Client: University of Wisconsin/ Whitewater
Location: Whitewater, WI, United States
Completion date: 2011
Artwork budget: $66,000
University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
arts administration/ funder
The Wisconsin Arts Board
Badger Lighting & Signs
The activated elevators facade of the Sherman Plaza Self-Park become a gigantic symbol-system through the motion-activation of spotlights, icons and inscriptions upon the facade and street below. The sitework encompasses the entire 12-story structure. Entering or exiting the elevators, people trigger motion-activated spotlights, highlighting large-scale pattern-icons upon the south facade. The views from within the elevators are mediated by symbolic iconographies. At ground level, passersby encounter inscriptions that are revealed by the spotlights of descending elevator cabs—words that suggest the unforeseen outcomes and impacts of ideation and creation upon individuals and society. Dimensions: 45’W x 140’H x 22’D
It was our primary goal to magnify the sky bridge as a theatrical space, activating people passing through as actors-within-a-scene. The impact of the artwork is enhanced at night, as the movements of students through the corridors trigger motion-activated spotlights. Their shadows are projected onto corresponding translucent panels to suggest acts of individual expression. A viewer is focused upon a student performing a symbolic act of authorship. At nighttime, the cycle of the photo-luminescent inscriptions will be activated, at first glowing brightly, then slowly fading overnight, symbolizing cycles of Existence. The daily cycle of day and night will be harnessed and paralleled by the cycle of this art program. The dynamics of daytime—communication, interaction and connection—will be observed in the multi-story skybridge. As nightime sets in, the activation of the skybridge will become more intermittent, tapering off to inactivity. The glowing-then-fading inscriptions will suggest the solitary nature of thinking, feeling and dreaming—and students' cycles of physical and mental exhaustion.
The building was completed and nearing occupancy, so we worked with the facility manager to refine art-system details and the integration of the artwork into the sky bridge. Although we had access to the original architectural plans, we worked with exact site measurements to determine the scale and locations of all artwork elements. We worked directly with key administrators and students to develop a list of relevant words to constitute the semantic taxonomy of the artwork—icons inscribed on the West façade suggest how humans study, classify, harness and relate to Nature; the icons on the East façade suggest a grammar of knowledge—how humans formulate and express ideas in various domains of Culture; the photo-luminescent inscriptions are verbs that suggest the physical and mental realms of Existence. These icons and words are inscribed upon translucent or transparent acrylic panels, attached to the curtain wall framing. Theatrical spotlights with motion detectors are positioned to be triggered and project the bodies of people onto the translucent Culture panels on the East façade, to underscore human presence.
As required by the Wisconsin Arts Board, we worked with a public art archivist, to assess the lifespan of materials utilized in this installation. Due to the uncertain lifespan of the GloBrite photo-luminescent inscription film, an escrow account was established to fund the replacement of these inscriptions in the future.