Lasers and Bagpipes


Sparks Lab came out of Jump-Start Performance Company’s Summer Sparks New Works Festival, a two day event which premiered in June, 2012. The idea was to have an opportunity for the various creative people involved in the dozen theater, dance, and media pieces presented at the festival to meet monthly and exchange ideas and do group work, and see what might come from this. Past gatherings have had something of a structure, with participants taking turns as facilitators. This month was a bit different. We basically gathered to take stock in where each of us wanted to go with our individual work, as well as how we might help one another. I’m glad to see that there is still enthusiasm in this group. I hope we are able to expand it some. We especially need people with a music background to round things out.

Last night twelve of us gathered (if I’m remembering correctly). Andrew led us in some basic warm up exercises. Laurie then guided us in a sort of visioning meditation where we were asked, each of us, to imagine that it was January of 2014, and for us to think of how our year had gone as far as our creative life was concerned. Some people spoke about fully envisioned projects. Others hinted at some less formed ideas. And a couple just made up some amusing shit on the spot. I’m looking forward to the work these people will be doing in 2013.


I just got an email from video artist Tim Walsh reminding me that I have some video files I’m supposed to get to him. Whoops! Damn holidays throwing everything out of whack. Actually, the videos look pretty damn good.

Back in December Tim was working with George and Catherine Cisneros at URBAN-15 for their annual holiday laser show, a very popular event. Much of the work is geared towards children, and over the years they’ve entertained tens of thousands of local kids in an outreach to schools. But there are also shows open to the general public which have not just the kiddy material, but also more experimental work. Those are my favorite pieces. Tim is not only a laser artist, but he’s also a musician, having worked in the past with groups such as Brave Combo. Over the years, I’ve seen some strong work where Tim and or George Cisneros have performed music, accompanied by the lasers, which at times are set up to be triggered by the music.

Back in December, after the run of the holiday laser show, Tim asked if I could video tape some of his laser work while his equipment was still set up at the URBAN-15 studio. It was a bit of a challenge. This is like trying to shoot TV sets or computer monitors. The problem is, cameras don’t see laser animation the way the human eyes sees it. The laser light is, I believe, scanning back and forth, not unlike a cathode tube on an old TV. Or perhaps it’s like the refresh rate of a CRT. Something like that. Anyway, I had to monkey around with my shutter speed and frame rate.

The best bit was when Tim unpacked his bagpipes (!) to play as the lasers pulsed and stabbed in the background. It looked like this. Just livelier.


I lowered the camera as far as my tripod would allow and went as wide as possible to get all of Tim in frame as he sat in a chair beside a standing lamp — he played there in a cozy pool of light as the lasers played behind him. Very cool stuff.


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