previously. WE even felt more inclined to play these public bells once they were painted with light! So, we did...

Our time in Savannah was brief, but bountiful. Not only is Savannah a city with an abundance of history, but it is also a fertile ground for creating and experiencing art. Savannah, light was here! Now… on to the Florida Pan Handle.