Prismatic Art: A Space-Defining Aesthetic Touch

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Prismatic Art

A Space-Defining Aesthetic Touch

The magic of Bass Coast has many ingredients, from the vast efforts of patrons to craft their personal costume and camping experiences to the gorgeously crafted stage spaces to the meticulously curated musical roster. One particularly unforgettable element is the wide array of inspiring art and sculpture that the festival supports and displays. The festival founders’ exposure to great art festivals like Burning Man and Lighting In A Bottle is always evident based on the profusion of creations on the Bass Coast site.

One of the greatest single benefits of art pieces at a music festival is to create physical dimension to the space people are sharing. The more patrons can see and feel creativity above, below and around them, the more all-encompassing and engaging the entire festival experience becomes.

Two years ago, two of BassBus’ lead builders and creators, Nicole Emerson and Jessica Bedford, began a project for 2018’s edition of Bass Coast that would contribute this exact element to Radio Stage. At the outset, they had only a budget and 2018’s theme, Prism, to guide the process of how to create pieces that both reflected the theme and gave a sense of vertical dimension and space to Radio Stage. SubText caught up with them both to learn about the creative process behind a 2018 stage enhancement for Radio that was expanded on by Bass Coast to further define the common spaces of the festival.

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SubText: We’d love to talk about the floating prisms that now live at Radio Stage and beyond in Bass Coast. Can you share the roots of that project?

Jessica Bedford: These pieces were for the theme of Prism at Bass Coast in 2018. It was an attempt to find the simplest way we could convey the theme. We went through a couple different ideas but every other thing we thought of was a bit too much so I thought the simplest way was to actually just build a prism and fly it in the air and make it look like it was floating above the dance floor. That ended up pretty simple, pretty big and “Bam!” and in your face. We just ran with that and we made surprise prisms coming out for Saturday night as an attempt to make a change for later in the festival, and we developed these other prisms that came out of the stage to change the space as the weekend went on. We called them hippy surprise prisms. [laughs]

SubText: What are these things actually made of? 

Nikki: They’re made of chloroplast. The main structure is, anyway. The reason is that one of the main features of the design is two parts that come together to make a whole. They pack flat and can be reused in consecutive years going forward. They’re basically reverse origami. The chloroplast allows us to do that, and it was also light enough that it was safe to have above a dance floor in case anything happens. They’re also light enough so that the bracket to attach to the trees has less of a stress point. We have them illuminated from a centre mark right in the middle of the prism. That way they were illuminated and activated both during the day from the opalescent finish we had on them, and LED lights at night time. 

We did a lot of experiments and material testing. The biggest challenge was to find the most visually impactful thing to match our budget. We applied opalescent translucent film to the surface so when up in the air during the day the opalescent film shined multidimensionally to represent the symbology of Prism and create an accessory to the forest. 

SubText: Okay, so how are they actually hanging? Jess, were you responsible for the structural side of getting these things in the air?

Jess: Yes, the structure was my process. It’s all made of wood. Pretty much a collar system hugs a tree, attached by a threaded ready rod. When there’s tension applied on either side of the wood the ready rod goes through the collars and puts tension around the tree. Electrical conduit comes off the frame tree at a 45° angle, I bent it around one of those spool tables electricians use for rolls of wire. Then there is ready rod inside with a DMX light strip. Once that’s in place we put the prism up and over, and let sit on nut and washer, and there’s our structure. 

Nikki: In the original ideas of having the prisms for pirate radio stage, we wanted something more pirate looking. So within the first year we made them we actually referred to them as lanterns, since we wanted pirate crystal lanterns. The black border is a characteristic nod to a lantern you’d hold above walking down a train track or walking on the deck of a ship at night. It gave a more pirate gritty lantern-y shape to it, rather than full delicate crystal characteristics of a typical prism. Last year two got erected from turrets on two sides of stage on the Saturday that did not have the black border. We wanted them to be significant on their own, being erected to display. We had music cued to it and lighting cued to it, a crescendo in evening. Those prisms were the same height dimension to build but didn’t have black frame so they did look more delicate and prism shaped. There is a two part reasoning for that frame: we wanted it to look black as an aesthetic choice, but also to hold the structure together. Two pieces come together to make a hexagonal pyramid, two triangles per pyramid, held together internally through vinyl taping process, and black tape holds the shape externally.

 
 

SubText: I assume these structures were also cued to the lighting tech in the booth at Radio?

Nikki: Absolutely. All the prisms are linked and connected to lighting techs and sound booth, who control all of the lights on stage and all of the prism lights. For the 12 additional prisms in the forest area, they were on patterns of oscillating full spectrum colours, sometimes random sometimes blinking, but all of them speak to each other. 

SubText: What type of reactions did you get for the prisms the last couple of years? They certainly look great in photos so they must have a big impact on the ground.

Jess: We did get some great reactions. Liz [Thompson, Bass Coast co-founder] this year, being the artistic director, was so excited to have the prisms in the forest. One of bigger visions she had was to prioritize seated and lounge areas in the art space, and to have the prisms in the forest with the art installations as something pleasant to look at. Once they went up she was beyond pleased by what they brought to the space this year and how much more they added to the art installation area. Andrea Graham, too, was beyond stoked. 

 
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SubText: I love this type of piece because elevated art pieces like this really add that third dimension to a party. I don’t know what it is, but something about people using all their directions and having vertical engagement and space to the party can really bring it to a whole other level.

Jess: Yeah, I totally agree, and Liz liked how we brought another physical dimension to Radio in 2018. I kept getting stuck on we need something in the air, we need something in the air. I couldn’t get out of that thought so that’s where i had to start figuring out how to hang something in the air but not so close to a tree you can tell it’s supported on it. But at night when they're illuminated, they look like they're floating in the middle of nowhere. Liz really wanted to add that exact element to not just have things at eye level but you could look up and see beautiful prisms. Focused on art that had seating areas so you could sit and enjoy art installations at as well as kick back and look up at beautiful prisms . 

Nikki: It really activates the sky.

SubText: No doubt. Thank you so much for chatting about this project. It must have been a joy to work on and execute.

Nikki: The whole process was positive from the very beginning to the very end. It was a pleasure and an honour to be asked to make more for Bass Coast as a festival and a whole, not just to make more for the Radio Stage. It fantastic working with Jess, we’re a really good team, I don’t think I could have done it on my own and I don’t think Jess thinks she could have done it on her own either.

Jess: Oh god no! [laughs]

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James Nason