Craig Le Blanc + Gary James Joynes

In 2015 Craig Le Blanc and Gary James Joynes (with Adam Rees) collaborated on a public art proposal for the 2015 MacEwan University CFAC (Center for Arts & Culture) Public Art Project. From the many submissions MacEwan received they were shortlisted to a final group of 3 for the creation of a major public artwork for MacEwan’s Allard Hall atrium. The following outlines their ideas and proposal.


Design Distillation

The MacEwan University CFAC Public Art Project presented us with a design challenge that we identified having three main components.

To begin, it was essential the design emphasized the culture of the institution as a place of growth, community and the fostering of innovation and structure. Secondly, the resolution should exist as an autonomous work of art that would be paradoxically independent of the building design while integrated into it. The final concept was in reference to the atrium as a cultural hub for gathering both day and night, in particular for performances and events supplemental to the daily mechanism of the institution.

As a collective we formulated a strategy that both considered the nature of our independent practices alongside the determined parameters. Gary James Joynes/CLINKER has made a career undertaking artistic explorations utilizing technology to produce visual sound as photographic, video, drawing, installation and sculptural based art works. As well, The White Studio as a public art collective or via Craig Le Blanc’s studio practice has forged an identity via monolithic and distilled objects. With all of these ideas in tow we came to a resolution that both emphasizes the diversity of our creative histories while upholding the mandate set forth.


Design Resolution

Our proposed design for the project stems from the notion and metaphor of the beehive.

The hive is a hub — a home for creation and community, the center of group activity and the site of individual performance. Bees are makers, architects, engineers, farmers and essential links in the health and life of all communities. Artists are also makers, problem solvers, imagineers, creators and essential links in the health and life of communities. Educational institutions and creative individuals bring a richness to communities, fostering innovation and growth in all industries, and enhancing quality of life with their energy and diligence.

The hive, much like the institution, plays a key role in nurturing, supporting and protecting the colony while additionally functioning as a springboard from which new colonies/ideas propagate. We see parallels in higher learning and in nature that embrace our emblematic view of the hive; the analogous relationship of the creative cycle and lifecycle, notions of stasis and dormancy contrasting bursts of activity and exploration, and the precarious health of a colony that is dependent on the community not the individual.


Proposed Location and Artwork

The atrium of the new CFAC presented another conceptual relationship to our proposal in its function as a gathering space for daily use and for after hour performances and events within the facility. This element was key, in particular the possibility of significant evening utilization. Combined with the expansive openness of the space and elevated clerestory, we felt that there was a significant, almost obligatory need to investigate hanging works of art.

To begin, we felt any hanging works for the main atrium required visibility from all levels and vantage points. As well, the work needed to exist in two states or two levels of digestion. First, as interesting and engaging forms that would connect and communicate to viewers. But moreover, we envisioned the work coming alive — activated and engaged in states and stages such as hives endure periods of dormancy and activity. This activation occurs with the use of technology, through a sophisticated network of custom LED lighting technology and motion and sound reactive visual programming. This process will be aided with expert consultation and collaboration from the American collective AudioPixel.

The proposed work consists of two immense beehive forms sharing the identical silhouette and dimensions (5000 mm x 5000 mm x 4400 mm). The works are hung independently of each other below the clerestories, in a north-south alignment in the two main atrium openings at staggered heights.


Hive 1: Moiré Hive Sculpture

The first hive is the highest module, situated in the north portion of the atrium and positioned at an elevation between the 3rd and 4th floors. The work consists of 33 water-jet cut honeycomb aluminum panels, hung horizontally and offset to fashion the beehive shape or silhouette. The hexagonal openings would be approximately 250 mm across with the exact scale throughout all 33 levels. The components would be spaced 162 mm part in the vertical plane all from 16 Gauge or 1.5 mm aluminum. The panels will be hung in perfect vertical alignment as to enable the honeycomb negatives to create an elongated tunnel or extruded perspective when viewed from above and below. Each panel would be powder coated in a high-gloss amber/copper hue.

Aside from the honeycomb as an essential storage system for larvae, pollen and honey, we chose the pattern to navigate toward the stunning visual effect created by layering these components; what is known as the Moiré effect. The Moiré effect is a visual perception that occurs when viewing overlapping sets of lines or dots that optically shift as one orbits the elements. The shifts of light, dark and pattern are vast and are directly related to positioning. This is also understood in mathematics and physics as an interference pattern.

The honeycomb layers, when stacked, create layer upon layer of visual stimuli alongside an endless shift of pattern and effect. The result is visible from any angle and level, allowing the building inhabitants and visitors to interact and activate the work from multiple perspectives. The work will be installed from the above clerestory anchor points, on a single point canopy system with secondary redundancy cables.

This sculpture will be further animated with evolving washes of color utilizing an array of intelligent LED lighting fixtures, programmed to complement color information and dynamic changes from the south hive using DMX lighting protocol.


Hive 2: Animated LED Lantern Interactive Hive Sculpture

The second hive, located at a lower elevation in the south portion of the atrium, is a massive cluster of custom designed lanterns that form the identical beehive shape as the first hive. The lanterns, totalling upwards of 450, are spherical forms made from 3mm aluminum rod, upholstered with linen, and with an integrated bee silhouette or gobo located at the bottom opening of each lantern. A gobo is a fitted template or stencil placed in front of light sources used to control the shape of the light emitted. The lantern cluster will emit light in colored arrays and patterns and will project the bee silhouette throughout the atrium lobby.

The volume of lanterns makes a visual statement, but we navigated conceptually toward the notion of the community and activity. The idea of dormancy and stasis is the prevalent focus through the day/evening dichotomy of the works. This work, in particular, will come alive at night but will most benefit from an active lobby via events and atrium based activities.

The animation, movement and vibrancy of the south hive LED light cluster will be triggered dynamically using various movement tracking and audio sensors. The system will have various modes that will offer varied experiences correlating to the activity within the atrium as well as activity inside of theatre. When the system is in “local mode”, motion sensors will continually track movement directly below the hive. The data is then processed and translated through proprietary software designed and programmed by AudioPixel. The output is channelled to the LED lanterns, displaying an immediate visual composition of light flashes and waves throughout. This experience will be dynamic and responsive, and will continuously vary and reflect the random movements below.

The “remote mode” will see the live volume and tonal frequencies happening inside the performance spaces transform the LED cluster into a large pixilated audio equalizer and VU meter. AudioPixels system will also employ a software interface for custom programmability. The programming of the LED lighting content could expand over time to offer a learning opportunity for Fine Arts students to engage and create new content for the piece.