Five Ton Crane Heads to the Smithsonian

You read that right. As part of the upcoming exhibition at the Renwick Gallery, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, Five Ton Crane has been commissioned to create a mutant vehicle–an art car. In the great tradition of the event and of our creative collaboration, we are proud to present the Capitol Theater, a vehicle designed to convey one not only through space but through time. It is a mobile movie palace from another era.  Grand and curvacious, the open air Art Deco inspired theater bus seats 12 and is filled with lush detail (including films) from a crew of hard working artists that produced this new old wonder about in three months.

If you are in the Washington D.C. area, be sure to check it out. If you aren’t, maybe you should get there. You’ll find the Renwick Gallery just across the street from the White House. The show will be up from March 30th 2018 until Jan 21st, 2019. The first floor, including the Capitol Theater, closes September 6th, 2018, so be sure to make it before then if you can.

Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, Totem of Confessions, 2015, Photo by Daniel L. Hayes.

According to the Smithsonian,

Large-scale installations—the artistic hallmark of Burning Man—form the core of the exhibition. Individual artists and collectives featured in No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man include David Best, Candy Chang, Marco Cochrane, Duane Flatmo, Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, Five Ton Crane Arts Collective, FoldHaus Art Collective, Scott Froschauer, HYBYCOZO (Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu), Android Jones, Aaron Taylor Kuffner, Christopher Schardt, Richard Wilks, and Leo Villareal. Multiple installation sites have been selected throughout the neighborhood surrounding the museum for No Spectators: Beyond the Renwick, which will include works by Jack Champion, Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, HYBYCOZO, Laura Kimpton, Mischell Riley, and Kate Raudenbush.

Here’s a look at some of the local art heading to the Renwick, including a peek at the Capitol Theater. I feel honored to have been able to design the theater seat end-caps, which I prototyped in plywood using a laser cutter, and which were cut in steel using another laser cutter, and then cleaned up, welded and painted by a crew of amazing people while I was busy crawling around laying tile on the theater floor. I’ll be sure to post photos of my handywork as well as the rest of this outpouring of creativity–after the show opens, March 30th.

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Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World @ the Legion of Honor Museum.

One of my most exciting recent projects was my involvement with the Gods in Color exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. I was invited by Curator Renee Dreyfus to projection map a large marble panel from the ancient Parthenon. The museum had in their possession a plaster replica of the approximately 5 foot wide panel, which was “liberated” from the Greece under the Ottoman Empire by the Earl of Elgin, who from 1801 to 1812, moved almost half the marble sculpture from the Parthenon to Britain, where they now controversially reside in the British Museum.

Parthenon Panel. Without projection mapping.

A fact not known to all who have grown accustomed to seeing classical sculpture as pure white marble is that all of these sculptures were once actually painted in full color. It is not known exactly how everything appeared but research has revealed the natural pigments that were used and where they were applied to the marble. It is thought likely that the surfaces were finished in rather garish fashion to highlight them from afar.

Parthenon Panel. Projection mapping by Grant Diffendaffer

For the exhibit, I used a painting that was a historical representation done by Rebecca Levitan, as part of a project at Emory University. For my part, I began by photographing the panel to create a digital 3D photogrammetric representation of the panel. For that purpose, I used 250 high res photos, which I processed using Autodesk’s Recap Photo software. From there I used a process that moved back and forth between ZBrush and Photoshop to accurately project the lines of the painting to the surface of the digital model.

My hope was to use this process to correct and align the artwork so that it would accurately display when shown from a single projector onto the surface of the actual plaster panel. This was something that was somewhat easier said than done. While I had hoped to make the actual projection alignment a digital process, using either scanning or photogrammetry, it ended up being a more manual process.  It was still a useful and productive journey for me to pass through that digital space, and it was clear to me that this is a useful projection mapping workflow–one that will get easier as software and hardware options combine to basically let projectors “see” what they are projecting.

Many thanks to all who made the project possible–Renee Dreyfus, Rebecca Levitan, and Rich Rice, as well as the photography department of the DeYoung.

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Oakland Squared at the Moffitt Library

I’ve detailed a bit of the work done by Five Ton Crane which we have dubbed Oakland Squared. Created for an exhibit at the SF MOMA Artist’s Gallery, the large collaborative panels are composed of the work of many different artists, and are now hanging in the lobby of the Latham Square Building in uptown Oakland.

The works gained popularity for their ability to evoke the unique landscapes of the place that many in our Oakland based arts group call home, and for their unique way of providing an equal platform to so many artists at the same time, while showcasing a cohesive greater perspective at the same time. As a result, we were asked to create two new panels for permanent installation in the newly remodeled Moffitt Library at U.C. Berkeley.

Again working with the theme of scenes of the place we call home, these two new panels show views of the Berkeley campus, namely Sproul Plaza, home of the free speech movement and of the S.O.G.A. Gardens, land of the Student Organic Gardening Association.

It was a special honor for me to be involved with this project, as I had just become proudly employed in the U.C. Berkeley College of Environmental Design at the Digital Fabrication Lab, where they have bestowed upon me the title “Mechanician.” What that means is I was able to spend some time familiarizing myself with the tools of the lab, and in the process created a square composed of layers of material processed by laser cutting, laser engraving, and ZUND. Yes, ZUND. You know–ZUND, the all-powerful digital swiss army knife of industrial machinery. My 12″x12″ square is made of Acrylic, Wood, Paper, and Colored Pencil.


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