“Never know when a gal might need a laser.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
“Being virtually killed by a virtual laser in a virtual space is just as effective as the real thing, because you are as dead as you think you are.”
― Douglas Adams
“When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
― Edward Teller
An interactive exhibit at Dallas Aurora 2015
Friday, October 16, was a day I had been looking forward to for a long time. It was the night of Aurora – an every-two-year festival of visual arts held in Dallas. I had thoroughly enjoyed the Aurora two years ago and couldn’t wait for the next.
Again, I planned on a bicycle ride to the event in a group sponsored by Bike Friendly Cedars. The idea was to decorate our bikes with lights and such and therefore, present a visual spectacle – or something along that line. We would meet up at Main Street Garden Park in downtown, ride through the city center, down and up through Deep Ellum (for the derisive amusement of all the folks enjoying the nightlife there), then plunge into the dense crowds of the event.
I wanted to participate in the spirit, although I am not much in terms of decorating or mobile visual artistry. I bought some read and green LED tubes for my bike wheels, but was stymied in any additional ideas for luminous adornment.
In my mind there was an image of a disco ball on a bicycle, illuminated and spinning, casting tiny white spots on the buildings on the side of the road. This remained only in my mind, however, because I could not figure out how to pull this off, given my meager allotments of time, energy, and, especially, funds.
A couple days before Aurora, I left work in my car – I had some errands to run. As I sat down after walking across the vast parking lot I realized that I should have used the restroom before I left – I had to pee. No problem, there is a Wal-Mart across the highway from my work and I was heading in that direction. I’d simply stop there and run in to their bathroom.
And I did. On the way back out I walked by a Clearance section. This is a couple rows where all the returned or unsold merchandise is piled willy-nilly with bright markdown price stickers attached. It is a unavoidable attraction to look through this ignoble collection of unwanted stuff – items that can’t even make it on the regular shelves of Wal-Mart.
And there it was – right in the middle of this beastly mess. It was a tiny disco ball, mounted on a base, with three LED lights attached. The thing was called a “Locker Disco Ball” and was designed to be hung up in a high school girl’s locker. It had a little sticker on the front – extolling “Teens Against Bullying.” Best of all, it ran on three AA batteries, included. Even better, it was marked down to five dollars.
It would be a simple thing to mount this thing on the rack of my folding bike and then direct my two (surprisingly powerful) rechargeable bike headlights onto the thing. So I bought it and took it home. The included batteries were (not surprisingly) dead, but a fresh set set it spinning merrily around.
So I set to work with some scrap plastic, a few angle braces, and a pop rivet tool. A year ago, I had made a custom extension to the Crossrack on my bike to hold a rack trunk and I wanted to make something I could clamp to that. Before too long, I had a lighted disco ball (tiny, but serviceable) mounted to the rear rack of my Xootr folding bike.
It felt pretty delicate – but what the hell, I took the DART train downtown and waited for the ride to begin.
I’m not sure what the whole thing looked like – it was behind me after all. Probably, pretty stupid. Still, people riding around kept asking about it – it was unique at least.
We rode down through a very crowded downtown (there was a lot going on – Aurora, The State Fair, some concerts, a Mavericks Preseason Game, and a large crowd on Main Street enjoying the cooler fall Texas Air). We turned on Houston Street and again on Young to head into Deep Ellum.
As we were climbing the hill between Pioneer Plaza and City Hall I hit a particularly steep pothole. I had been riding carefully and avoiding obstacles, but at night and especially on bad downtown roads there is only so much you can do.
I felt the back of my bike kick up as it came out of the whole. Of course, I couldn’t see anything but I swear I felt a slight lightening of my bike as the mirrored ball popped out of the motor housing. I heard a collective sigh of the folks riding behind me as the disco ball smashed into the street. There was a final crush of broken glass as someone inadvertently struck it with their wheels.
At the next stoplight I turned and took a look. The ball had come completely out of the base, which was still attached to the rack. At least it wasn’t a failure of some of my own construction. I shut the two lights off and pedaled on.
So that was that. Five dollars down the drain.
I wasn’t sad, of course. The important thing is that I had given it a try and had at least figured out a way (mostly by pure luck and having to take a pee at the right time) to mount a lighted disco ball on a bicycle.
One off the bucket list.
From Aurora Dallas 2013
Performance art is about joy, about making something that’s so full of kind of a wild joy that you really can’t put into words.
From Aurora Dallas 2013
“Actually, I do happen to resemble a hallucination. Kindly note my silhouette in the moonlight.” The cat climbed into the shaft of moonlight and wanted to keep talking but was asked to be quiet. “Very well, I shall be silent,” he replied, “I shall be a silent hallucination.”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
Some more photos I have from the amazing Dallas Aurora.
On Flora Street in front of the Nasher was a stunning, fun, and very popular installation/sculpture called Data Flow. It was made by Erik Glissmann, Scott Horn, and Nicole Cullum Horn. It was a walk-through complex of v-shaped troughs, fed by a constant flow of florescent yellow liquid and brightly lit by ultraviolet lights.
The artists describe the artwork as:
“Data Flow” reflects on the expansion of human consciousness in the digital era. For most of our history, our experiences have been limited to our immediate horizons, securing our sense of the world and our place in it. Digital technology has transformed that stability, shattering and expanding it a thousandfold – like a river divided by a thousand tiny waterfalls. Data Flow physically interprets this phenomenon; a single stream falls onto many planes, reaching its destination by a seemingly random multitude of paths.
I first heard about Aurora last time it happened, but was out of town that weekend and couldn’t make it. Then, on the way to a play at the Wyly theater, I saw a preview of Aurora – specifically an installation of giant red floating jellyfish.
So, as Aurora 2013 approached, I circled my calendar. Then, I found that Bike Friendly Cedars, along with other Dallas cycling groups, had a a ride planned. The idea was to put lights on your bicycle, then meet up at Main Street Gardens Park and ride down together.
The last few weeks have been very busy and stressful for me and I didn’t have time (or money) to properly decorate my bike. This sort of thing is, especially right now, beyond my abilities or resources. It was stressing me out a little bit. The only thing I could do is to go to the Dollar Store with a five and a one clutched in my sweaty fist. I bought a couple LED lightsabers, a little lighted pumpkin, and some packages of glowy bracelets.
I gathered up everything in my house with a battery powered light and roll of duct tape, and, after work rode down to Lee Harvey’s – where I taped everything to my bike in a pretty much random fashion. I felt like an idiot – but it worked. Especially the lightsabers. I might try and find a way to more permanently hold those on my bike – they would be useful to increase the visibility for night rides.
Nothing like big, glowing, flashing, green cylinders to get the attention of motorists after dark.
Everybody met up and we set off in a glowing, flashing mass – down around downtown
Dallas, into Deep Ellum, then back into the Arts District.
I was immediately surprised and shocked by the crowds. The original idea was to ride through Aurora as a group, but the streets were packed with thick throngs of people and we were immediately split up. I locked my bike up and began to explore.
Aurora was amazing. I kept thinking, “Is this really Dallas?” There were hundreds of artists and installations covering the entire spectrum spread across the vast area from One Arts Plaza, down Flora Street past and including the concert halls and museums, across to Klyde Warren Park and even down towards the Perot. That’s about two square miles of area.
The crowd was huge. I was so glad I had ridden in on a bike and had a DART pass in my pocket. People were calling in on cell phones – the traffic across the city was at a standstill and there was no parking to be found anywhere.
I spent hours walking around. There is no way to see even a fraction of everything that was offered up, but there were a few items I really wanted to take in.
First, the dancers that I had seen at the Patio Sessions on Thursday were performing on a little grass patch between the Opera House and the Symphony Hall. Through dumb luck I arrived a couple minutes before they started and talked to a parent of one – I told him of their enthusiasm and skill that I had seen the evening before.
The description of their performance:
Ruddy Udder Dance by Claire Ashley
This performance uses a large-scale, painted inflatable sculpture as a prop worn by twelve dancers. A choreographed sequence unfolds. Ashley is interested in both the high-brow aesthetic pleasure found in the painterly abstraction and monumentality of the object itself, and the absurdly low-brow, playful, high-energy, ecstatic dancing experience and pop culture references that ensue as the object moves in space. Directed by Linda James and Kate Walker and performed by the Repertory Dance Company II from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
The dancers were arranged as the “feet” or maybe the “udders” of a stylized giant inflatable cow-balloon and danced to a country music tune – throwing the enormous bovine around as handlers held guy ropes and a bank of black lights made the scene glow. It was pretty cool.
Next, I wanted to see the Wyly Theater. I had seen a preview and knew I had to check out the real thing. Several banks of incredibly powerful video projectors were trained on the wall of the Borg Cube – shaped Wyly. The genius is that the program started with an image of the Wyly projected on itself, which then was moved, shifted, deconstructed, and modified until the thing was transformed into a giant 2001-style cube monolith – “It’s full of Stars.”
I found a spot and sat and watched the cycle. Then I realized that viewing it at an oblique angle was even better, so I watched it again. Really cool stuff.
Finally, I wanted to see something inside the Dallas City Performance Hall. Shane Pennington is a local artist that I have been a huge fan of ever since I spent a few days going down to the arts district to watch his ice sculptural exhibition melt into nothingness, releasing the stones contained within. I had read about the screen, a transparent curtain, he made for the Performance Hall – with consists of a grid of computer controlled lights that illustrate shapes moving across the mouth of the theater.
Inside the theater they had the screen up and running. People walking, riding bikes, or pushing carts moved across the screen in a ghostly crowd. Behind the screen a jazz trio performed retro music – a beautiful contrast to the high-tech images they were immersed in.
Midnight approached, and I had to leave – I was a long way from home and I didn’t want to miss the last train.
I did have one last discovery. I didn’t do enough research before Aurora about the nature of the Ciclovia that I was a part of. I didn’t realize that the lighted bike ride was actually a part of the Aurora itself and the ride even had a plaque that spelled that out.
Seeing Aurora, I wondered what it would be like… how cool would that be?.. to actually be a part of it – to be an artist in the event itself, no matter how small or insignificant. Until I found that plaque, I didn’t realize that for the small effort of six bucks and a trip to the dollar store – I was one.
”The gods of the earth and sea
Sought through nature to find this tree.
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the human brain.”
William Blake – The Human Abstract