Arts & Design

Inside the creative minds of Magenta Field, the duo creating immersive art at Panorama

In the Lab by HP at Panorama, tech and creativity are fueling Magenta Field’s portals with light, motion and sound.

By Garage Staff — July 24, 2018

Surrounded by hundreds of LED light strips, Magenta Field hits play from a computer in their Brooklyn studio. The lights glow, sparkle and pulse, all perfectly coordinated with an epic soundtrack the artists created themselves. When it's ready, the art installation will take the form of a lumious tunnel, inviting people in for an incredible 10-minute experience of light, sound and movement. 

Magenta Field is a new venture for Brooklyn-based artists Chris Lunney and Kat Brice. Their latest art piece, The Portal to Flatland, is being presented at the Panorama Music Festival in New York City, July 27-29.

This is the third year HP has sponsored The Lab, an interactive experience at Panorama that combines art, design and technology produced by New York City artists. The artists featured in the lab use HP Z Workstation technology to power their art. The Lab’s principal feature is The Dome, a 70-foot 360-degree bubble, where festival-goers will be able to watch the short film “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” projected onto the inside of the dome itself.  

HP caught up with Magenta Field in their studio before they set up their installation at Panorama.

How did you two meet?

Kat Brice: We met at the New School in 2012. I was doing my final semester on exchange for my master’s of architecture and Chris was studying design technology at Parsons. We met in a class called Light, Space and Art.

Where did the name Magenta Field come from?

KB: Magenta is one of those colors that, for me, has always held a specific place in my heart, because when I was 8 years old I wrote a poem. It’s the only poem I’ve ever written. It was quite raunchy for an 8-year-old, but it was about the color magenta. It goes: ‘Magenta, magenta, I’m holding you tight, for you are my lover on a hot summer’s night.’

This is a rendering of The Portal To Flatland.

Magenta Field

This is a rendering of The Portal To Flatland.

It’s pretty intense for an 8-year-old to come up with. I guess that’s what the color magenta inspires, especially hot magenta.

Chris Lunney: We landed on “field” for two reasons. One, it relates to perception in our artwork. Like infrared photography, when you shoot a green grassy field, it turns out to be magenta, which is cool. There’s that inverse relationship. It also relates to energy fields and auras and this other realm of perception, something a little more spiritually-based.

What does The Portal to Flatland look like?

KB: The piece is 65 feet long, 15 feet wide and 12 feet tall. It will be the line for The Dome experience at the Panorama festival. Everyone who goes to see the dome will have to pass through our installation. It will be essentially a holding space right before you enter. Everyone goes into our installation and is there for the full duration of the set. There’s 150 people for an 8 to 10 minute set. At the end of that, they’re pushed on into The Dome. It really is a transition space, a portal to help transport people into this other dimensional experience they’re going to land in.

Why did you choose to do art with light, sound and motion?

KB: We’ve been experimenting with light for a number of years now. Light is a really incredible medium for being able to influence and work with people’s emotional states and transform an environment. We use a combination of light, sound and motion to be able to carry people through the journey. I think the syncopation of those mediums is very effective.

“We use a combination of light, sound and motion to be able to carry people through the journey.”

Kat Brice

I came from a background in architecture and Chris came from a background in audiovisual design, so it’s kind of the combination of the two that brings about the experience of light, space and sound.

How do you use technology in your work?

CL: Time is something we’re really interested in — how we manipulate someone’s experience or an environment over time. A way to control that often is through mechanics or electronics or some other means. We’re using narrative structures that are found in the theater and other areas, but we’re doing it with elements that change the way you perceive your environment, and those elements are sound, light, space and motion.

Generally, if there’s some type of technology that allows us to have a greater control over those elements, it’s something we’re excited about.

Sophie Butcher

Kat Brice and Chris Lunney working in their studio.

KB: We’re not technology forward in the sense that we don’t think of a technological device that we want to use and then create an installation around that. We really design what we want the experience to be and then we use the best tools to create that.

For me, coming from an architecture background, I found that buildings are so rigid in their experience. A lot of spaces are static except for the environmental shifts that happen around them. So having the ability to control and manipulate that environment through light and sound and motion is very exciting.

How did you learn the technical skills necessary to create this piece?

CL: There’s a lot of premade tools that we’re using, in terms of software. There are a lot of systems that are designed to control music or video or lights. We’re putting them together in a way that’s specific to our needs.

Luckily, a lot of the programs that we’re using, there’s great resources for. In a lot of the communities there’s tutorials and all kinds of stuff. People share how they’ve done things in the past. If we were developing products, surely there’s components for products that you can take from other people, but you’ve entered a world of competition. But in the world of art, people are generally just excited about the artwork and are open to sharing the tools.

KB: There’s a really good online community that builds on top of each other for certain programs that we’re using. Everyone’s building on top of the shoulders of the people before them. It’s a really nice open source community like that. Otherwise no one would get anywhere. That kind of shared mentality is really beautiful.

Chris Lunney and Kat Brice are Magenta Field.

Sophie Butcher

Chris Lunney and Kat Brice are Magenta Field.

What can people expect from the piece you’re presenting at Panorama Music Festival, The Portal to Flatland?

KB: We’ve composed sets about tension and release. You’re entering into a portal, an environment that we’ve created. We provide a space for people to have an experience, but we don’t necessarily dictate what that experience is. This particular journey transports you through three different worlds. Each level is a different space that’s created using different audio motifs and visual motifs.

We like to pull people into something and then plop them into another space and give them time to rest and recover. And then pull them and give them another space to move on through that.

CL: The worlds are a series of abstractions. We start with a world that is easier to wrap your head around. Then we subvert that the moment you wrap your head around it. Then we break into a new space, and once you adjust and feel comfortable, we rustle it up.

KB: Our first world is a more digital space, a breakdown of 3D generative computer-type environment. Then you’re transported into a space that is fields of color, a more emotional, open space. Then you’re transported again into a space that’s more vacant, and there’s a terrain of landscapes that build up around you. Then you’re whooshed through a final portal and unplugged.  

How should people prepare to enter The Portal?

CL: It’s exciting, because we’re at a festival, so everyone’s just excited to see stuff. It’s not like a gallery installation where everyone is going to bring their expectations. I think everyone is probably going to have the expectation to be entertained, and we’re really looking to do that for them, but also shake them a bit too. There will be moments that are intense.

KB: I feel like people don’t need to have expectations for this experience. It will transport anyone who’s inside of the space. They don’t need to sit there and analyze it too much or have any context for what’s happening before they enter the space. We kind of prefer that they don’t. We like the anticipation of people coming to our environments with a willingness to experience, an open mind and a playful attitude. We like to play with the element of surprise.


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