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The Power of the People: How SOLSTICE Is Showcasing Our Ability to Change the World


Daniel Iregui and Olivier Gagnon talk LBB’s Adam Bennett through the eye-opening impact of their beautiful - and fascinatingly profound - digital art installation

The Power of the People: How SOLSTICE Is Showcasing Our Ability to Change the World

You have more power than you realise. Rather than accepting a role as a bystander to our own lives, it’s all too easy to forget the extent of our true agency - not just for ourselves, but for the world around us, too. 

That was a message which, alongside the brilliant creative minds at Iregular, Daniel Iregui wanted to emphasise with SOLSTICE. The ambitious digital public art installation, which is running until the 24th February at Discovery Green in Houston, Texas, creates the conditions in which its own audience can become a protagonist. Somewhere between reflections, parallel dimensions, and reality, visitors are handed the ability to make meaningful changes to the environment around them with the help of a central brightly-lit sphere - referred to by Iregui and his team as ‘The Sun’. 

Whilst the temptation to read SOLSTICE as a commentary on climate change is powerful, there’s something more to the installation than that - something which speaks to our own, deeply human, power to affect change in ways we seldom stop to consider. 

To go behind the scenes of SOLSTICE, and discover how this idiosyncratic installation came together, LBB’s Adam Bennett sat down with Daniel alongside Iregular’s director of development and global partnerships Olivier Gagnon… 

LBB> Daniel and Olivier, where did the initial idea for SOLSTICE stem from, and how closely does the finished piece align with your vision?

Daniel> It started years ago, in a brainstorming session in our studio in Montreal. I enjoy those sessions, where by the end it feels as though the whole team is part of one larger brain. SOLSTICE came as a result of this process. 

In fact, it actually started life as an entry for a competition. We made it to the final, but didn’t win. Following that, we knew we had this great idea kind of laying around, waiting to be made real. It spent three years living life as a PDF file… that moment of transformation from PDF into reality was incredibly cathartic for us. 

Olivier> As luck would have it, I stumbled upon this project accidentally while wandering in the studio’s drive. Although we do keep it very organised, you can easily get lost and fall into the rabbit hole of creativity. That’s how I found out about SOLSTICE. As soon as I saw the artwork, its theme and format grabbed my attention. Moreover, it was a long way away from projections, screens and typical digital art.

At that point the presentation was already well developed and I was feeling completely comfortable presenting the project. After that, SOLSTICE then evolved through multiple meetings with a client. Despite that, however, the similarity between the design and the real work is striking!

LBB> Is SOLSTICE a kind of artistic commentary on our relationship with the climate crisis?

Olivier> SOLSTICE is essentially about how our own actions have far-reaching consequences. The audiovisual reverberation perceived throughout the vast space that occurs when someone rotates the sun is a way of visualising this ripple effect. Just like how the sun affects moods, seasons and nature, our individual decisions and actions also have effects on a global scale. 

This applies to many aspects of life, but more importantly and urgently to our planet. We often think about how our choices have negative repercussions on the planet, but the changes that we can implement as individuals have the power to influence the environment in a positive way, and the audience-activated sound and landscape transformation of the wondrous SOLSTICE space is the perfect metaphor for this. 

LBB> That’s interesting - so are there any other ways in which SOLSTICE could be interpreted? 

Daniel> Certainly, yes. You’re not the first person to ask about the link to the climate crisis, but this was not our primary focus. It’s a legitimate interpretation, of course, however our intention in designing it was to put the focus on human empowerment. When you’re interacting with the space we want you to feel as though you have a big influence on it. 

For me, that’s a nice metaphor for how our impact on the world, and on each others’ lives, can often be greater than we know. That can include your impact on climate change, certainly - but it wasn’t our core intention in designing SOLSTICE. 

Olivier> That’s right - Daniel’s artistic statement is all about creating digital interactive artwork that will transform the spectators into creators. In other words, putting people at the centre of the work. And,since we are in the public realm, we want to share the experience with as many human beings as possible. 

We want people to feel good, and to connect with themselves and others. No matter what kind of deeper meaning they find - or don’t find - that’s all subjective! The most important thing is that the visitor can take away a souvenir of a great experience that, in the case of SOLSTICE, helped them consider how meaningful their actions can be. 

LBB> Before people started interacting with the exhibition, did you have any expectations for how they might behave? 

Olivier> Our hope was that, to a greater or lesser extent, visitors would walk through and get lost in the space. When you get to the central sun, it's there that you realise, halfway through, that you have power within the installation and you can, ideally alongside someone else, rotate the sun. 

Not much to ‘do’ per se, but much more to live and experience - in other words, just letting  yourself get lost in the environment. 

Daniel> When you look at SOLSTICE, you see a lot of the graphical language I like to work with: repetition, frames inside frames, and patterns. We strive to craft systems that allow humans to feel expressive and creative. It’s all about visualising impact, and it’s super empowering - you’re interacting with something massive, and you feel like you have an influence on the space. We love that as a metaphor for how we can affect our lives and those of others.

LBB> What was the most challenging aspect of putting SOLSTICE together, and how did you overcome it? 

Olivier> Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think the logistical format was the most challenging component of SOLSTICE. Fortunately, and thanks to our production and fabrication partners Jack World, we were able to produce the work perfectly on time for its public launch. As you can imagine, all of the electronic aspects of the installation were also somewhat of a puzzle.

LBB> Finally, any other parting thoughts? 

Olivier> In the near future, I can see SOLSTICE touring Europe. I already have presented it to a few potential locations and so far, the installation is receiving a lot of traction. I cherish the idea of a commissioned permanent installation on a public square, as well.

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Genres: Scenic, Festival

Categories: Sports and Leisure, Events

Iregular, Wed, 30 Nov 2022 08:55:24 GMT