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Local Artists Take Advantage of the Digital Age

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There are no limitations when it comes to the innovation of Kansas City’s innovative artists. Local talents joined forces at La Esquina Art Gallery on Nov. 5 and presented their abstract artwork to the public. Their collaborations came together into what they dubbed “Illum-A-Phonic Fest.”

The main idea behind the event was to translate musical performances into optical pleasures, as the artists blended their music into digital illusions.

The first act at the event was performed by composers Stacy Busch and Cody Kaul, an electronic duo from Kansas City. Kaul performed on a compact electronic drum set while Busch provided vocals to go along with their supercharged compositions. Behind them was an active infrared outline of their movements on a projection screen.

“The visuals behind us are actually created with an infrared security camera,” Kaul told the audience. “It picks up our movements, the computer processes them and then they are projected onto the screen.”

Their songs ranged from tranquil flows to fierce and irate compositions, one of which was explicitly titled, “I Get Angry.” The optics tracked the contrasting energies and sounds in their work and provided the audience with an additional level of entertainment.

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Footage of still visual art captured on video repeated between acts. During the intermission, slowed films of women dancing, blossoming flowers, and trees were projected for the audience.

The Mnemosyne Quartet followed Busch and Kaul with their jazz-oriented performance, “Fragmented Realities.” Eli Houghland, Michael Miller, Russell Thorpe, and Ted King-Smith used their saxophones to create soothing psychedelic tracks. However, the group credited the man behind the computer, Eric Souther, for their intricate megapixel projections. The visuals featured footage of various forms of nature, aimed to represent a day at the Kansas City Zoo, along with audio sounds of human interactions captured on the Kansas City Street Car. The videos used pixel sorting paired with digital feedback to create repetitive and overlapping outlines of animals, plants, and other forms of nature seen at the zoo.

“Everything we are doing live,” Thorpe said. “[Eric] manipulates with his hands, and [the computer] senses his motions and projects them onto the screen.”

The already innovative display was advanced enough to allow Souther to bring sounds that echoed throughout the gallery to life by making them visual, which was essentially the motive behind Illum-A-Phonic Fest.

In an age where the arts have somewhat faded away while technology has flourished, the creators of Kansas City used the very medium that seems to hinder art appreciation as a main element of their works. It seems they are having no trouble adapting.

mnoordhoek@unews.com

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