"Shadows are expensive," explains Bernard Duguay as he walks us through the moonGarden installation taking over Discovery Green through October 7.
He and the rest of Lucion Traveling Light, a Montreal-based art collective, have scattered 22 spheres across the downtown park, each containing laser-cut dioramas of Houston life that sit on a turntable. Each cluster spins before a powerful lamp as it casts massive shadows that project shifting, dynamic images across the sphere. It's a mess of lights and computers and software that creates an artistic irony of which Duguay is well aware: He's a light artist whose work largely deals in darkness.
Lucion has taken moonGARDEN to cities ranging from Baltimore to Moscow to Madrid since its 2012 inception, and while the concept remains the same, Duguay and his crew start from scratch each time to fabricate city-specific scenes.
Most of the Discovery Green spheres encompass a single theme like history, geography, and pop culture, with Houston cameos that include Dr. Denton Cooley, the downtown skyline, and—of course—Beyoncé. A personal favorite captures the city's highways as a suspended mobile where cars tumble every which way. Nearby, an old-fashioned propeller plane tows a waving banner based on the iconic "Be Someone" graffiti. It's a skewed, fanciful look at Houston that's only slightly weirder than reality.
Several of the spheres are interactive, too, integrating cameras to process input. Visitors can paint words or drawings using their smartphone's flashlight, or they can hold a light under their chins scary-story-style to have the camera project their faces across the sphere.
Still, Duguay says one of his favorite parts of moonGARDEN is watching an audience decide how the installation should be used. The Houston version has already served as the backdrop for at least one marriage proposal this week. In other cities, people have snuck inside the inflatable spheres to hang out, smoke, or even spend the night (not that Duguay endorses such behavior, of course).
Overwhelmingly, though, visitors have determined the installation, all arranged against downtown's pointy topography, to be the ultimate backdrop for a nighttime Insta post. Below, a few of our favorites.
Thru October 7. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336. More info at discoverygreen.com.