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 March 23, 2014
Janet Echelman Interactive Sculpture Installation At The TED Conference In Vancouver

 Studio Echelman installed its largest, most interactive sculpture installation to date at the TED Conference's 30th anniversary, March 2014. The monumental aerial sculpture spanned 745 feet between the 24-story Fairmont Waterfront and the Vancouver Convention Center, challenging the artist to work on her most ambitious scale yet -- over twice the size of her largest previous sculpture.

The sculpture was presented with an original, interactive work created in collaboration with artist Aaron Koblin, Creative Director of the Data Arts Team in Google's Creative Lab. At night the sculpture came to life as visitors were able to choreograph the lighting in real time using physical gestures on their mobile devices. Vivid beams of light were projected across a massive scale as the result of small movements on spectators' phones.

In the daytime, the sculpture's delicate yet monumental form is subtle, blending in with clouds and sky. A complex matrix of 860,000 hand and machine-made knots and 145 miles of braided fiber weighing nearly 3,500 pounds span 745 feet make up Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks.

In order to achieve such scale and complexity, Echelman turned to Autodesk, a leader in 3D design software that seeks out interesting design problems. Autodesk collaborated with Studio Echelman to create custom 3D software to model the sculpture and test its feasibility. "The software has allowed me to explore density, shape, and scale in much greater detail," says Echelman. "We can manipulate our designs and see the results immediately. We're able to push the boundaries of our designs further."

Made entirely of soft fibers, the sculpture can attach directly into existing city architecture. To support the artwork across such a large span, Echelman utilized Honeywell Spectra fiber, a lightweight, durable material 15 times stronger than steel by weight. It is designed to travel to cities around the globe after the 2014 TED Conference exhibition as an "idea worth spreading."

This project embodies the infusion of art and technology, as both continuously evolve together. "I want people to feel protected, yet linked to open sky," says Echelman. "I hope that visitors feel more connected to those around them -- to neighbors and strangers."

The title of the sculpture, 'Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks', refers to a quotation from Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'. Through the interactive lighting component, each person can choreograph light onto the artwork and "it's about each one of us being one of those stars -- those sparks -- and being able to paint the skies," says Echelman.

For more info on this project, and to view a making-of video, please visit www.unnumberedsparks.com

www.echelman.com

Janet Echelman Biography

Janet Echelman builds living, breathing sculpture environments that respond to the forces of nature --- wind, water and light --- and become inviting focal points for civic life. Exploring the potential of unlikely materials, from fishing net to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with cutting-edge technology to create her permanent sculpture at the scale of buildings. Experiential in nature, the result is sculpture that shifts from being an object you look at, to something you can get lost in.

Recent prominent works include: "Her Secret is Patience" spanning two city blocks in downtown Phoenix, "Water Sky Garden" which premiered for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, "She Changes" on the waterfront in Porto, Portugal, and "Every Beating Second" in San Francisco Airport's new Terminal Two.

Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Echelman was named an Architectural Digest 2012 Innovator for "changing the very essence of urban spaces." Her TED talk "Taking Imagination Seriously" has been translated into 34 languages and is estimated to have been viewed by more than a million people worldwide.

Artist's Story

American artist Janet Echelman reshapes urban airspace with monumental, fluidly moving sculpture that responds to environmental forces including wind, water, and sunlight.

Echelman first set out to be an artist after graduating college. She moved to Hong Kong in 1987 to study Chinese calligraphy and brush-painting. Later she moved to Bali, Indonesia, where she collaborated with artisans to combine traditional textile methods with contemporary painting.

When she lost her bamboo house in Bali to a fire, Echelman returned to the United States and began teaching at Harvard. After seven years as an Artist-in-Residence, she returned to Asia, embarking on a Fulbright lectureship in India.

With the promise to give painting exhibitions around the country, she shipped her paints to Mahabalipuram, a fishing village famous for sculpture. When her paints never arrived, Echelman, inspired by the local materials and culture, began working with bronze casters in the village.

She soon found the material too heavy and expensive for her Fulbright budget. While watching local fishermen bundling their nets one evening, Echelman began wondering if nets could be a new approach to sculpture: a way to create volumetric form without heavy, solid materials.

By the end of her Fulbright year, Echelman had created a series of netted sculpture in collaboration with the fishermen. Hoisting them onto poles, she discovered that their delicate surfaces revealed every ripple of wind.

Today Echelman has constructed net sculpture environments in metropolitan cities around the world. She sees public art as a team sport and collaborates with a range of professionals including aeronautical and mechanical engineers, architects, lighting designers, landscape architects, and fabricators.

She built her studio beside her hundred-year-old house, where she lives with her husband David Feldman and their two children.

www.echelman.com