Last weekend 32,000 eyewitnesses in Barcelona watched their beloved Basilica Sagrada Familia melt before their eyes. Fortunately, a succession of reality-shaking resurrections immediately followed this apparent catastrophe, shared by video with millions across the globe.
Who are the magicians who could plot and perform such a colossal trompe l’oie? The honors fall at the feet of Canadian artists and technical wizards who are known collectively as “The Moment Factory.”
They created this spectacular multi-media technique, loosely labeled “video mapping,” to illuminate by light, sound and effects the inspired masterpiece of Catalonian architecture. They call it “Ode à la vie,” a tribute to life, hope and rebirth as indicated by the basilica’s incredibly intricate nativity scene.
The façade of the famed Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi, appeared animate for 15 marvelous minutes in tribute to the Creation of the World, and by extension (one would assume) the Creator.
Using sound and almost every conveyance of light known to man, Sagrada Familia portrayed innovative creation designs: It speared darkness with shafts of light, flowered profusions of roses, smoked, crenelated and moved creatures and structures about its expanse. Light strikingly charged or fled from observers, leaving a convincing, three-dimensionality across the church’s face, and the basilica almost pranced on air.
The Sagrada Familia itself was never completed and could almost be a metaphor for our human experience on earth. Will either be “completed” before we reach the end of our sojourn here? Close to the centennial of Gaudi’s 1926 death, the building is yet only half-finished and with good reason – who could ever match his unbridled creative energy and vision?
Famous for organic twists and the unexpected, Gaudi’s style is unmistakable and a matter of civic pride to Catalans. Covered with stone creatures, almost dizzying ornamentation or inspired by objects such as conch shells, there has never been an architect even remotely resembling him (to my knowledge anyway).
Gaudi’s passion and inspiration was God – although art schools probably won’t devote chapters to this fact. A serious Christian and devoted Roman Catholic, he never married but channeled his considerable life energy and zeal into creations. Many of his works are marbled through with Christian imagery and symbolism.
Considered a genius today, Gaudi was controversial in his life, probably due to his religious zeal as well as artistic non-conformity. Some critics actually belittled his work as “too imaginative” and out of step with the materialist, industrial influence of the 1920s.
With time, Gaudi’s critics are long forgotten. His ability to withstand scorn and criticism while advancing an entirely new type of architecture is evidence of a powerful spiritual security and identity on his part. He showed it is possible to withstand and work outside of fads and artistic movements and still be successful.
Sagrada Familia was his beloved masterpiece, and the sentiment is echoed by the world as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain. Gaudi toiled his last 11 years on the basilica, while his faith grew exponentially, even to the point of refusing other commissions and losing interest in secular work. Because of this he’s been designated “God’s Architect” and considered for peerage of the saints.
Last week’s pageantry in Barcelona was inspired by Gaudi’s original color sketches and words, as well as the nativity art on the church’s face. It’s a beautiful tribute to a man who loved and pushed color more than any architect before him and claimed that “creation continues incessantly through the media of man.”
Video of the awe-inspiring display can be seen below.
From the northern reaches of Montreal, creators from the Moment Factory are shaking the entertainment and event industries, as well as devising new types of multi-media, interactive and immersion-art experiences.
Member Jacques Renaud first conceived the Sagrada Familia experience and considers his group’s digital alchemy as “Architecture d’événements,” roughly translated, “event-driven architecture.”
Moment Factory cooks up these visions with a team of 85 in a 20,000 sq-ft space. They employ lasers, digital “holography,” 3-D effects, video, audio, architecture and probably new technologies kept in a hat to pull off their whiz-bangs. Computing technology is central, so they developed their own software, an X-Agora playback system, to help with projects.
This is a very culturally aware group, watching for trends of new technologies and constantly in flux. Their goal is to “surpass expectations” or leave people with their mouths gaping.
I’d say they met their goals, as guests watched believable waterfalls, a gun-toting robot and what appeared to be snow falling on the crowd. Considering that the Sagrada Familia building itself has deep crevices and sculptures instead of a flat space to project imagery, they’ve created a true alternative reality at least partially in three dimensions.
Moment Factory stays busy. Since 2001, they’ve conceived and hosted more than 300 events, and installations for Disney, Cirque du Soleil, Microsoft, Madonna and more. Having made a palatial entrance in the entertainment industry, the group is studiously followed by technophiles and heaping up mountains of awards, honors and commissions across the globe.
This working group of artists and technicians is secular, still it’s heartening to see that their most spectacular and well-received event yet is a celebration of Christian ideals and an unabashedly Christian architect.
Last winter Moment Factory was contracted to create an enormous “Christmas tree” in Toronto’s Union Station, which glowed brighter as participants exchanged Christmas greetings online. Although not particularly religious, in these times Christians are content just to be “tolerated” with leftovers from the true feast of the secularists.
Here’s hoping that more brilliant people will step up to honor their beliefs with art this year and not be afraid of their originality of thought – even if someone doesn’t approve.