An immersive art experience was once only described by visionaries and science fiction writers. Today the technology has caught up and now artists are bringing to life what we could once only imagine.
The Bayou Beacon will be unveiled free to the public from 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday inside the Train Shed at Sawyer Yards’ Art Alley, 1502 Sawyer St.
The Bayou Beacon is an environmental light sculpture designed by Falon Land Studio, a Houston-based interdisciplinary practice in public art and landscape architecture.
Falon Mihalic is an interdisciplinary artist, licensed landscape architect and founder of Falon Land Studio. Fuko Nara is the assistant designer at Falon Land Studio, and led the creative coding and technology components as well as created the animation and hand-built the scaled model prototypes for previous iterations of the installation. Falon Land Studio is located at Sabine St. Studios.
The Bayou Beacon is supported in part by the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.
Imagine turning the water fluctuations of White Oak Bayou into a fully immersive animated light show, and you’re in the middle of it. I can’t speak with authority on this yet (talk to me next week!), but it sounds a lot like experiencing a planetarium, only you can walk through it and turn around, etc.
The Beacon expresses the water fluctuations of White Oak Bayou as it monitors historic water quality data and then projects a dynamic, parametrically designed light animation onto suspended semi-transparent fabric panels.
The Bayou Beacon will be located in the Train Shed, a former train repair station left intact adjacent to the iconic grain silos of Arts District Houston. At 100 feet long, the interior of the train shed provides an industrial setting for the light art. Projected onto a bluish scrim, the installation creates a fluid experience of the water flow of the bayou.
“Non-traditional exhibition spaces such as the Train Shed allow for artists to experiment and see their visions unfold,” said Grace Zuniga, Sawyer Yards' creative director. “These opportunities allow artists to grow their practice, challenge their parameters of art-making and give the community a chance to experience art in a tangible and exciting way.”
To experience the piece, visitors can meander through, sit in provided chairs or lie down on padded mats to watch a projected visualization of a few of Houston’s recent record-shattering floods. The animation pulls from White Oak Bayou’s stream gage data, then renders swarms of water droplets that express the cubic feet per second of water flowing past a single point in the Bayou Beacon. A portion of the animation specific to Hurricane Harvey’s influx shows dramatic jumps in the size of water droplets as if they are pulsing toward you. This movement represents the massive spikes in water flow Houstonians experienced over three days as the rains from Harvey flowed through the bayous.
I asked Mihalic where she got her inspiration.
“Bayou Beacon is inspired by the fluctuating water flow of our incredible bayous and the expressive qualities of water as a natural force,” Mihalic said. “The bayous course through our city daily and their form creates the framework for our city’s ecology. I want to express and experience what that shifting water flow is like and so the animation is generated from a water droplet algorithm using real historic flood data from White Oak Bayou.”
And the train shed?
“It is a very fun challenge to work with the metal train shed with its 25-foot tall ceiling and 100-foot long space," Mihalic said. "The shed dimensions intensify the wind blowing through and I like that because the artwork is really about rain and weather and how the bayous respond to storms. The sound component to the piece was produced from my recorded rain and chirping frog audio samples and mixed by artist Matt Hettich into a droning, intense reverberating wave of sound that fills the train shed space.”
To see other projects by Falon Land Studio, visit its website at https://falonland.com. For details on parking and a campus map, visit SawyerYards.com. The train shed is located on the south side of the grain silos in the Silos at Sawyer Yards parking lot.
Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com for additional highlights and artist’s stories.