'Ghost Peloton' combines athletic choreography and light to create beautiful, large-scale public art documented in a new short film premiering today.
Hundreds of cyclists in custom-built LED suits riding bikes adorned with lights illuminated the Tour de France route for two nights in May of this year. But this large-scale public art performance is only half of the piece; the other part is the powerful images that are born of it. Coinciding with a pop-up cinema premiere in Glasgow, The Creators Project is exclusively debuting Ghost Peloton, the new short film that threads together the stunning timelapse footage of the ephemeral experience with additional choreography from dancers decked out in LEDs.
“We realized the imagery that was created from the performance was going to be as strong and powerful a statement of art,” explains NVA creative director Angus Farquhar. The film is a tribute to the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, and is inspired by the movement of the wheel and the collective energy of the race’s participants. The work was directed by Mark Huskisson, and co-produced by NVA and Phonex Dance Theatre. Sustrans, a UK-based charity working on creating routes for sustainable transportation, sponsored the work.
Four years ago, Farquhar challenged his team to imagine a visceral artwork of people moving through natural spaces and urban environments carrying and creating their own energy. They began to experiment with ways to depict power generated from human movement using light. Their first light-in-motion performance was Speed of Light, in which they choreographed 150 endurance runners in LED suits to run through the hills of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. From there, the work toured the world, making stopovers in Japan, England, and Germany. For each of these performances, short films have captured the energy of light as it transforms a space through endurance sport.
With every performance, the technology was perfected. When constructing the body suit, the team needed a way to charge the whole system using a single battery pack that didn’t obstruct the movement of the participant. After months of prototyping and perfecting, they finally settled on a suit that resembled a stick-man figure, one that could be adapted for performers of all shapes and sizes. In addition, they created light sticks using the Faraday Principle -- shaking the stick would create a small amount of energy needed to ignite light without a battery.
The second challenge, explains Farquhar, was creating a suit that the team could completely control in order to compose true “digital art in motion.” Rather than a static system, the team wanted to control the suits wirelessly, in order to switch the suit on and off, increase and decrease the intensity of light, allow for different flash rates, and transition seamlessly between a different colors.
By the Tour de France performance, the choreography had also gotten more sophisticated and precise. Working with Phoenix Dance, the team trained “cycle leaders,” people who would learn the specific patterns, and then put chains of others behind those leaders. They would then direct the leaders on coms, to ensure precise changes and everyone behind them would change with their movements. “At times it's like molecules chasing each other,” says Farquhar.
Speed of Light performances are already booked five years out, and will take them to China and Australia next. So far they’ve experimented with the motion of endurance runners, cyclists and dancers. In the upcoming years, they’re interested in using the technology to create poetic meditations of other sports. Farquhar is also dreaming about illuminating the winter turf of skiers and snowboarders in a piece that he imagines would incorporate plenty of stunt-work. And he is interested in using the technology to explore the “human landscape,” the variety of ways athletes, dancers and even parkourists move through space.
As Farquhar peered down at Ghost Peloton’s choreography from the helicopter they were filming in, he realized, “The racing cycles were creating a set of imagery I had never seen. That’s a very exciting moment -- when you’re seeing something visually for the first time.” For him and his team, that’s the impetus for continuing their work and bringing it to new locations: to create new, bold articulations of physical space in natural and urban landscapes.
Ghost Peloton is an ambitious collaboration between NVA and Phoenix Dance Theatre, in partnership with Sustrans, created for Yorkshire Festival 2014. Soundtrack by Frame Missing: framemissing.bandcamp.com/
To learn more, visit: http://nvaspeedoflight.org.uk/location/ghostpeloton/. And view additional photos from the project below: