Experiential Design by Undisclosable

Experiential Design by Undisclosable

11/21/2011 AnnMarie

Before we get started, here's just a quick welcome to the I&S editors’ blog, Inside Sources. Just like bloggers Debbie and Grace before us we’ll use this venue to chronicle our adventures through the world of design. Our space might not be as biting as Debbie’s or as scientific as Grace’s, but we’ll try to find a comfortable middle ground that gives you a bit of an insight into what we do, how we do it, and why we love it. And of course a behind-the-scenes look into the process behind and production of the products and projects that inspire us day in and day out.

Enjoy! Feel free to contact us at any time with questions, comments, concerns or kudos, of course. We always welcome kudos.


Robert, Adam, and AnnMarie

Email Robert Nieminen, editor in chief
Email Adam Moore, managing editor
Email AnnMarie Marano, senior editor/e-content director

My Walk through A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space

by AnnMarie Marano

I have a confession to make.

As design editors, it is rare that we actually get to visit the spaces we cover prior to writing our stories. A big part of our job involves sifting through images of submitted projects and deciding from there which ones to consider for publication.

So needless to say, I ran, not walked, to the Creator’s Project Festival in DUMBO, New York, last month to see, hear and experience the installation A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space: one of the first projects by our September profile subjects Alejandra Lillo and Bryan Flaig. The two recently started their own firm together entitled Undisclosable.

A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space was originally presented by the Creator’s Project at the West Coast’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. The Creators Project is a partnership between Intel and Vice, and is a global network dedicated to the celebration of creativity, culture and technology.

As Coachella’s first-ever creative partner, the Project collaborated with select headlining acts and curated a series of art installations on the grounds of the festival. Undisclosable was paired up with the U.K. band Spiritualized to create a physical manifestation of their song “Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space.” Also part of the installation team was film director Jonathan Glazer and a company called One of Us, which was in charge of visual effects and the technical aspects of the project, particularly audio. 

Thankfully, the Creator’s Project came to Brooklyn just a few months later, and took Undisclosable’s work with them! I was quite anxious to see how one turns a song, into an interior.

OK, I recognize that this experience was not PRIOR to having written the story on Undisclosable, but, eh…close enough. Better late than never, right? So on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 15th I dragged myself (and my fiancé who agreed to drive me to the train station) out of bed and down to Water Street in Brooklyn, where I was confronted with a line that stretched a full block and was threatening not to start moving anytime soon (even though it was a little past 10:30 and they were supposed to start handing out entry wristbands at 11 a.m.)

At least I was standing right under this view of the Brooklyn Bridge to distract me for a good, oh, five minutes or so. Patience is not a virtue I was born with.

Just as my bladder started to threaten to cause a serious problem for me, there were signs of life up ahead! And shortly past 11:30 I was finally in possession of a coveted wristband. After a few false starts and wrong turns, I found Undisclosable’s installation, thanks to a phone call with Alejandra who acted as GPS. I found her and Bryan standing outside, the proud parents so to speak, who were thrilled to bring their project to NYC. Its next stop is rumored to be London.

Perhaps it was a good thing that I interviewed and wrote about Lillo and Flaig before seeing their work rather than after, because it turned into the perfect final exam to see if their statements had indeed been right.

“It really started to present mimicking patterns between humans which I thought was incredible to observe,” Lillo said during our interview over the summer. “If someone decided they wanted to lay down in this pool of light, then you’d see other people would feel comfortable with that and they would do the same. You were observing humans as social animals, and what their responses are to environments when they’re not provided with queues and how to use it was fascinating.”

I was certainly able to get a little taste of her description first hand and watch visitors react to the space, each other, and the sounds enveloping them. And the whole project definitely lives up to its promise of being a celestial experience.

Upon entering the installation I walked up winding ramps surrounded by darkness and muted noises. When you come into the main space, it looks as if you’ve come upon a haze of sorts as the brightness of the light shafts above highlight every single particle in the air. The music also becomes clearer and louder. Despite that and the four intense shafts of light shining down from the angled, cathedral-like ceiling, it’s all an extremely soothing and meditative experience.

 When you step directly into one of the light pools it feels like you could actually levitate up through them if you so desired.

There are individual, localized tracks in each light line, so you hear a different strain of the song in each spot. Forty-eight speakers in total are hidden throughout the project.

“We created layers of sound,” says Chris Full, a sound designer with One of Us, the company that developed the acoustics. “Each pool of light is enveloped by certain parts of the track, which is unfolded as you walk in and out of them. We use a special speaker that creates a tight, defined beam of sound that compliments the shaft of light.”

All these elements create very unique, singular experiences, almost no matter where you are standing within the space. You are never hearing or seeing the exact same thing the person next to you is. Which makes you realize just how much sound – like light – can transform a space.

Lillo was also kind enough to give me a behind-the-scenes look at how the whole project worked.

So behind one of the black curtains we ducked, and after carefully making our way through bundles of wiring and squeezing past ladders and electrical equipment, we came upon these:

Made of non-combustible Newtex material, the shafts of light are reflected off a mirror 40 feet in the air and into the main space. The roof was made of a duvetyne that’s been tensioned as the team couldn’t use the structure of the building. It is made of mostly old wood that’s been charred, as the building had been used to house explosives and pyrotechnics in the past.

And as more and more time passed and I watched visitors filter in and out, you could slowly start to see what Lillo is talking about. As people got increasingly more comfortable and the brave ones started to initiate certain behaviors, they did more than just step into and out of the light.

Flaig and Lillo stood in the shadows and took it all in. Lillo gushed about watching a woman come in with her baby the day before and rock him back and forth in one of the light pools.

It goes to show that often the best experiences can come from more temporary spaces. Part of what the two learned from working so heavily in hospitality with Graft Lab prior to opening their own firm, is that through the nature of the brevity of someone’s stay, there is a unique opportunity to experience space in a different way, because you don’t have to live with it forever.

“The experiential quality is the thing that then provides the branding to the product. There’s few things that create more buzz than the narrative behind the experience than one person talking to another person and telling them how great the experience was,” says Lillo.

And the two certainly created an experience, rather than a just an interior space.

To experience some of it for yourself, take a look at one of the three short videos below that I was able to shoot while inside, all listed on the I&S YouTube station:

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

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