Pop Culture

Pinwheels Keep on Turning in Discovery Green's Interactive Light Show, "GUST"

Hold the handles with both hands, blow the pinwheel to start the wind, use your hands to move the direction of the wind and keep blowing to enjoy "GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery."
Hold the handles with both hands, blow the pinwheel to start the wind, use your hands to move the direction of the wind and keep blowing to enjoy "GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery." Rendering by Cocolab
The artists at Cocolab have climbed a pyramid at Teotihuacan (draping it in a Mesoamerican light show), built scale models of more than 50 of the world's historical monuments (Rome's Colosseum dwarfed London's Buckingham Palace) and christened the opening of Mexico City's 50-story BBVA Bancomer Tower with an audiovisual and pyrotechnic light show that won't soon be forgotten.

Day for Night fans will remember a smaller installation Cocolab did at last year's festival. "Outside" blended light and sound to create an otherworldly experience emanating from a central pillar, sort of a mash-up between Star Wars' lightsaber and the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now the Mexico City-based design studio is returning to Houston with a decidedly different installation, this time coming to Discovery Green.

click to enlarge Discovery Green opens at 6 a.m. each day, but be sure to return after dusk to fully experience the light effects. - RENDERING BY COCOLAB
Discovery Green opens at 6 a.m. each day, but be sure to return after dusk to fully experience the light effects.
Rendering by Cocolab
"GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery" features 1,900 pinwheels along the Brown Foundation Promenade that not only react to natural wind patterns, their movement also can be affected by a visitor's breath. "They created interactive blowing stations that you can blow into and it amplifies your breath. So the pinwheels can interact with the natural breeze — here at Discovery Green there's a lot of that — or your own breath," says Susanne Theis, the park's programming director.

"They’re connected to a lighting program so that at rest, when no one is using it, the colors of the light change according to the direction of the wind. But when the audience is blowing into the blowing stations they can change where the wind is and that can affect the lighting on the pinwheels."

It's the first time Cocolab has done anything in this style, and Theis tells us the design team was inspired by the park itself. "They came over and saw the park and they came back to us with an idea based on the pinwheel, a child’s toy, a very common toy. They wanted to take advantage of the sense of play that engenders and they wanted to create something that interacted both with the audience and with nature," says Theis.

Created out of a plasticine material that's both lightweight and weatherproof, Theis tells us that the color of the pinwheels reflects the color of the sky at sunset: "pale blue, golden and a pinkish-purplish hue."

"This is a departure for [Cocolab] because it’s fun, it’s light, in the sense that it’s not a dark piece and it’s interactive in a way that they haven’t quite done before," says Theis.

We already know that whenever Discovery Green installs a wintertime light-based installation, we can count on lots and lots of selfies and photographs. So this time around the park has partnered with the Houston Center for Photography and is offering four Wednesday evening classes on how to best capture those spectacular images.

"We’re excited about that," says Theis, adding that they've planned an exhibit in March to showcase the photography from those classes.

"GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery" is scheduled for November 16-March 20, 6 a.m. until midnight (the light effects are visible after dusk), Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney, 713-400-7336, discoverygreen.com.

Discovery Green also has announced GUST related programming:

Cocolab: Artists Talk
November 15, 6:30-7:15 p.m.
Artists from Cocolab will show images of their work around the world and discuss the philosophy and processes against the backdrop of "GUST."

Transforming the Spirit in Song
December 15, 7–8 p.m.
Join members of the Houston Grand Opera chorus in a holiday sing-along led by HGOco music director and composer-in-residence Damien Sneed.

January 26, 2019, 5 p.m.
Take a seat in the front row as "GUST" becomes the runway for a show of fashion by Houston artists. In collaboration with LAUNCH, this show features designs by Chloe Dao, Spanglish Thredz and more. Music by DJ Little Martin. Commentary by Sydney Dao. Party and artist market to follow.

Be the Artist: Houston Center for Photography Workshop
November 28, December 26, January 30 and February 27, 6:30–8 p.m.
Learn from expert photographers how to capture spectacular images of the lights, colors and movements of "GUST." Bring your camera or cell phone and a tripod (optional). Class size is limited.

Haz tu Propio Reguilete (Make your own Pinwheels)
February 10, 2019, 2–4 p.m.
Join Houston piñata and papier-mâché catrinas [day of the dead skeleton dolls] expert Griselda Flores in a hands-on pinwheel-making workshop. Materials to make 400 pinwheels are provided free of charge until supplies run out. Presented in partnership with the Consular General of Mexico in Houston.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney