The Time Machine!

So, its happening… last week I time travelled and took a walk in turn of the century Luna Park! It was really exciting and gave me a huge boost that this project is really going to be amazing. It’s one thing to see the models of the buildings on a screen, but wearing the VR headset, you’re literally standing in the middle of the scene and have been teleported through time and space to turn of the century Coney Island. It also gave me the vision that what I am creating is actually a time machine. My hope is that as the viewer walks through and explores the virtual world, that they will be able to hit something on the controller to ‘jump’ to the next point in the timeline to see the architecture around them change.

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I spent a day last week out in New Jersey visiting my friend Matt Laverty, who worked with me at Funny Garbage, and now runs his own studio Atomic Veggies, which is focused on VR. He works out of a coworking space in the old Bell Labs building, a cavernous space designed by Eero Saarinen. After spending years in disrepair and being abandoned, the whole campus is being revitalized as a 21st century tech hub.

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Interior of the Bell Labs Building

I wish I could show you what it was like to really stand there in the middle of Luna Park, but it was truly magical. In the meantime, here’s some of the work on the models as it is unfolding. Matt and I are working on texturing the buildings as well, but right now the models are the main focus. Stay tuned for more soon!

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Fred at TED!

It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut the last two months, but I am finally able to announce that I will be spending the next 3 months as a Resident at TED, working on a project to recreate turn of the 20th century Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in VR, with an accompanying TED talk in June.


This is the next step in the evolution of a project that I have been working on on and off for over 20 years, since I first went the NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the mid 1990’s. Back then, I created a series of Quicktime VR panoramas of Luna Park, and then a few years ago when 3D printing became widely accessible, I rekindled the project to produce a 3D printed model of the park that was exhibited in the Coney Island Museum. This upcoming phase will be focused on recreating the entirety of the park as a VR experience which will allow viewers to explore the park firsthand. It is my hope to share the models under a Creative Commons licence that encourages others to use virtual Luna Park and encourage its use as a virtual meeting place in the future.

There are several themes I am thinking about in regards to the TED talk I will be doing in June, but the general idea I am working with is about the history and legacy of technology as entertainment, specifically Luna Park’s role in defining everything we do for amusemnt today. Luna Park came out of the golden age of world fairs, a time when attractions in the 1897 World Columbian Exposition were effectively the physical manifestation of a memory palace containing all of man’s culture and knowledge. It was the real world embodiment of everything Google is for us today. The park was not only a showcase for fantastical, otherworldly architecture, it transported the melting pot of American immigrants to exotic locales around the world, even to the moon, anticipating what the future of entertainment would be like. Electricity, phonographs, motion pictures, infant incubators, simulation rides, they all began at Luna Park. I cannot wait to virtually resurrect it and share it with the world!

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A screencap of the Luna Park VR prototype, with cell shaded rendering style

 

Come Learn 3D Modeling, Scanning, Printing & Glass Casting with me at Pilchuck in June!

There’s only a few weeks until my class TaDDDaa!, which covers a range of digital processes for glass casting at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood Washington and there’s still a couple slots available! Session 2 runs May 30-June 17. The course will combine a 3D modeling, scanning and 3D printing/CNC routing track with a physical track for glass casting with lost PLA kiln casting and hot casting into CNC carved graphite molds.

Apply today and join me in the woods for the time of your life!

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This sequence shows the progression of a 3D scan being manipulated digitally, the 3D printed sculpture, and its final incarnation as a cast glass object.

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This sequence shows a CNC routed mold that can be used for hot glass casting.

Dear Friends of The Great Fredini

Coney Island has been an important place in shaping my identity as an artist, primarily through my involvement with the nonprofit arts organization Coney Island USA. For over 35 years, CIUSA has provided a staging grounds for a huge range of artists, performers, actors, playwrights, musicians, filmmakers and practitioners of just about any other artistic discipline you can think of, entertaining NYC’s diverse audiences and preserving aspects of uniquely American popular culture, such as the iconic Mermaid Parade. CIUSA has done remarkably well in helping to shape the neighborhood’s revitalization, but the organization is still financially reeling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy and needs YOUR help! This March 19th, I am being honored at Coney Island USA’s Spring Gala, so I am forwarding an appeal from longtime board member and friend Mark Alhadeff. Please consider taking out a journal ad or buying a ticket to what may be CIUSA’s most important fundraiser ever. Coney Island USA needs your support so that it can continue making America’s playground a special place for generations to come!

-Fred

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Dear Friend of The Great Fredini:

I can say with confidence that every recipient of this note will know what a special person Fred Kahl is. But, just in case you forgot, let me remind you: He is a man of vision, intelligence, and good taste. And most importantly, he is a person with a giant heart.

Further, if you’re as lucky as me and have known Fred for decades, you will also know that Fred has always listened to the advice of Joseph Campbell and “followed his bliss.” This has led him on many incredible journeys, and the ultimate destination of most of those trips has been Coney Island. More specifically Coney Island USA (Coney’s resident not-for-profit arts group) has been blessed by the presence of Fred’s energy and creativity since the 1980’s. From neon sword swal- lowing to a 3D Luna Park, from acting on our stage to serving on our Board, from a spiral wishing well to an awesome electric chair — Fred is part of the very fabric of Coney Island USA.

Now that a few strands of silver have appeared in Fred’s luscious locks we here at CIUSA have decided it is time to honor the Great Fredini. Fred has been named “Man of the Year” and will be celebrated at our Spring Gala on Saturday, March 19th. The Gala is without fail the must-attend event of the Coney Island social calendar and dedicating it to Fred was a no-brainer.

I am writing on behalf of everyone at CIUSA to invite you to join in this celebration of Fred’s life and achievements. There are two easy (and not mutually exclusive) ways to get involved:

  1. Attend the Gala in Coney Island on March 19th. Tickets are available now (and a great bar- gain). Show your love to Fred in person! You can learn more by visiting: http://www.coneyisland.com/gala
  2. Let Fred know how much you care about him by putting a customized notice in the commem- orative Journal. The Journal is distributed to all Gala attendees and becomes a keepsake. Get your message about Fred in there: http://www.coneyisland.com/gala-journal

I do hope to see you at the Gala, to read your message in the Journal and to share your joy in the year of the Fred.

Sincerely,

Mark Alhadeff

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Friend of Fred
Coney Island USA Board Member

Detroit : Theatre Bizarre 2015

Detroit fascinates me. Even more than LA, this city seems to exist to showcase the glory of the car. Multi layered highways twist and wind like a giant Hot Wheels set with exits to both the left and right. There’s an energy and vibrancy to the urban decay that’s inspiring. It’s no wonder Detroit is such a hotbed of art and creativity.

It’s here that fifteen years ago John Dunivant began to realize a vision that began in his paintings; a dark world of a haunted carnival and its twisted god, Zombo the Clown. He named it Theatre Bizarre. This once a year party that I like to describe as the “Mermaid Parade of Halloween” began on an abandoned lot in Detroit but has now grown to over 5,000 attendees and takes place in the World’s largest Masonic temple, an impressive sixteen story neo Gothic structure that has never been completed. The building itself is worth the price of admission, just to see the elaborate throne rooms, chapels, drill rooms, ballrooms and theaters that hide within the labyrinthine passages of its walls. The building is a testament to the Masons mastery of construction, architecture and engineering and has to be seen to be believed.

Every year John and the Theatre Bizarre crew transform 8 floors of the space into an elaborate haunted harvest festival. It’s the world of his art come to life. The opulence and intention to detail in the installation is astounding and the building is the perfect backdrop. I had the occasion to meet and get to know John and some of the crew over the last few years, and this past weekend was my second year bringing the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio there. Here’s some images from this year.

Detroit Masonic Temple is home to Theatre Bizarre

Every year, 5,000 costumed revelers converge upon Detroit to participate in the spectacle

No bones about it, the decor is lavish!

There are Hundreds of Jack-O-Lanterns everywhere

Tables of taxidermied animals, Jack-o-lanterns, candles, flowers and mountains of candy abound

The Masonic Hall’s barber shop

there are scores of entertainers throughout the space

ornate details on the elevator grills

I ran into Gary Baseman who flew in from LA to check it out

Here I am chilling out with Zombo the Clown

Since no one can enter without a costume, the guests are often the most entertaining part of the night

Here’s John Dunivant enjoying thr fruits of his labor with Burlesque starlet Roxi D’lite

Just one of the many thrones within the Masonic temple

A New Orleans brass band lead the crowd through the building

This year was the “Year of the Goat”

Prints of John Dunivant’s paintings adorn the walls

Elaborate dioramas bring John’s paintings to life

Table setttings in the Fountain Ballroom

The Crowd in the Crystal Ballroom

The insignia of Theatre Bizarre’s secret society hangs on the wall, its all seeing eye looking over the festivities

The heart of the building contains this three story chapel. it is said that the cross marks the actual center if the building and that theres a hidden throne room behind the altar. When someone sits in the thone the cross perfectly aligns with a grate on the wall so that the light of the cross falls upon the person in the throne.

Dioramas in the lobby created by Dante bring the world of John’s paintings to life

A darkened theatre for suspension performances

A red light in the labyrinth of the temple’s hallways

Behind the scenes we saw a museum of Masonic imagery

Elaborate ceiling details

Are these the Knights of Templar guarding the staircase?

Backstage, an army of makeup artists prep Zombo and his minions for the night

So there it is.. Theatre Bizarre n a nutshell. You missed it this year but next year it will run two weekends in October so start making your travel plans now to attend the greatest masquerade on earth!

Bay Area Maker Faire Talk: Fredini’s History of Technology as Entertainment

Its been a whirlwind ever since I went out to San Francisco for Maker Faire. I meant to post a recap of some of my favorite highlights of the weekend, but have been swamped with Scan-A-Rama and getting ready for this year’s fellowship at Wheaton Arts. This week I’m doing a quick visiting artist stint at the Pilchuck Glass School to get a 3D printing studio up and running. I’ll be teaching a course there next summer about methods of creating 3D printed models for glass casting… more on that later (but I’ll be looking for artistic teaching assistants with expertise in 3D printer building, 3D modeling and glass casting, so give me a shout if you’re interested!).

In the meantime, Maker Faire posted my talk on YouTube. Overall, I’m happy with it. I confess I was called out by a fan for screwing up the Arthur C. Clarke quote, which should read “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.“. Anyway, here’s the talk, and if you get a chance its just one of a playlist of a lot of great pieces, so check them all out!

R.I.P. Carlos

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One of the local Coney Island guys I have known since he was a boy died this week. Carlos had a heart attack just short of celebrating his 40th birthday. He was a hustler at one of those crooked game joints you can never win at, but he was a nice guy underneath it all. I like to think that he got some culturing through seeing the shows at Coney Island USA over the years.

I 3D scanned Carlos last spring so I made a few prints to give to the family for the funeral. His dad is a big tough Hispanic guy with a gold tooth. When I gave him the print he broke down in tears. It was very touching.

I always thought that the 3D portraits would make good funeral stones but this is the first scanning subject I ever had that died. It was an intense experience that reminded me of the power an image like this can have.

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