Technologies for Ecstatic Transformation: Chad Mount’s Art of Spectacular Lights and Sensorial Surprises

By: Jason Lahman for CODAworx

Painting with the Currents of Serendipity and Music

“I strive to create new sensory experiences. I use all kinds of technologies to make my art more surprising, more beautiful, more emotionally moving.” For Oklahoma City-based artist Chad Mount, there is no division between technology and art.“Technology in all of its forms is really important when we’re talking about public art. What’s available now is really mind-blowing. I find that people in tech and the arts are really open to collaborating. We have to be learning from one another to make public art more impactful and meaningful.”

Chad Mount

Photographs of Mount’s “micro-paintings”. The artist is interested in playing with perceptions of scale.

Chad Mount large-scale paintings

Large-scale paintings from Mount’s series “Blooming Currents”, reflect the artist’s interest in the harmony of random patterns and synchronicity in nature as well as the ocean and climate change.

“My early professional background was in animation, game design, and graphics. I didn’t pick up a paintbrush until I was older. Almost immediately I realized that it was like I was learning how to paint with currents of energy. I learned very quickly to follow the path of the paint and other substances that I was working with on wet surfaces. It was almost like dancing.” Two bodies of work that emanated from this process were a series of micro-paintings (done on surfaces no bigger than an iPhone screen) and another large-scale series called ‘’Blooming Currents.” Reminiscent of the Hubble Telescope’s interstellar images, of weather patterns seen from space or neural nets inside the brain, Mount’s paintings also bear a kinship with music and the images created by sonic technologies.

Chad Mount art

The Canterbury Voices performs the cantata “Carmina Burana” in front of a projection of a live, transformational painting by Mount. Oklahoma City.

“I’ve worked with theremins, vintage sound systems and audio sampling of all kinds- so when I was asked to collaborate with our local choral society the Canterbury Voices to create a real-time painting in conjunction with the performance it was a natural fit.” Mount rehearsed for weeks in his studio listening to Carl Orff’s legendary cantata based on the musings of medieval monks who lament and celebrate the rise and fall of human life in relation to the goddess Fortune’s ever-turning wheel. It was then that Mount saw even more clearly how his painting was like chemistry meeting up with choreography. “Every choice I made was seen in blazing light hovering over a chorus of 261 singers. It was about finding a balance between staying in control and giving in to the spontaneity of the materials. That’s also one of the messages found in the poetical text of Carmina Burana. To really learn how to ride the wheel of experience as you go through life.”

Chad Mount and conductor Ellefson

Conductor Dr. Randi Von Ellefson and Mount congratulate one another over the real-time painting created during the performance.

Chad Mount choral painting

A backstage view of the painting that Mount created in real time as a visual response/analogical companion to the choral music performance using principles discovered during the creation of his various abstract painting series.

 

Projection Mapping for Towers, Forests, and Waterfalls

Chad Mount projection art

Designs for the upcoming projection of Mount’s luminous artwork on the cylinder of the old Bricktown Water Tower, Oklahoma City.

“Projection mapping is one of the most exciting technologies when it comes to engaging the public,” says Mount, who has transformed a number of spaces over the past few years. Among these are fashion show runways, forest canopies at midnight, the interiors of industrial studios and the old-fashioned porches of residences where musicians set up spontaneous concerts as a part of an innovative local music festival. “There are so many ways you can describe the beautiful outcomes of using this technology to create public art experiences. It’s a lot like weaving with light or building temporary, dreamlike architecture. It’s difficult to explain just how powerful it is. It’s like really great music- you can hear a recording or have someone tell you about it- but to experience it, on a large scale and in real time makes all the difference.”

Chad Mount neon projection art

An industrial studio is transformed into a psychedelic wonderland of neon patterns & interwoven light

“Although people have been using projectors to transform architecture for decades, the mapping technologies we have now allow artists to create designs that will interface with every surface.” Mount also finds that serendipity plays a part in how this can all work out to perfection. “One of the coolest experiences I had was finding out that a local waterfall was going to be experiencing flooding. We raced to the site to set up the equipment and see if we could collaborate with the rocks, the water and the symbolic images I had been playing with in relation to the landscape.”

Chad Mount waterfall projection

Projection mapping and real-time painting come together to transform the outcropping near a flooding waterfall into a meditation on the history of the American West and Native American symbolism.

 

A Luminous Cave for the Senses

Chad Mount artist sketch

Initial sketch for the glowing passage/space which will have cells containing luminescent algae samples in glass orbs.

“One of the projects I’m most excited about these days builds on recent scientific developments in the study and uses of bioluminescence.” Mount is designing an interactive space -part cavern, part passageway, part rhizome- in which visitors will find themselves surrounded by structures containing small cells with orbs of water-born algae that respond to stimulus by emitting a gentle green glow. The collaboration is with Dr. Henrik Toft Simonsen of Mosspiration Biotech based in Denmark.

Examples of bioluminescent forms of algae under a microscope

The movement of the visitors in this space will stimulate a mechanism inside the glass orbs causing slight agitation and making the algae glow. What’s more, there is also a scent component to this space. The shifting glow will be accompanied by a pleasant and subtle smell derived from essential oils. “We live in an overwhelmingly visual culture. I love spectacular visuals but I also want to bring the other senses into play. This project does just that- bringing the pleasure of smell, touch, and sight together just as most of my other projects connect visuals with sound. The more I collaborate with other artists and with scientists, the more I come to understand the possibilities of connecting with people’s senses. I think the public is hungry for this- and we have the technology to make it all happen in the public sphere.”

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