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Outdoor Vision Fest ‘a different kind of thing’

SANTA FE – In a video, student Sarah Canelas is digging a hole. Tonight, as that video plays, she will be there in person, filling it. Futile? That’s the point of Canelas’ performance art that will be part of the seventh Outdoor Vision Fest tonight at the Santa Fe School of Art and Design.

Want something a little interactive? How about projections of historic paintings with eyes that follow you as you pass by. That’s the display created by Katrina Vollbracht, a senior film major from Montana.

This is a photo from a rehearsal for an interactive display at tonight's Outdoor Vision Fest. (Courtesy of OVF)

This is a photo from a rehearsal for an interactive display at tonight’s Outdoor Vision Fest. (Courtesy of OVF)

“I took public domain images of Byzantine icons, and I am projecting them on a wall and hooking them up with a (Microsoft) Connect,” Vollbracht said. In addition to the eye movement, “when you stand in front of them, it triggers certain animations. They act as if they are responding to your presence.”

This year’s event, with 50 installations, will have “100 percent brand new content” that is “showcasing our students’ wide creativity,” said Outdoor Vision Fest organizer Terry Borst, a professor of screenwriting at the school.

Borst puts on the event, which attracted nearly 4,000 people last year, with the help of studio arts professor Tom Miller, film school professor Brad Wolfley and others.

Campus buildings become part of the show. “We are using the architecture of our visual arts complex on campus,” said Borst.

“People coming out for the evening are going to see projection mapping of various spaces and architectural surfaces, they will see and experience a whole lot of interactive installations. Those media installations will be responding to the participants’ sound-making and movements.”

An ephemeral image projected on the side of a building could be a metaphor for what Canelas, a senior studio arts major from Connecticut, learned from her interactive, hole-filling art. She was “feeling like everything I make as an artist doesn’t have to be a material thing.”

Those who have attended the free Vision Fest over the years have learned they have just one night – at dusk, to accommodate the outdoor projections – to absorb the dozens of installations and projections.

“This is a different kind of thing,” said Borst. “We are creating media and art that people here in Santa Fe haven’t seen before, and I think that’s tremendously exciting.”

For student artist Vollbracht, the Vision Fest brings art in closer contact with people. “I like the idea of the interactions that we have with art,” she said, as opposed to “how art has become so abstract and so elitist, and hard to access.”

Borst agrees that the audience/medium interaction is what makes the event special for all ages. All of the work is by students or SFUAD alumni.

“It’s a real happening,” he said. Food trucks on site add to the scene.

The seventh Outdoor Vision Fest takes place starting 8:45 p.m. tonight at SFUAD. (Courtesy of OVF)

The seventh Outdoor Vision Fest takes place starting 8:45 p.m. tonight at SFUAD. (Courtesy of OVF)

“There is a population that doesn’t really go to museums – museums kind of always seem like this sort of slightly stuffy kind of place and you are not supposed to touch anything – and here it’s completely different, you get to play around with everything,” Borst said. Participants can use controllers to change the look of visuals and the sounds of installations.

Installations such as Canelas’ dirt-digging are examples of the new territory of “performative” interactive media. Two other installations will incorporate dancers and fashion models with video and music.

Some installations use “augmented reality.” People planning to attend are encouraged to download a cellphone app called Blippar which, Borst said, will allow viewers to experience the “fullness and richness of several of these augmented reality installations that we have.” The technology shows the real-world environment combined with computer-generated images

In today’s world, most people are “looking at the phone half the time, so we are kind of taking advantage of that and saying, OK, go use your phone and have it be part of the installation,” Borst said.

There will also be 360-degree videos and virtual reality experiences.

The festival attempts to never rest on its laurels, said Borst. “We always hope that we exceed what we have done last year.”