Sneak Peek at this Year's Fire Arts Festival
Starting this Wednesday night, the Crucible's annual festival in West Oakland combines fire and art with spectacular results.
Photos by Cindy Chew
This Wednesday marks the start of the Crucible’s ninth annual Fire Arts Festival, the non-profit foundry’s main fundraiser, and a spectacle with the stated purpose of “celebrating creativity through fire and light.” Running from July 15–18, the Crucible gave Diablo a sneak-peak at some of this year’s exhibitions, an eclectic mix of small and large, intense and whacky. Below are three examples of the bizarrely creative art you can expect to find at the Fire Arts Festival this year. For more information and to buy tickets, CLICK HERE. For a chance to win two free tickets to Friday night's show, CLICK HERE.
Like several of the artists I talked to, 41-year-old East Bay resident David Andes has been showing his work at this festival for several years. Andes, an engineer and member of Bay Area fire art collective Therm, speaks about his piece (which he's been working on for 9 months) not so much in artistic but in technical terms—the approximately four-foot-high sculpture is hooked up to and controlled by his laptop. While perhaps less imposing size-wise, his sculpture is clearly impressive in its technical sophistication, not to mention hypnotizing to watch, with the fire spewing from the piece's head rhythmically shifting in color and intensity.
"It's got a lot of internal sensors, it's computer controlled, it's got a fairly compicated algorithm that drives how it works and what it does, and it has a fairly precission-controlled internal combustion. I've actually put a lot of time into controlling the air-fuel mixture ratio, trying to really have control over the fire, make the fire really dance, instead of just turning it on and making a big splash of light."
"The allure is, it's dancing with fire, it's controlling a very dynamic, dangerous fundamental force of the universe, learning to become a better craftsman, learning to create more preceisely something you see in your head."
The Life Size Mouse Trap, the wonderfully ludicrous creation of 43-year-old San Francisco-resident Mark Perez, is the polar opposite of Andes' piece in many ways. As the title suggests, the piece is a life-sized recreation of the classic kid's board game, 13 years in the making. Perez's Mousetrap is big and goofy, and relies entirely on mechanical engineering—the kinetic sculpture does not require a computer and in fact doesn't even require electricity once it gets going. Perez and his art group will be performing two vaudevillian-type shows in the center of the mouse trap—complete with live music—each night of the festival.
"Just like the board game: Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't," Perez jokes. "It's actually very simple: I decided right away not to use electricity in the machinery. It's just levers, counterweights, screws, gearworks—there's 16 interconnected pieces, all hand-built. It takes 5 days just to set up."
Don't try to smell Brett Levine's sculpture which consists of around a dozen towering black flowers—the carbon-and-steel creations can spit three-foot bursts of fire out of their center. Not only that, but the rhythm of those bursts can be synchronized to audible stimulation—anything from music on his connected laptop to Levine's own voice. Like Andes' sculpture, this installation is technologically sophisticated, relying on state-of-the-art computer programming to allow it to interact with its environment. Based in San Francisco, Levine is part of an artists group called False Profit Labs, which created the flower piece.
"Kind of our thing is better art through science, and it's really geared towards taking these scientific principals and visualizing that in fire ... everybody has this deep connection with fire, and I like that we've transitioned from fire in caves, through fire on your stove, to now absolutely precise control of the fire in this very interactive way. I like the educational aspect of it as well, and, especially around the Bay Area, it's a very DIY kind of audience that tends to ask a lot of quesitons."