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Seeing the Light at “Luminary (Expanded),” an Immersive Art and Tech Exhibit


Shannon Riley | November 21, 2017
At Luminary (Expanded), attendees could swim in baths of color, be transported to fantastical worlds, and play within interactive visual, auditory, and tactile creations.

In November, the Midway Creative Complex in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood hosted Luminary (Expanded), their experiential arts and technology exhibit featuring work by dozens of local and international artists.

Melting Room by Marpi; photo by Shannon Riley

The Midway partnered with Future Fires, an online showcase for musical and digital artists, to curate a wild evening of performances and responsive artwork — as the Midway art director, Kelsey Issel, described it: “an immense gallery became a reactive, living organism, percussionists created explosions of color and light, and selfies rained like confetti from the sky.”

Luminary (Expanded) invited guests to not only participate in experiences but to create them. Art and tech were united, stimulating every sense. Each person’s physical being and movements were projected for others to enjoy. Selfies became part of the artwork, and the art was an ever-changing display — something no two people could experience in exactly the same way.


“Our hope is to create an experience that taps into every sense,” Issel said in an interview. “I believe that when you are truly immersed in an artwork, especially ones that utilize these new reactive technologies, you are able to experience yourself in a new way.”

The Midway was a very fitting site for this cross-disciplinary event. The mission of this creative complex is to bring artists and creators from different disciplines together in the same space in order to create together. “We are here to provide a platform for artists, musicians, chefs, and movers to create together, but also to extend that platform to the public,” Issel said. “Our space is just as much about creation and collaboration as it is about exhibition and performance. Luminary (Expanded) is a fantastic example of this. It taps into the intersection of art, music, emerging tech, and food.

“We had such a wide breadth of experiences, from a lively string quintet to programmed neon, from a reactive projection installation to aromatherapy in our spatial audio lounge. And of course our stages had a range of music programmed throughout the night.”

Melting Room by Marpi; photo by Frank Monteforte

Some of the highlights of the exhibition included Moshi Projects, Marpi’s Melting Room, and Maotik’s projection-based immersive and reactive environments; Envelop, a “temple of sound” that offered audiences an ambisonic sound experience paired with aromatherapy; Osman Koc‘s audio-reactive light installation; models exhibiting Behnaz Farahi’s “sight-reactive, shape-changing fabric”; a programmed neon installation by Meryl Pataky; and the Spray Painter device that reproduces any image on a phone through a little robotic spray can.

Osman Koc, "NOS Visuals x Avoidance Policy"

When asked about her favorite moment at the event, Issel spoke of a spontaneous interactive audience performance around Osman Koc’s piece “The Cone” during a lull in the programming. “Guests were waiting as the cellist was setting up — as a producer, a lull in programming like this is the reoccurring nightmare you have for a week before the show,” she said. “But what you forget is that you are just creating the space for your guests to feel inspired and creative; you can’t control the whole experience for them.”

She went on, “As people were waiting, they starting howling or clapping at the cone, beginning to realize that it was sound-reactive, and the light emitted from the cone swelled and receded accordingly. Moments like those are pure magic. It was unexpected and unplanned, and people felt like a part of the process and performance.”

The Midway and Future Fires set out to curate a deeply interactive exhibition, melding technology and art to foster new kinds of creative experiences. In that, it was more than successful.

For another unique experience, head to Fernet-Branca

All photos by the author unless noted

Shannon Riley is a creative consultant and cultural explorer living in the Bay Area. She is the founder of Building 180, a women-run arts management, consulting, and curation company for those who seek inspiration through art and design.


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