Houston based art collaborative Re:site, and design and fabrication studio Metalab’s Memory Cloud installation at Texas A&M’s 12th Man Memorial Student Center seeks to create a dialogue between tradition and the future. Using 4,000 networked LEDs, Memory Cloud creates an animated display based on archival footage of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, and live infrared cameras that monitor people passing through the center’s atrium.
Norman Lee, of RE:site says of the project “To interpret tradition visually we thought of moving patterns of people. A&M has a strong marching band. If you remove the specifics of what the band is wearing and focus on the movements, they’re the same from 1900 to now. Once you reduce the figures from archival footage to silhouette patterns, you can’t identify the different points in time. Time and space collapse and bring together the school’s tradition in visual terms.”
What at first glance seems like a modern chandelier more at home in a club, the sculpture is supported by high tech structure developed by Houston-based Insight Structures. Digital Media Designs, which also created the digital lighting display for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, programmed the LED matrix along with a Chinese manufacturer to develop a custom LED product capable of meeting the sculpture’s size and lighting requirements. DMD also created a DMX control system with customized software by Avolites Media that converts the 2D silhouettes into 3D LED matrixes. “With that software we were able to utilize a method called pixel mapping and find a way to interpret RGB values into black and white and also to transpose that into XYZ coordinates, creating a 3D virtual cloud,” said Scott Chmielewski of DMD.
The result was a mesmerizing array of images that were part abstraction and transitional, and still partly recognizable. The infared camera matrix immediately registered as human movement, while the otherwise rigid and syncopated traditional marching band movements seemed more like a programmed sequence created by code, like Vegas or Times Square signage.