Knomad Colab is a collaborative duo based in Philadelphia that creates light architecture and site-specific art interactions. We worked with them back in 2017 to illuminate Red Rocks with homemade gobos made out of Roscolux gels. Their latest installation, Hidden City, uses “window projections” to reveal hidden gems around Philly and the surrounding areas. Keep reading to learn more as the Knomad Colab team describes the various activations of Hidden City below.
Hidden City is a series of light mural activations, using imagery of the window in its many forms to explore the spaces in between. The window is a threshold between two worlds. Metaphorically shapeshifting beyond pure architectural representation, the window takes many forms. The eyes are windows to the “soul.” Paintings, photos – the TV – are windows to fantastical realms … other times … and places. And perhaps the most dynamic of all, your computer – for it is a virtual window … a portal to the multiverse.
When asked why we created Hidden City, the simple answer is we were inspired … and artistically speaking, a bit stir crazy. After all, the core of Knomad’s ethos rests in creating experiential art (mostly in public spaces). We cannot deny we longed to do what we love once again! The more thorough answer, however, is the window. As the pandemic raged through 2020 and into 2021, our symbolic connection grew more visceral. The window, both virtual and IRL, became the vehicle to all worlds … paradoxically dividing and uniting.
Needless to say, days spent window gazing quickly blossomed into a vehicle for creative expression, and eventually, a full-fledged pop-up series was born.
Watch the video above to see how the Knomad Colab team brought Mermaid Falls to life.
Mermaid Falls took place at the Wissahickon Creek Dam. Often overlooked and under-appreciated for its allure, this landmark connects the natural space of Wissahickon to the bustling urban environment of East Falls. To create this piece, we created several hand-cut gel gobos that we projected onto the falls using five Rosco Image Spot® Mini LED projectors. We activated Mermaid Falls on three different nights. The first night was full of friends and fond memories!! The second night it rained, but the weatherproof Image Spot Minis were STEADFAST! On the third night, a man, who had fished the dam his entire life, caught a fish there for the first time … ever! Perhaps it was a mermaid! It was really too dark to tell.
Sanctuary popped up in the Turn Hole Tunnel, which is nestled in the charming mountain town of Jim Thorpe. The title speaks for itself, however, it’s always surprising how few people seem to visit the tunnel while in the area. Like the dam, this tunnel is a threshold between the natural and human-made world … as well as a link between past and present.
To create Sanctuary, we outfitted the five Image Spot Minis with R77337 Eastern steel window gobos. We filled the holes of the metal gobos with translucent resin paints to create the colorful stained-glass look. The projected windows, combined with the rocky cave walls, produced a uniquely dystopian experience.
A BREAK TO EXPLAIN HOW WE DID IT
Before revealing the rest of the series, we wanted to mention how we created these window projections in their remote locations. We powered the Image Spot Mini projectors with 14.8V, 1500mAh LiPo batteries. These are standard drone and RC car batteries that you can buy at most local hobby stores. It took a little electrical know-how to connect the batteries to the fixtures. Once we got the fixtures wired up, we found that the 1500mAH batteries powered an Image Spot Mini for about 1.5 hours. This was the perfect amount of time for our pop-up activations.
BROKEN SPACE I
Broken Space I was activated at the Asbury Steam Plant in Asbury Park, NJ. Built in the early 1930s, the plant was a means to heat other buildings along the boardwalk – making it a more desirable tourist destination. However, and more importantly, there is an ominous past steeped within this monolith. Its location was specifically chosen to block the “whites only” beach patrons from seeing the “blacks only” beach (dubiously named the Ink Well) on the other side. This space is not only a symbolic window, it is also quite literally, a physical demarcation of the space between two worlds … a lens into a toxic past, which still manifests itself in the present. We have a long way to go.
To create this activation, three R77141 Jacobean gobos were paired up with pieces of hand-painted acrylic. The combinations were installed inside three Image Spot Minis that were aimed at the side of the building. Those three tiny projectors created huge, two-story, rainbow-colored projections that fit perfectly inside the recessed window areas of the plant.
Planetary is born from experimentation in this series along with previous work with hand-painted gobos. This activation popped up in several “lost spaces” along the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. Planetary also represents our next evolution in this ongoing series of light mural installations. The image on the left is from the actual activation, while the digital animation on the right is a glimpse into the artistic future of these painted planets.
BROKEN SPACE II
Broken Space II is a recapitulation of the steam plant installation. Taking place at Lehigh and Aramingo (just blocks away from our home in Philadelphia), Broken Space II activates a similar threshold to Broken Spaces I. Inspired by thick layers of dusky warm tones, we used Rosco gel strips to color the window projections rather than resin paint.
As we switched off the lights of Broken Space II, we also closed the windows on our Hidden Spaces journey. One thing we know for certain – this is just the beginning. There are so many lost spaces to find! We can’t wait to conceptualize our next illuminated art project and share it with you!
To stay up-to-date with all of Knomad Colab’s upcoming projects, be sure to follow @knomad.colab on Instagram, or visit their website: knomad.colab.com. If you’d like to learn more about the LED gobo projectors they used to create the illuminated windows of their Hidden City installations, visit the Image Spot Mini product page on the Rosco website.