Art that needs you: Interactive exhibits bring Taos Plaza to life this weekend

“TaranTula,” by Taos artist Christina Sporrong, is an 18-foot steel kinetic sculpture with LED lights that respond in bright colors to sound. (Courtesy of The Paseo)

A towering tarantula, sparkling and casting shadowed designs that shift in response to the sounds around it.

Video images of your face, fractured into an alternative reality and projected onto the side of a building.

A 3-D, walk-through drawing strung beneath the portal of the Taos Plaza.

You can see all this and more in the second year of an emerging celebration of art that you can’t hang on a wall or fit in a gallery: The Paseo, a collection of installations, performance art and more that can be seen 1-10 p.m. today and Saturday in and around the Taos Plaza and Historic District.

And it all started because the Taos Fall Arts Festival last year lost its convention center venue.

Matt Thomas, a local architect and artist, said what he loved about that festival was “the opportunity for the community to come together around art.”

But, worried that the energy would dissipate with that festival spread out into different, smaller venues, he said he proposed an outdoor arts show that would connect those disparate locations.

The Paseo was born and, although he still considers it an experiment, Thomas said it had as many as 3,000 people on the streets at any one time last year exploring the offerings – up until 10 p.m. in a town that apparently often is as sleepy as Santa Fe by that time.

“There was an excitement about the community being out together,” he said, adding that one person called it “one of the most exciting things that every happened in Taos.”

It’s gotten bigger this year, with more than 70 artists contributing to 31 art installations. Some responded to a call for artists, while others were invited to apply, with all going through a jury for the final selection, he said.

One aspect of its mission calls for creating “a platform for art that is experimental, time-based, ephemeral, participatory and context responsive.”

That means a good portion of it is interactive, being created by and responding to its audience.

So Santa Fe’s Axle Contemporary will be there with “Järmark,” a collaboration with video pioneers Steina and Woody Vasulka, and mathematician Rob Shaw, inspired in part by traveling fairs and funhouse mirrors. They’re the ones who will take images of participants into fractured projections.

The tarantula, or “TaranTula,” as the work is titled, is a creation of Taos-based and Sweden-born Christina Sporrong. It will be joined in scale by Taos artist Christian Ristow’s “Fledgling,” a metal, mechanical bird that visitors can climb into and power pedals that set its wings in motion.

The 3-D string drawing, lit at night, comes from Sabrina Barrios, born and raised in Brazil, currently residing in Brooklyn. “That’s what Paseo is about: taking spaces we’ve become so used to and making them come alive, waking us up,” Thomas said.

While 16 installations by New Mexico artists (five by Taos artists) are featured, the remainder of them, such as Barrios, are coming from outside the state.

For instance, Nettrice Gaskins of Boston is bringing sound and video projections that can be paired with a special glove so viewers can convert colors from the images into musical notes and play audio samples with their fingertips.

She also visited Taos this summer to work with local youths on creating an interactive art installation as part of STEMarts Lab@The Paseo and present the sound- and movement-generated graphics on the adobe walls of Luna Chapel on Kit Carson Road.

That program, spearheaded by Agnes Chavez, is part of The Paseo’s educational outreach, in which artists visit before the festival to work with middle- and high-school students, introducing them to the technical components of the art that they create.

“It’s an opportunity for them to engage more with the community,” Thomas said.

Some eight artists this year are working with students in 12 workshops to come up with artworks that will be part of The Paseo.

Also tied in with the event are exhibitions at some galleries that are hosting artists who “align with Paseo’s goal and vision,” according to Thomas.

Other events are planned, including an after-party at Taos Mesa Brewing from 9 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday featuring an audio/visual performance with Conscious Kalling, Sattva Ananda and Buddha Bass ($10 in advance, $15 at the door) and a Pecha Kucha Night, 7 p.m. Sunday at the Taos Center for the Arts, in which artists from Paseo and the Fall Arts Festival will give rapid-fire presentations about their work ($10).

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