Arts and Humanities
3:13 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Amplifying Voices in the Contemporary Art Park: Speed Museum Lecture Features Brazil's SuperUber

SuperUber's "Shadows," part of a cultural exploration of the connections between Brazil and Germany, on Sao Paulo's iconic FIESP building.
Credit SuperUber

  The Speed Art Museum’s $60 million renovation and expansion project, which has closed the main museum building for construction until 2016, will include the Elizabeth P. and Frederick K. Cressman Art Park and Piazza. Part of an ongoing effort to explore the possibilities of contemporary art parks is the Speed's spring lecture series. The latest talk in the series features Rio de Janeiro-based creative studio SuperUber, which mixes art with architecture and technology to create award-winning interactive art installations. 

Co-founder Liana Brazil will speak Tuesday at the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theatre (6:30 p.m.; $25/$10 students, or free to Speed members) about her firm's creative processes.

SuperUber has designed installations and experiences in indoor and outdoor spaces, on both small and large scales. One such project was installed on a bustling Sao Paulo thoroughfare, on one of the city's iconic spaces —  they outfitted the high-rise trapezoidal FIESP building with LED light clusters, and the installation tracked motion on the sidewalk and amplified pedestrians' shadows on the building facade. "Shadows" was part of an exhibit exploring the cultural connections between Brazil and Germany.

"There are millions of people passing by this avenue every day, lots of pedestrians," says Brazil. "We wanted people to interact with [the installation] magically. We didn't want them to go inside anything or grab anything, we just wanted them to be on the sidewalk."  

Pedestrians could see some movement on the building's 328-feet tall facade from down the street, but the closer they got, their movements triggered animations that moved on their own around their blown-up silhouettes. 

"It was really amazing to see people interact. Some people would slow down and wave their hands, but some people would take their bags off and dance, or call over a friend and do movements with a friend," says Brazil. "It was funny, because it's a very serious business city, especially this avenue." 

"This is an installation we could have done in a smaller gallery space, but it wouldn't have the same impact," she adds. "This installation was all about the scale. It totally changed the experience, it mattered a lot." 

Brazil says designing custom installations for specific sites like "Shadows" brings inherent limitations to the creative process, but she welcomes those limitations as helpful scaffolding. 

“Those limitations are actually good. It’s really hard to do something for a flat piece of land that has nothing around it,” she says. "Whatever content we think for it, or message we think we want to go with, can run parallel to the set design creation, the physical creation, but the physical creation has more parameters to it, more limitations, so we always start with that."

So the process begins with the space, but at the same time, she and her colleagues are thinking about the emotional response they hope participants will have to the installation. One thing she learned early on in her work is that people want to see themselves (like in "Shadows"), or hear their voices amplified in the installation.

“When I say voice, I mean it can be literally their voice, or it can be some symbolic thing they do that says something, that passes on some message," says Brazil. "When they see that amplified in the public space, it’s very, very rewarding to them.” 

The next talk in the series will feature Lord William Burlington, who converted a wing of his family’s ancestral castle in Ireland to a contemporary arts center. He will speak May 13 at the Kentucky Center.