Spectators attending last year’s Dumbo Arts Festival in the Brooklyn neighborhood around the Manhattan Bridge thought they had seen some pretty impressive video projection mapping at the “Immersive Surfaces” event, but this year, stakes were raised by Codex Dynamic, a large-scale video projection exhibition curated by Leo Kuelbs and John Ensor Parker. The annual festival transforms streets, parks, bridges, buildings, galleries, and studios into canvases, stages, and exhibition spaces for more than 225,000 attendees.
WorldStage sponsored and supported Codex Dynamic, transforming the Manhattan Bridge Anchorage and Archway into display surfaces supporting work by well known and up-and-coming media artists. The theme of the media content was man’s evolving relationship with time and space.
“The Dumbo Arts Festival has a unique setting: a combination of gritty urban warehouses, cobblestones, and the Manhattan Bridge itself,” says WorldStage president Josh Weisberg, who grew up in the neighborhood and still lives nearby. “To transform the bridge structure into a media canvas is remarkable. Its great Archway span can look forbidding at night, but project video on it, and get thousands of people to watch, and it’s just the coolest thing.” Nationwide Video Equipment Rental worked closely with WorldStage to fill out the equipment package.
Two areas acted as display surfaces for video content: the 160'x45' Archway and the north side of the Anchorage, which forms a canvas roughly 180'x85'. Sixteen Christie Digital Roadster S+10K-M projectors were used for the inside tunnel mapping along with four Christie HD 10K-M projectors for the PIP windows and single-channel video inside the tunnel and six Roadster S+16K projectors handled the outside wall and archway. Control was provided by 10 d3 Technologies d3 media servers and fiber connectivity for the entire display.
“We even used some of the bridge’s existing ironwork as points to suspend projectors,” says Weisberg. “Those positions helped the art blend in better with the architecture.” WorldStage provided all the supervisory labor under project manager Sarah Ibrahim, with Raul Herrera serving as head programmer. Staff from d3 provided technical support for the projection mapping.
Weisberg has seen a lot of video art, but he says the Codex Dynamic content was particularly beautiful. “Two pieces were created to be site-specific: one by Integrated Visions and one by John Ensor Parker and the Hungarian art collective Glowing Bulbs,” he says. “The guys really worked hard to showcase their art. It was very intense. In addition, there were single-channel—single-screen—works from 13 other artists mapped to fit the Archway.”
Parker worked closely with Weisberg and Lars Pedersen to plan and execute the projection mapping from the 3D model template they built and refined. “We work with a lot of people, but WorldStage is second to none,” Parker says. “They exude a good vibe even when things happen like a generator dying.”
Parker, who also participated in last year’s festival, notes that Codex Dynamic covered a larger canvas and included an audio component, which introduced new challenges, but all went swimmingly. “You could see a big difference in the alignments this year,” he says. “Josh dedicated four more projectors to the single-channel videos by well-known artists, which we considered to be a very important decision. Mapping is more often used in the marketing world than in the fine arts world, but we wanted to redefine mapping and get people thinking about it as an art form. I think we succeeded at that.”
Kuelbs notes that Codex Dynamic was the result of more than eight months of work involving a collaboration between dozens of artists and technicians working together to present something new and spectacular. “To watch not only the work but also tens of thousands of New Yorkers collectively ooo-ing and aah-ing was an amazing feeling,” he says.
Frank Riley, the executive producer for the Dumbo Arts Festival, is a longtime WorldStage client. “The festival had several anchor projects, and this was the biggest in scope and scale,” he says. “Codex Dynamic was a watershed achievement in creating a piece that perfectly used its medium and pushed the limits of content and technology. To the uninitiated it was a bright, beautiful, and exciting experience played out on one of the neighborhood’s architectural icons. To the studied fan, it was a collective piece of digital art across single- and multi-channel contributors—quite an achievement.”
Lisa Kim of Two Trees Management was the director of the festival. “Giving artists the access to the tools and technology to create and present their work is an important mission for the festival, and a project of this technical and artistic magnitude could only be possible with the generous support from WorldStage,” she says. “With the combined efforts and support of the Dumbo Improvement and the NYC Department of Transportation Arterventions Program, we were able to bring this team’s vision to fruition and provide a weekend of spectacular art and wonderment for everyone.”