Our final performance exhibited the bobbing listless motion that is generated by a lighter than air sculpture. When the back lights first turned on they revealed a network of glowing streamers swaying and bobbing in mid air. The streamers were anchored to the silhouettes of what appeared to be balloons, which caught and reflected the light around their edges, but for the most part were entirely obscured. As the music began the sculpture began to move in a more intentional manner. One of the balloons was pulled to the side while rest of the network of streamers and balloons hesitantly followed gently bobbing and jostling against each other. Variations on this sort of motion continued for the duration of the performance with one or multiple balloons leading the network of streamers and balloons. Over the course of the performance the network was pulled further apart or allowed to cluster together and this seemed to change height of the piece in the air. The musical accompaniment had a strongly cyclical rhythm to it and this seemed to be mimicked in the repeating cycle of lighting changes. At some points in the performance the front lights were activated allowing the audience to see clearly the happy birthday messages on the balloons and also lighting up the musicians and stage.
The performance had an eerie dreamlike quality to it that emanated from the hypnotic music as well as the listless movement and the enigmatic quality of the back-lit balloons. The motion came across as mostly ambient rather than choreographed. The movement of the leader balloons set an overall direction while the ensuing bobbing and jostling of the rest of the network provided most of the visual intrigue. The dappled shifting effect that was used when the front lighting turned on added to the dreamlike quality of the piece and it was interesting to see some of the birthday messages fully illuminated for short moments; however the total illumination of the musicians and backstage felt somewhat immersion breaking.
Initially, we found the idea of utilizing weightlessness alluring, as the lightweight nature of a fabric based piece would make this possible. Our idea for our final performance underwent a series of iterations, each of which based around the idea of exploring moving the fabric in unexpectedly weightless ways. Our first idea was the most literal and ambitious, involving using a series of balloons to suspend a large piece of fabric over the entire audience capable of dropping more balloons throughout our performance. We quickly found this to be overwhelmingly difficult and pivoted to focus more on demonstrating weightlessness more subtly. Still attached to the idea of audience interaction, we explored creating a smaller fabric structure suspended by balloons that we could move across the audience. While we liked this idea, we had arrived at its potential to late to undertake the technical challenges it would present and had to get more realistic. We eventually decided on what would be near to our final idea, a weightless structure confined to the stage that would start small and reveal its full form throughout a performance. After experimenting with some prototypes of varying structures attached to balloons by thread, we realized we wanted to make the balloons much more a part of the structure as opposed to simply tools to make it weightless. Running with this realization, we created our final design, a series of balloons all interconnected by fabric streamers, which we felt most communicated our goal of interesting weightlessness in addition to looking very much in place with the balloons.
What We Learned
Overall this project taught us more than we ever anticipated about orchestrating a performance. Working with another group of performers, being efficient on stage, etc were all skills that we learned quickly by doing. Interacting and sharing the stage with exploded ensemble was extremely successful, each aspect added to the sum of the performance. Additionally, we gleaned a lot of experience in working within a space, understanding show logistics and planning for success. In terms of potential changes, they lie mostly in planning. We would definitely be more careful to fully understand the scope of what we wanted our performance to look like very early on into the process, giving us far more time to implement and deal with technical challenges.