The New York City Ballet Art Series is a continuation of the work started by New York State Theater architect Philip Johnson and NYCB founder Lincoln Kirstein, a curatorial tradition dating back to the theater's founding in 1964. Work in the space includes a permanent collection of works featuring some by Jasper Johns and Lee Bontecou, and more recently, as part of the annual Art Series program, installations by Dustin Yellin, FAILE, and JR.
For their 2017 installation, the fifth in the new Art Series, NYCB commissioned Finnish artist Santtu Mustonen, whose work begins as paint and is presented here as digital animations that flutter and breathe like living brushstrokes.
For the 6-week installation, Hard Work Party provided technical direction, spec'ing playback hardware, projection, and lighting, as well as providing programming services, creating a custom, scheduled playback platform for the 4-channel video, accompanying audio, and lighting animations.
We worked closely with AV integrators SenovvA, who provided projection design and rental support, fabricators Gamma NYC, who designed, built, and rigged the screens, and Santtu's representation, Hugo and Marie, who coordinated the effort.
The scale of the finished piece is colossal. The projection geometry is borderline preposterous (we surprised even Panasonic with this one). The bang for the buck is stupendous (hat tips all around). The result is at once awesome and subtle.
Because of the scale and complexity of the projections, as well as the audience proximity to the screens, we used HAP Q, an open-source codec whose compression quality and performance were a must for this project. The compression allowed us to play back high-quality 4K video from an inexpensive commodity PC without losing the dynamics and subtlety of the busy and textured particle system.
For command and control, we used TouchDesigner. TouchDesigner's flexibility allowed us to continually grade the video playback for changing lighting and projection conditions, as well as to calibrate the smart lights used to illuminate the statues, both in terms of focus and color quality. Critically, TouchDesigner also allowed us to accommodate the ballet's scheduling needs, facilitating automatic projection, lighting, and sound strike and kill commands throughout the 6-week run without the use of external scheduling hardware.
Santtu's work shines, and his 14-minute composition feels painterly, austere, and delicate writ large in the promenade. We're very proud of this one.
Production Company: Hugo and Marie
Artist: Santtu Mustonen
Producers: Jason Scott Rosen and Masha Spaic
Technical Direction, Systems Design, and Programming: Hard Work Party
AV Integration and Projection Design: SenovvA
Screen Fabrication and Rigging: Gamma NYC
Animation: Johnny Lee
Special thanks to Marquerite Mehler, Karen Girty, and Jill Jefferson at NYCB
Some photos courtesy of Alex Di Suvero and Hugo and Marie