Photo: Tupac Martir’s Unique, controlled by an Avolites Tiger Touch II

Light is central to the art of multimedia artist Tupac Martir, who’s been called a “light magician” and “creative visionary” for illuminating concerts for Elton John, Sting and Beyoncé, major festivals like Coachella, and London Fashion Week shows for designers Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and the late Alexander McQueen.

Graduating in 2000 from Omaha, Nebraska’s Creighton University with a bachelor’s degree of fine arts, Martir tapped Avolites’ Tiger Touch II lighting control console when he returned to his alma mater this fall to present a special art installation called Unique, a self-described giant “graphic novel” brought to life with light and shadow.

“Using new and old etching techniques, the story is told through twelve chapters, with eight drawings per chapter,” Martir describes. “The 96 drawings are then processed and individually placed within four 3’x10’ MDF panels. Each panel has a set of tools behind it, which is prepared with motors, lights, wireless dimmers and controllers, in order to program their movement and intensity, thus using them to tell the story one drawing—or shadow—at a time.

“The installation is programmed to music composed by George Blacklock, Oiram and Cabinet of Living Cinema to tell the story, as the light unveils in coordination with the score, revealing the images that have been created. A juxtaposition exists between the box, image, shadow, movement and music in which all collectively create a new experience for the audience, who become both viewers and participants.”

Although the kinetic sculpture appears fairly simple from the front, Martir notes that the technological implementation behind the piece is deceptively complex. “When I was looking at how to control the installation, one of the main concerns was about the audio, and how we could trigger the timecode from a separate machine,” he explains. “After some research, we found out that the Tiger Touch II has a Winamp plug-in that would allow us to control music directly from the console, eliminating the need for another computer. When you leave an installation for a long period, there is always that worry of what can go wrong and the process to fix that problem. By taking an entire computer out of the equation, it helped those looking after the installation be a lot calmer since they knew everything would come from a single place. This also made it easier for us, in case we needed to troubleshoot something, to know where to look.”

A longtime Avo fan, Martir points out that he regularly uses the Tiger Touch II for his fashion show lighting designs, which require quick setups and intuitive control. “Most of my dimmers are Avo,” he shares.

Martir reports that the Unique installation at Creighton University came off without a glitch, and the plug-ins and programming ran very smoothly. “The desk performed perfectly,” he says, adding that the console will be traveling with the piece to its next presentation in March 2016 at the USITT Conference and Expo in Salt Lake City, where an iPad will be added for even more control over the experience. Following USITT, Unique will then head to London, Martir’s current home base, later next year.

Martir used a lot of macros and as well as some cue lists to create the process with which the motors come to life. Avolites engineers wrote a specific fixture profile for the system’s encoders and drivers made by RC4 Wireless, which provides wireless lighting and motion technology for theatre, film, and television.

Although he received Unique’s Tiger Touch II only five days prior to the show going live, Martir says it was “enough time to make sure the fixtures were reacting properly to what we were trying to do.” He notes that RC4 had only five RC4Magic Series 3 DMXmot available at the time, and that he actually had four of them. “So we needed to make sure that it was all stable for the duration of the installation,” he adds.

Anyone who encounters Unique leaves mesmerized, and Martir is humbled over this common reaction to his creation. “There is a great connection between what the technology allows us to convey and the human element of the piece,” the artist says. “The more you are into it, we have realized, it becomes a type of meditation for people.”