With Day for Night opening its gates in just a few hours, it’s our last chance to introduce audiences to some of the incredible visual artists participating in this year’s festival. This time we focus on VT Pro, a Los Angeles-based design studio that you may remember for presenting at last year’s event. Prior to the debut of their latest piece, Free Press Houston spoke to Michael Fullman and Gabriel Fraboni of VT Pro to discuss their work, their background, and their experiences at Day for Night.
FPH: With a background that includes creating lighting and stage design for world concert tours, as well as crafting one-of-a-kind interactive installations, how does your participation in Day for Night fit into the creative model of VT Pro?
Michael Fullman: For us, it’s a really special festival, of all the ones we’ve been to in the world. It’s a lot more fun. Also, art is generally in the background when it comes to festivals, whereas all the art that happens here is more in the forefront and is more equally represented. Also, I think that from a design standpoint, the community of Day for Night is much more unique. While we’re all here building our installations, everyone is kind of crusing around, checking out what everyone else is doing. You’re building relationships that will last beyond the festival. There are artists that we interacted with a lot last year that we’re still in touch with and we shoot ideas back and forth. This one is fun for us because from a festival standpoint, usually we’re coming in with our show from the music side, which means we do our show and we leave. Most of the time we never get to enjoy the festival. So for this one, we’re here, we’re building an installation that’s totally us, it’s representational of all the pieces we like to do, and we get to just be here and see what everyone else is doing, too.
FPH: The installation VT Pro presented at last year’s Day for Night, titled “Bardo,” was one certainly one of the most memorable of the festival. As patrons passed through the massive archway, light from the dozens of fixtures responded to patrons’ movements. Can you tell me a bit about how you were able to facilitate such an user-responsive installation?
Fullman: Last year was different just because we did focus on the interaction, and we also learned a lot of things. We do a lot of interactive design in general as a company and I think one of the fun things about interactive design is that you really never know how it’s going to turn out. So, turning it over to people to interact with it, you’re always going to learn more about it than you could have thought of. We learned a lot last year watching how people interacted with the installation.
Gabriel Fraboni: Our expectations were completely different than reality.
Fullman: Also, when you’re counting on an audience to drive the complexity of the piece, there’s a lot of things you have to think of that don’t always come to mind. Last year was kind of a big gamble, on a whole lot of different things. We used a lot of different technologies from our lighting design background to our tracking background, also integrating all these different technologies. This year we’re focusing less on interactive, more on highlighting a lot of our strengths as a company, and it reflects a lot of things we’ve been playing with over the last year. We kind of strayed away from more of the interactive technology and more on the intense programming focused and design focused goals as a piece.
FPH: Does the sheer number of people at the festival add a particular challenge to creating an interactive installation?
Fullman: Yeah. Always.
Fraboni: With this one we’re seeing a lot of new challenges. For this one we’re doing a seven-minute show at the top of every hour and it’s for a specific number of people. With that, that presents its own challenges, more in egress and flow. We want everyone to experience it, so right now we’ll have about 30 runs of our show over the course of the three days, whereas last year people were able to walk through and we could start a show whenever we wanted to. There was no real max capacity. So for us, that’s definitely a challenge. We want to make sure that everyone gets to experience our piece, as well as getting to show the beauty of what we’ve made.
FPH: You’re known for highlighting the physicality of light with your installations. Will that be a component of your installation at Day for Night this year?
Fullman: Yes, massively. Last year was really an exploration of the absence and presence of light, and this year our installation is basically that to the nth degree. It’s really great that the festival gave us an entirely closed space for us to do that in, there’s so many variables we can do without.
FPH: Do you have any particular goals with your installation this year?
Fullman: We want it to be great, obviously. A really big goal for us was getting all of our team involved with it. Everyone is so excited for it to happen and we’re bringing a ton of our team members out that aren’t necessarily out here for the install process, people who don’t usually get to see these things happen. They work more in the office and work really, really hard on getting it all put together. This was a collection of a lot of different people working really hard on this installation. I think the biggest goal is just finishing out the year with a piece that’s really representational of us as a company and that we had a lot of fun making.
FPH: As the only returning visual artist from last year’s festival, what are your expectations about this year’s event?
Fullman: I don’t really have any expectations. That’s kind of one of the fun things about this festival. Even from last year to this year, it feels so different for us. It’s really exciting and it’s fun and I just hope that we see a growth to the entire program over the next couple of years. I hope that more people make it out this year to experience the special thing that Day for Night is doing and that everyone has a great time.
FPH: Are there any visual artists that you’re particularly excited to meet or see?
Fullman: I mean, yeah. We have a fun little neighborhood down here with Cocolab over here, Hovver, Kyle McDonald. Upstairs you’ve got Playmodes — I’ve always really liked their work — and Matt Schreiber, his work is incredible. This year I think that on the visual artist side, everyone they’re bringing to the table is just doing really, really great work. Like I said, the community behind all of it is one of the things that really draws us to this festival. Having all these great people making things all in one place is just really fun.
Fraboni: That atmosphere in general is what makes this so special. You know that you have some of the world’s best visual artists all in one place, and everyone is just excited about what the others are doing. A lot of times the other one is like, “What we’re doing is nothing compared to you.” Then we’re like, “Well, we’re mystified by it!” So it’s really just this awesome community of artists who are fans of each other. It creates an amazing atmosphere. There’s this general level of excitement that you don’t really feel at any other festival. At a lot of other festivals, the atmosphere is like, “Oh, here we are, let’s do it again. We’ve done this in 30 other places this year.” But this one, it’s so unique. That kind of air of excitement is contagious. It’s really something else.