A woman rises from a 40-foot-high steel grate and looks toward the eastern horizon, her back to the setting sun in the fiery hues of Red Rock Canyon. A monumental steampunk octopus lets out fire, rising and falling over a booming bass. Hundreds of racing LEDs lead the way into the dark abyss of the desert night.
An outdoor art gallery called Transfix that looks eerily similar to the visual landscape of the Burning Man festival in the northern Nevada town of Black Rock City has just opened on a four-acre, 200,000-square-foot multi-level site. The gates of Resorts World on Las Vegas Blvd.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Tom Stinchfield, co-founder of Transfix and CRO, describes it as an exhibition space for works of art – interactive, kinetic, illuminated and inspiring – that physically or psychologically do not fit into a conventional gallery.
"It's massive. It's a lot of country. It is very difficult to sell these works or to find them in museums or galleries. Most of the time they literally don't fit," Stinchfield says of the more than 41 works by 39 artists providing live experiences, from light and sound to video, occupying the vacant space at Resorts World throughout the fall. "Burning Man it's the easiest way to celebrate this art style because it's such a popular event that people see it on the news."
At Transfix, visitors begin their 90- to 120-minute journey through a two-acre maze of 10 artist-designed bars and cafes scattered throughout the facilities.
Highlights include Mark Cochrane's giant metal sculpture, R-Evolution, of a woman trying to challenge public perception of the female body; Illumina by Pablo González Vargas, where visitors participate in a three-minute meditation using biometric technology to activate a massive sculpture to achieve group harmony; Christopher Bauder and Axion by KiNK, a grid-like arrangement of light tubes and moving lights reminiscent of a space probe or particle detector; and the world premiere of a new sensory return tunnel created by Playmodes to send guests on an intergalactic journey.
In 2020, during the pandemic, Stinchfield and his business partner Michael Blatter decided to share their love of the art of the Burning Man festival with the world and implement a business plan for their passion.
The goal was to foster an artistic experience that contributes to the global creative economy, builds community and supports innovative creators from diverse backgrounds. (The duo also launched experiential marketing agency Mirrorball after meeting at Burning Man 10 years ago – Mirrorball produces live events and large-scale tours for brands including Heineken, Jack Daniels, Pepsi and Coca-Cola).
The result is Transfix. “We brought in friends from the rock and roll industry who helped us create an operating budget. Then we talked to investors and raised funds," he says.
Transfix leases the monumental works of art to their creators for three years, paying for transport, installation, storage and operation. This guaranteed source of income allows artists to create new work and enjoy new audiences through the traveling festival environment. Transfix's Las Vegas residency is slated for fall. After that, Stinchfield hopes to tour Los Angeles and Austin.
“We built this business model with artists in mind. We saw a need in the market. We've built relationships with many artists over the years, and in some cases they have to approach GoFundMe or private investors. And then in the end you have to preserve their works, which is expensive," he says. “By renting out these jobs, we give them a predictable income on top of their regular salary so they can generate more. And we free up space in their warehouses. Transfix's ultimate goal is to turn profit into art. And we're going to bring this amazing work to the general public, because normally it wouldn't be seen if you didn't have the money to go to festivals."
In addition to Stinchfield and Blatter, the core team includes Thor Young, director of artist relations and community impact, and Miranda Carter, experienced curator and designer.
Young says he hopes Transfix will change "the gatekeeper culture in the art world, where gallery owners and museum curators decide what can be seen and what counts as art."
"We hope this will be a new, inclusive format where artists who don't belong in other fields will feel welcome," he says.
Engaging and participatory artworks like those found at Transfix engage the viewer as part of the experience and transport them to another world. Sometimes they use technologies such as virtual reality or projection mapping. Other times they require the active participation of the audience to complete or co-create the artwork.
"One of the most important things about participatory art is that it allows people to engage their creativity in new and different ways. When you can participate in art, instead of just observing the object, you look at the world differently. You're a more creative person who has different opportunities and different options. We're not just creating a new platform, we're creating a new opportunity for people to connect as creators," Yang says.
Stinchfield adds, "When you empower people to push buttons, climb on things, feel things, touch things, it really forces the participant to do the work."
More than 600 artists have participated in various stages of Transfix's curatorial process. Rounding out the list are new entries from NonoTek, LED Pulse, Axion and Hot Tea.
R-Evolution is the third and final sculpture in artist Mark Cochran's The Bliss Project series, which demystifies the naked body and depicts the energy and power that emerges when women feel free and safe. These monumental sculptures first appeared at Burning Man 2015, and the Bliss Dance is a permanent fixture a few blocks along the Strip across from the T-Mobile Arena at MGM Park. R-Evolution invites participants to see a confident 45-foot-tall female figure standing in front of them. With every breath and breath, this sculpture forces the viewer to look beyond the socially normative sexualization of the female form. The sculpture depicts San Francisco ballerina Deja Solis and features 17 engines. The figure is strong with its strength and spirit, with its radiant humanity.
"I hope Transfix becomes a business model that works for artists to create fun interactive art and that creates a whole different place for creativity. This is the event we've all been talking about. Take it to the streets and eventually someone will do. I think Transfix can have a huge impact on art and creativity in general, which changes the world. People will do what they love, follow their bliss and see the magic in the world," says Cochrane.
Light artist Christopher Bauder and electronic music maker KiNK bring the large-scale experimental art installation Axion , the centerpiece of Transfix, to the desert. With its grid-like arrangement of glowing tubes and moving lights, the Axion looks like a giant scientific device for exploring space or detecting particles from afar. But once you get inside, it's a meditation on the idea of stocks, dark matter and the unknown. An action is a formative hallucination, a liquid dream of light and sound that rolls through the night.
Emmy Award-winning installation artist Hottea collaborates with amazing children to create the installation Murmuration , a new specialized work that uses hundreds of wooden pegs to give viewers a sense of movement often seen in nature. With this piece, Hottea reminds viewers not only of the importance of embracing the big events in their lives, but also of appreciating the everyday moments that evoke awe or peace. Sometimes it's those little moments that can have the biggest impact.
DragonO2 allows participants to discover their humanity through the prism of technology. LedPulse, founded by Daniel Grande and Benny Lai, presents this work as an advanced three-dimensional LED display that simulates humanity and its biological components in three-dimensional forms. The result is a vivid and memorable image that blurs the lines between imagination and reality. DragonO2 invites visitors to enter a new creative dimension, limited only by their imagination.
Dwayne Flatt's El Pulpo Magnifico has only been on display at Transfix for two weeks and is probably the most popular work in the exhibition, thanks to Burning Man fame. The art vehicle invites fans to jump into the flames of a fire-breathing mechanical octopus that looks like a crazy clockwork toy, with eyes that pop in and out as its tentacles move up and down, spitting flames 30 meters into air. . The 25-foot art vehicle is built almost entirely from salvaged and recycled scrap metal and aluminum. A dual camera takes center stage and controls all of its animated parts to bring this beast to life. The stove controls are designed to cause explosions of fire with a sound system shaped like a giant percussion instrument. El Pulpo Magnifico appeared in an episode of The Simpsons .
Pablo González Vargas, founder of the popular Mayan Warrior collaborative project, erects Ilumina , a 37-meter-tall interactive light and sound sculpture that invites guests to participate in a subtle three-minute meditation. These are linked to biometric sensors and converted into data that drives the structure's lighting design and moving soundscapes.
FoldHaus Collective, an art collective from the United States and Germany, presents Shrumen Lumen , a hooded origami mushroom garden that expands and shrinks from a flat Portobello canopy into a light bulb when lit by visitors.
Nonotak is a Parisian design duo founded by former artist Noemi Schipfer and former musician-architect Takami Nakamoto, offering a dream environment that combines light, sound and space. It uses the same technology as the exterior of the MSG Sphere, which opens this fall near Venice.
Spanish audiovisual research studio Playmodes presents Stellar Beyond , a 115-meter-long tunnel that plays with spatial perception, forcing viewers to experience a "journey without movement."
"It really shakes you out of your day and the journey you've made to get to Transfix," Carter says. "It's a six-minute experience and then you go on a non-linear choose-your-own-adventure journey."
Tickets for Transfix are $59 million and the venue is 21 and over after 10 p.m. On May 12, he hosts the Tulum/Miami Art with Me music festival, called Dance with Me. From sunrise to sunset, Dance With Me lets revelers experience Transfix with exclusive live performances on three music stages and art installations.
"It's a completely new experience. It's a bit of an experience. That said, I think it's a concept that we think resonates with a lot of different people," says Stinchfield. "I think there's something for everyone."
The best of The Hollywood Reporter
Click here to read the full article.