[Editor's note: Before and during Light City, we’ll be bringing you continuous stories of artists and performers involved in the festival.]
It all began with an awkward moment.
After the glow of last year’s Light City dimmed, artist Greg St. Pierre ran into someone he had evidently talked to at the festival, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember the conversation.
“Apparently, we talked but I didn’t remember who he was,” he says. “That really upset me.”
That led St. Pierre to reflect on the lack of communication, both in his own life and in society as a whole.
“I realized that things would be better if we just were more open and talked to each other instead of being in our own little worlds,” he says. “And I started trying to create this installation that was actually a conversation between strangers.”
St. Pierre enlisted the help of the man he initially didn’t remember, Samir Taylor, and together they lugged strings of LED lights down to the Inner Harbor and spent “a couple of nights having fun like kids as we worked on ideas for the project. One woman even called us ‘disco crab catchers,’” St. Pierre says with a laugh.
What emerged from this night, and hours of study and contemplation, was Communication Gaps, one of 23 light installations that will illuminate the Inner Harbor during Light City’s March 31-through-April 9 run. St. Pierre was part of Light City last year, and his Water Wall installation outside the Four Seasons was a popular attraction.
This year’s light and sound sculpture, which St. Pierre produced through his art and design studio GSP.studio, is more interactive as it requires the movements of two strangers across one of the harbor’s canals—the one between Pier 4 and Pier 5—for it to come to life.
Here’s how the installation works: When you reach its entrance, you’ll be asked to make a recording introducing yourself. Then, you and a stranger will stand on opposite ends of a canal and, based on how you dance, you’ll control the way the light from floating sculptures will travel across the water. And that introduction you recorded will be incorporated into the background sound, which your movements will control as well.
An intricate network of motion-activated software that St. Pierre programmed enables the installation to illuminate.
St. Pierre has put together a team of people—including renowned Baltimore musician Dan Deacon, who created the background music—to work on the project. (To see how you, too, can get involved, check this out.)
And perhaps one of the most important parts of the installation doesn’t have anything to do with light or sound, and is something you’ve likely encountered before—a nametag, which visitors will receive when they arrive at the installation. St. Pierre hopes festivalgoers will use this simple tool as a way to get to know one another at the festival.
“There’s this idea of, ‘Hey, I’m not a stranger to you. Talk to me.’ We’re all just in this together,” St Pierre said. “I hope people really walk away feeling they connected on a human level.”