Technology. Nature. Humankind.

Breckenridge prepares to transform its downtown landscape once again with WAVE: Light + Water + Sound, a festival in the tradition of Scottsdale, Arizona’s Canal Convergence and other “light festivals” around the world, launched by Breckenridge Creative Arts (BCA) last year.

Taking place June 1-4, WAVE will animate public spaces from Blue River Plaza to the river itself with a whimsical riot of large-scale, contemporary public art, both illuminated and interactive. Artists rely on state-of-the-art digital technology to produce immense, colorfully lit pieces that burst the bounds of traditional art.

Curated around the themes of water, light, and sound, WAVE also emphasizes artworks and activities that explore ecological topics, echoing local residents’ love and concern for the natural environment in a playful way that invites participation without preaching.

‘Intrude’ by Amanda Parer
Imagine if town were taken over by six enormous bunnies—some reclining, some perched alert at the ready, and all towering above your head, 20-40 feet tall. That describes Amanda Parer’s forthcoming installation, which calls attention to the ecological impact of this seemingly harmless introduced species in her native Australia.

Many people think of rabbits as cute and cuddly creatives, evocative of story tales, or chocolates and Easter. And yet, introduced to Australia 200 years ago by white setters, rabbits have wreaked havoc upon the native flora and fauna. “I use the rabbit as a symbol,“ said Parer. “We are doing a lot of trudging around the earth without the forethought of the effect.” At the same time, “seeing a giant rabbit in the landscape is funny,” she said. “It’s a humorous way to pass on a serious message.”

Parer began doing installation art in 2014 after years working in paint. Even then, her preferred format was large-scale—paintings meant to fill an entire field of vision. “I like the idea of encompassing people in a space with an artwork,” she said. Many of the galleries who collected her work preferred smaller pieces, however, which she found restrictive. “I saw festivals as a way to break out,” Parer said. “I’m really enjoying this sort of invading whole spaces; it’s really fun. I haven’t picked up a brush since.”

Parer is currently working on a new piece called “Fantastic Planet,” inspired by a Czech animation of the same name in which human beings become the feral species of the future. The work will feature five enormous but playful humanoid figures, soon to take over parks and city spaces worldwide.

‘Polygonum 2.0’ by Tom Dekyvere
Belgian artist Tom Dekyvere will create a massive overhead network of glowing ropes, tracing unseen connections between people, environment, and the digital world. The artist visited Breckenridge in February to study connection points between local structures and natural objects like trees. “I always work site-specific with the structures I make,” he said. “The work is custom made for Breckenridge.”

Dekyvere’s glowing rope structures explore intersections between humans, nature, and technology, showing “similarities in form language between our analog world—the fauna and flora, the natural environment; and our digital world—our social networks, our behavior on the internet, bytes and data,” he said. “That is what the work is all about— artificial structures that have the same form language as natural structures.”

He uses 6-millimeter-thick nylon ropes knotted together without touching to form a geometrical pattern “like a bone structure growing through each other,” he said. The ropes are illuminated by ultraviolet and deep blue lights projected on them. Most of his materials are upcycled from previous installations, and he chose LED lights because they consume less energy than traditional light sources.

“I wanted to be able to paint in the sky,” Dekyvere said of his chosen medium. As a child, he was intrigued by the lines traced across the sky by passing airplanes. “For me all these lines were making crosses with each other,” he said. “It meant people traveling from one place to another—intersections, people connected to each other without knowing it.”

The 32-year-old has shown his work around the globe, from Sydney to London to the Van Abbe Museum in the Netherlands, where he shared exhibition space with some of the biggest light artists in the world. In February, he made his U.S. premiere at Canal Convergence by Scottsdale Public Art, which helped BCA to bring Dekyvere on board for WAVE.

MICRO’ by Purring Tiger
The interactive installation “MICRO” by Aaron Sherwood and Kiori Kawai aims to elicit spontaneous performance art from audiences, moving them to dance by the sound and light responses triggered each time they touch one of 200 spheres suspended from above.

“I’m always thinking about how people move, how this installation makes people move,” said Kawai, a Japanese choreographer and dancer who partners with American new media artist Aaron Sherwood in Purring Tiger, the collaboration that brought MICRO forth. “Whatever the reaction coming out from people—the honest reaction, surprise, or sometimes there’s a fear to touch, shifting into wonder and enjoying the movement and the touch itself,” Kawai said. “That type of movement honestly coming out of people’s bodies—that dance aspect—is mostly what I’m focusing on.”

Sherwood, who explores cause and effect in his work, did the music, electrical design, and engineering for the piece. Visually, the hanging spheres evoke a world of subatomic particles and quantum physics. Mechanically, they speak to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle—wherein “you try to observe something, and just by the very fact of observing it you change it,” he explained. So with MICRO, “you touch it; it lights up; it makes a sound.”

Often, the artists observe, tentative exploration gives way to surprise and then wonder, and there’s an opening up as people begin to play with the piece. “Kids definitely love it,” said Sherwood. “What’s really interesting to us is when we see the adults start acting like kids and playing with it, stepping out of their day-to-day reality.”

Sherwood and Kawai will arrive in Breckenridge prior to the WAVE festival to do a residency at the Robert Whyte House, during which Kawai will reach out to local dancers to choreograph a site-specific performance with MICRO for the festival.

Partnerships + Pieces
Also exhibiting at WAVE is Andrew Wade Smith, a Portland-based media artist who will do a residency at the Tin Shop in the weeks leading up to the festival. Smith aims to integrate the science of “cymatics”—which translates literally to “wave” and utilizes vibrational phenomena—in some of the large-scale, site-specific digital projection and sound environments he is planning for the interior and exterior of Old Masonic Hall. WAVE will also feature light and shadow installations by Denver-based artists Sophia Dixon Dillo and Jane Guthridge.

The festival welcomes a host of local and regional artists and partners for the first time this year, including High Country Conservation Center (HC3) and Keystone Science School. HC3 is providing repurposed water bottles for a participatory public art installation, while sharing educational statistics about water use and the global plastic pollution crisis. Children’s workshops from Keystone Science School will concentrate on water ecology in our local rivers with activities such as water quality testing and a hunt for microorganisms. The local partnerships help to create more connections between art and environmentalism, according to Becca Spiro, director of learning and innovation for BCA.

“None of us can do it alone,” said Robb Woulfe, CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts, who modeled WAVE: Light + Water + Sound after Scottsdale’s Canal Convergence. “We are working to develop a robust partnership with Scottsdale Public Art. This is our first foray into what I would call co-presentations, and eventually co-commissions.”

Partnerships with arts organizations and creative sector members make it possible to commission new artworks, or share ideas and costs on projects such as WAVE, he explained. “You learn from your colleagues; you share with your colleagues; and you hopefully all grow as a sector.”

“WAVE is special because it takes our familiar, day-to-day public spaces and uses them as canvases upon which fantastic and meaningful pieces of contemporary art are created. These artworks are so sensational, so engaging, they can’t help but bring people together,” Woulfe said. “Whether you’re playing with people you’ve never met while interacting with MICRO’s hanging spheres, or pausing to reflect on our environmental impact beneath Amanda Parer’s giant bunnies, we hope these moments of spontaneous interaction will bring people together, building community in the shared space of wonder and awe.”

Aaron Sherwood + Kiori Kawai, Purring Tiger //
Amanda Parer //
Tom Dekyvere //
Andrew Wade Smith //
Sophia Dixon Dillo //
Jane Guthridge //

Photos: Valery Bellengier, Tom Dekyvere, Mark Pickthall, Amanda Parer Studios, Purring Tiger, Andrew Wade Smith, and Russick Smith.