If you’ve been walking along the 16th Street Mall for the past week or so, you may have noticed something unusual – beautiful even. It’s been the testing of a new permanent installation on the Daniels and Fisher Tower that’s making its official debut on Thursday, November 7, after many years of dreaming and planning. The projection mapping installation Night Lights Denver is an artistic and technical masterpiece that will prove to the world that Denver is at the forefront of creativity and innovation.
Night Lights Denver is the result of countless hours of collaboration between the Denver Theater District and Downtown Denver Partnership, as well as the technical acumen of Display Devices. It’s also only the second projection mapping project of its kind in the United States. Mostly, though, it’s going to be an indescribable experience for everyone who walks by on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
“Night Lights Denver is an opportunity for The Denver Theatre District to continue our work providing experimental platforms for artists, on a more permanent basis,” said DTD Executive Director David Ehrlich.
And experimental it is. Projection mapping has been used for years, but not often in the way DTD has commissioned it. It’s generally used for temporary installation for spectacle or as an advertisement. Night Lights will be permanent and will not be used for advertising purposes, but those aren’t the only factors that make it special. The shape of the Clocktower made the execution unique and presented an exciting challenge for Display Devices.
The ultimate goal for the project was to be not only iconic but also make the projection seamlessly integrate with the building. That integration was done with 10 projectors expertly housed a block away. What looks like a single video stream is actually multiple images at once. Each projector is responsible for a specific area of the projection, whether it’s a certain portion of the imagery or the blending of images. The sharpness of each artwork and precision of the projection show just how far projection mapping has come since its earliest days.
One aspect that makes the installation so exciting is the monthly rotation of art that will be displayed on the Clocktower. For its opening weekend, we’ll get to see work from three artists, two of whom are creating locally.
The world-renowned international artist collective Limelight created the introductory projection that was inspired by building new beginnings. Local conceptual artist Joel Swanson coded a series of hypnotic vignettes that play with everyday typographic symbols. Finally, British illustrator and recent Denver transplant Sofie Birkin collaborated with Vincent Comparetto to animate a love letter to her wife that’s also an homage to Denver.
If the first collection of artists serves as any indication of the future, Night Lights Denver will stun and marvel 16th Street visitors for years to come.
“Our vision for this project is that Night Lights Denver truly becomes ‘the people’s projector,’ encouraging Denver to participate and contribute,” said Ehrlich.
Join the Denver Theater District and Downtown Denver Partnership on November 7 for the official debut of Night Lights Denver. The installation will run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and light refreshments will be available in Woody Creek Bakery and Café. For more information, go here.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.