Fast Break

Completion: 2014, Finalist

Location: The University of New Mexico, The Pit, Albuquerque, NM

Description: Color and sound are two essential elements of the language of athletics. Athletes and fans are united visually by team colors; arenas become a sea of color. At the University of New Mexico, the crowd noise of The Pit is a hallmark of school pride. For basketball writer John Feinstein, watching a visiting team enter The Pit is like “watching Roman gladiators emerging into a wall of sound.” UNM identity is experienced viscerally on the home court through school colors and the noise of the crowd. Fast Break distills the language of athletics into contemporary, sculptural terms. 

This dynamic light sculpture evokes a motion blur pattern, a stylized expression of movement in the context of a fast break in basketball. The motion blur effect distills and abstracts color from a figurative image. We interpret the motion blur idea through the generative art technique of slit-scanning. Slit-scanning is a process for transforming the frames of a series of images or video into a single image composition. Slit-scans produce a variety of interesting visual effects and often reveal interesting patterns in the source imagery. 

A transparent screen of LED tubes is architecturally integrated onto the interior side of the north curtain wall of The Pit’s stair tower. A digital algorithm continually scrolls through a single column of pixels distilled from a series of images taken during Lobo home games and transforms this into an expansive pattern of abstracted color. The stair tower’s Starphire frosted glass functions as a diffuser, furthering the motion blur effect of the moving bands of color.

Fast Break uses techniques of generative art to engage Lobo fans as active participants in the work itself. An algorithm receives input from audio sensors measuring the noise level of the arena affecting the nature of the pattern. When the noise level is relatively low, the pattern movement is slow. When the crowd becomes excited and the noise levels are great, the pattern movement becomes much more frenetic and active.

Fast Break distills the familiar elements of athletics into something new and surprising. This dynamic light sculpture distills the collective ritual of sport into a powerful visual vocabulary. This sculpture is radically site-specific to The Pit, known for its contemporary design and distinctive sound environment. Fast Break captures the visceral experience of UNM sports: sound, color, passion, and motion expressed in a generative work of art. 

Architect: METALAB