Interactive attractions draw in the curious at Voodoo Fest
As the folk rock band Delta Rae wailed in the background at Voodoo Fest on Saturday, 19-year-old Lindsay Higgins and her friends decided to take a break from the action. They duck-walked through a tiny, dark slit in a platform, then hoisted themselves onto the middle of a 25-foot silver cone.
They weren’t alone.
One by one, a slew of Voodoo revelers popped up from the subterranean darkness, dressed in costumes ranging from fairies to the Queen of Hearts, all looking with the amazement of unearthed moles at the spinning cylinder that surrounded them.
“Sometimes it’s fun to take a little adventure,” Higgins quipped, about the art installation they were now immersed in.
The 30-foot tall interactive pavilion, called “Cone v2” and designed by German artists Hans Sachs and Manuel Kretzer, was one of many dynamic art installations on display at Voodoo Fest this weekend.
The cone can be spun by those on the outside, and, at night, is illuminated by 700 colorful PVC pipes, according to Jensen Killen, a production designer at the festival.
Killen said that interactivity and illumination are two of the components the festival looks for when selecting its art installations, of which it has nine this year.
While the cone is one of three returning installations, she said Voodoo Fest has an exciting new crop of interactive art its showcasing for the first time this year.
Michael Christian, a San Francisco-based sculptor, is the event’s featured artist and has two installations on the festival grounds.
“Drifts” is a spontaneous creation of sinewy, bent steel that appears to be blowing in wind. “Flock, which resides at the entrance,” is a 40-foot surrealist sculpture with a half-dozen steel tentacles winding down from its base.
“We saw this Daliesque creature and thought it made sense to have it creeping into the festival,” Killen said.
Killen said that other new installations include, “Bloom Bloom,” a canopy of fluorescent ribbons suspended above the artist’s bar that’s designed by Dana Harper, and Tensile, a colorful, large-scale shade-providing structure designed by James Murphy.
The most eye-popping of all the Voodoo art is “Face Forward” a shimmering, jiggling 20-foot robot head whose facial features are controlled by festivalgoers.
The installation has approximately a dozen remote controls stationed about 30 feet away from it.
Festival attendees can move the robot’s eyes, lips, eyebrows and other facial muscles, making the face take on a range of expressions.
On Saturday, the remote controls were rarely empty, as those who passed through the Voodoo gates were magnetized by the installation’s presence.
“It’s art you can appreciate, but also interact with,” said 17-year-old Taylor Feagin, who raised the robot’s left eyebrow, while her friend lifted the corner of its lips.
Christian Ristow, the robot’s creator, said he built the piece due to a fascination with the human face and the importance of non-verbal communication.
Ristow, who lives in New Mexico but was in attendance this weekend, said he often watches from the sidelines as participants direct the robot’s face in various ways.
Ristow said that it’s rare that people operate the robot cooperatively, though it does occasionally happen.
On Saturday, attendees lifted eyebrows, curled lips, rolled back eyeballs and manipulated the device into a multitude of facial expressions.
The robot’s face looked, at different times, worried, calm, skeptical, excited and wild. However, most often, it was guided by its caretakers into an ear-to-ear smile.