Title: Vacation Planet
Date Created: 2020
Brooklyn-based digital mixed media artist Anne Spalter, academic pioneer and founder of Brown’s and RISD’s original digital fine arts programs in the 1990s, has taken over an 8,300 square foot space on the ground floor of a mixed-use building at 25 Kent in Williamsburg. The immersive artwork combines digital and analog art practices to present a crossmedia art installation featuring components like real tropical plants and an ocean soundscape, combined with sun-emulating washer lights and digitally printed spheres up to 16 feet in diameter.
For the exterior of Vacation Planet’s giant orbs, Spalter used custom, algorithm-based software to transform high resolution source footage of vacation destinations into the swirling, psychedelic, vibrantly rendered prints we see in the installation. Some of the fourteen spheres are suspended from the ceiling, while others rest tethered to the ground. The ceiling height of the space is 22 feet, and the resulting effect of the spheres’ size and placement variance is as if someone threw a set of giant marbles and a freeze-frame were captured mid-bounce.
Spalter intends the installation to be extremely accessible to the public, both conceptually and logistically. The space welcomes all, from a local worker on their lunch break to families or friend groups who want to have a weekend picnic. With that in mind, a key component of Vacation Planet is Spalter’s incorporation of six seating areas with Adirondack chairs and wicker coffee tables. Visitors are invited to sit down and hang out as long as they want within the installation; there is free Wi-Fi, and each of the six seating areas is outfitted with its own power strip. Guests can also enjoy three custom Instagram Stories filters featuring animated versions of the spheres. (When visitors follow @annespalter, the Vacation Planet filters will automatically show up as swipeable options in the “Stories” feature on the most updated version of the Instagram app.)
“I want visitors to experience their own personal vacation planet by entering a ‘sun-lit’ art installation offering a summertime respite from the winter in New York City,” explained Spalter. “Vacation Planet is meant to be a fun, surrealist immersive public art environment that mixes the semiotics of the tropical beach vacation with the mystery, wonder and loneliness of outer space by way of these planet-like orbs.”
The source footage of the spheres is intentionally unidentifiable in terms of location, and, collectively with the other installation components, is meant to evoke a surreal quality when one enters the space. Said Spalter:
“In more fantastical terms, I want the jumbo spheres to be as if someone had dipped a bubble wand into a moment at the beach or poolside and blown ‘memory bubbles’ that became planets in a galaxy of the mind. While the bright colors and palms evoke pleasurable getaways, the planetary-like orbs devoid of people (or with barely discernible teeny figures) and vast expanses of sand suggest something otherworldly.”
Spalter continues: “Stroll through or stay to eat lunch, work on your laptop, or take an Instagram. Full spectrum lighting and ambient sounds help to create welcoming space in which to spend an afternoon. It’s at once familiar and yet dreamlike and surreal. Are you floating or flying?”