DANM students and alums project digital light on museum’s ‘Glow’ festival

Three dancers perform Thai dance in Electroluminescent Wire costumes inside the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History during the first night of the GLOW festival. (Photo by Lance Miller)

Live video mix by DANM alumni and students outside the museum on the second night of GLOW. (Photo by Angela Detweiler)
 A single frame of a live video mix by DANM alumnus Drew Detweiler on Cell DNA software created by UCSC grad Peter Nyboer.

 A live video mix was projected on the Dancetronauts elaborate DJ stage designed specifically for video projection. (Photo by Rodney Spencer)
Lumisketch, a light tracing application developed by DANM Alumni Lyes Belhocine. This version of the application was designed to let children of all ages write with light on a wall by using the minimal light source provided by any cell phone screen. (Photo by Brandon Burgdorf)

More than 2,500 people showed up for the Museum of Art & History’s “GLOW” festival, held on two separate nights in downtown Santa Cruz during the last weeks of March.

The event featured more than 50 community artists who work with fire and light-- with exhibits ranging from glowing art installations to interactive dance and video performances, to cutting-edge pyrotechnic arts.

Drew Detweiler, a 2010 graduate of UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) M.F.A. program, organized the digital arts portion of the program.

He currently works on campus as a research associate for DANM.

“For me, it’s important to take what we do on campus and get it out into the community—to share our work,” said Detweiler. “The Santa Cruz community is really interested in technology.”

Detweiler was one of several UCSC alums and students who participated in the GLOW festivities.

He worked on two dance performances—for the first, he created a live video mix of dancers wearing  electro-luminescent wires, projected onto a giant screen, and set to music by UCSC professor Karlton Hester. 

For the second performance, Detweiler projected video onto dancers wearing Isis wings—giant translucent butterfly-like wings that reflect light.

Other contributions by DANM students and alums included an audio/video installation of glowing projections on the museum floor that were triggered by attendees who walked over them, as well as an LED-lighted sculpture hanging in the circular staircase that reacted to sounds in the gallery space.

There was also clothing adorned with an array of LED lights that reacted to the ambient noise of the room.

Plus, an interactive video installation with projection-mapped images on a 3-D cubed surface that users were able to interact with through the Kinect game interface--allowing them to control video on the cube through their own gestures in the air.

Detweiler has kept busy since graduating from the DANM program, organizing exhibitions of digital art, and working on a variety of different projects.

This past summer, he attended UCSC’s Open Lab Summer Institute: “Art + Astrophysics,” where he designed a Wii-triggered game called “Galactic Bowling”—trying to demonstrate the improbability of a star’s orbit coming close to a black hole.

“I worked with (professor) Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz and his Astrophysics students and our DANM students,” said Detweiler. “We made the game frustrating and challenging to give the sense of how improbable this event is. It’s a way of teaching using visualization.”
Detweiler added that he is currently working with UCSC professors Karlton Hester (music), Ted Warburton (theater arts-dance), and, Greg Laughlin (astrophysics), to develop a dance piece based on the classic physics Three-Body Problem.”

“It’s interpreting an astrophysics visualization through dance and music,” explained Detweiler. “We’re presenting a scientific visualization on stage through video, dance, and lighted costumes.”

A non-traditional student, Detweiler enrolled in UCSC’s DANM program after spending eight years working as the head of post-production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

He’s glad he did.

“DANM was everything I hoped it would be,” Detweiler noted. “It gave me the time, space, and resources I needed to create new work and update my skill set to the current technology. And through the connections of faculty, I’ve been able to get my work out into the larger Bay Area community,” he added.