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

 

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

CIUSAGala

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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

3D Scanning at the Brooklyn Museum

I was recently at the Brooklyn Museum for the opening of the exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008. Its a great exhibit and I encourage everyone to go check it out! While there, I took the time to take pictures of several objects to use to generate 3D models of a few Coney Island Artifacts, as well as some beautiful architectural details.

This process of photogrammetry  or “physical photography” as I have come to call it involves photographing an object many times from all angles, taking care to ensure that each image is in full focus. Once photographed, software analyzes the image to find the same point in multiple images and generates a 3D model of where in space each camera was. From there, a point cloud and 3D mesh can be generated. Its a laborious process but its a very accurate way of generating 3D models of still objects like sculpture.

Here’s the processed scans:

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Spook-A-Rama cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (Courtesy of the Coney Island History Project)

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Pegasus Statues from the Coney Island pumping station. (read about these here)

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Bacchus Keystone from the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Garden. This scan came out amazing, with incredible detail to it!

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Another Great Keystone!

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Telamon (Male Caryatid) #1

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Telamon #2

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Architectural Detail from the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Gardens

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!

SUPERSTRATA: 3D Printed Art

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I am pleased to be included in the Compound Gallery‘s exhibition Supertrata: 3D Printed Art in Oakland, California. I was sad not to have been able to make it out for the opening but if you are out near San Francisco, please check it out! Here’s a couple images of work of mine that went out to the show:

Coney Crush Saga

Coney Crush Saga, 3D printed PLA Plastic (3D scans of performers from the Coney Island Circus Sideshow), 12″h, ~30″w, 9″d

Grim, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 12"h, 21"w, 8"d

Grim, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 12″h, 21″w, 8″d

Grim- backlit

Grim- backlit

Creation, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 34"h, 31"w, 8"d

Creation, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 34″h, 31″w, 8″d

To give you an idea of the scale- this one's big!

To give you an idea of the scale- this one’s big!

Remembering Harold Feinstein: April 17, 1931 – June 20, 2015

Photo taken by Judith Thompson (Harold's wife) visiting Coney Island 2001 This image has been used in the fly-leaf of his books

Photo taken by Judith Thompson (Harold’s wife) visiting Coney Island 2001

When I first came to Coney Island in the 1980’s, the photographer Harold Feinstein was a fixture there. He was everywhere with his camera, capturing the place’s unique melting pot of people in the array of moments that can occur no where else in the world. Dick Zigun was always chasing him away, not wanting to give away images of the sideshow cast, but I’m glad he caught us in our downtime. Those moments and many others would have disappeared if it weren’t for Harold’s persistence. I never got to see his photos back then- only years later.

A few years back, I supported his retrospective book on Kickstarter and began to learn of the breadth of his work, an impressive body of photographs of New York City street life covering 65+ years. Last year, I was able to meet him and his wife Judith as he returned to his Coney Island roots. I wanted to 3D scan him, but his health was not great and he seemed frail. I was glad to have had some time to talk. While he photographed other things, I think Coney Island was central to his voice was and he impeccably captured the neighborhood’s soul. His work is a celebration of the human condition and the American spirit. Coney Island is the place where all peoples come together and emotions of joy, laughter, love, loneliness, friendship and all of life are there for us to experience in his work. Its somehow fitting to know that he chose to leave this world on June 20th, the day of the Mermaid Parade.

Rest in peace Harold. You will be missed but your legacy lives on. Thank you for preserving the moments.
See more of Harold’s work at http://www.haroldfeinstein.com/

Orthodox Jewish guys admiring Demonica and Phantom as I sit on the fence

Orthodox Jewish guys admiring Demonica and Phantom as I sit on the fence

Michael Wilson, the Illustrated Man

Michael Wilson, the Illustrated Man

Elvis in the World in Wax Musee

Elvis in the World in Wax Musee

Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio Second Anniversary Mermaid Parade Portraits!

Can you believe it- Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio is two years old! I opened up for the first time at the Mermaid Parade in 2013 and made some great portraits (See here and here). Well this past Saturday was the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and again I was able to make 3D portraits of some of my favorite Coney Island characters and sea creatures. These have not yet been cleaned up but I think they look great. I’m very happy with the day. Its exciting to see the technology improving since I’ve started and I’m proud of all the advances and things I’ve learned in the last few years.

Enjoy!

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Parade Queen Mermaid Julie Atlas Muz and King Neptune Mat Fraser

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Creepy Ronald McDonald the clown

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Time Out’s photog Filip stopped for a pose

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Too Much Beer?

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The Diaper Guy

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Badass Burlesque’s Velocity Chyaldd

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James and Camille Habacker of the Slipper Room

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An OctoPirate

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Zeroboy channeling his inner Popeye

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Lobster Girls

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Reverend Billy, Savitry D and family

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A Mermaid Family

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BooBoo Darlin’ as a Shrimp Cocktail

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Penguin

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A Jellyfish

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A Mermaid

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Eric the Fish

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Lil’ Miss Lixx as Champagne

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Mr. Gorgeous

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Bunny Love as Caviar

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Breakdancer