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!
A screencap of the Luna Park VR prototype, with cell shaded rendering style
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!
March 3, 2016
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:
- 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
- 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.
Friend of Fred
Coney Island USA Board Member
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:
Spook-A-Rama cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (Courtesy of the Coney Island History Project)
Bacchus Keystone from the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Garden. This scan came out amazing, with incredible detail to it!
Another Great Keystone!
Telamon (Male Caryatid) #1
Architectural Detail from the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Gardens
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
Michael Wilson, the Illustrated Man
Elvis in the World in Wax Musee
I began work on a newer, more detailed sculpt of Luna Park’s Electric Tower last summer, completing the digital sculpt in September, but its taken a while to get it printed and now its finally assembled. There’s some sanding and a few decorative corbels left to glue on but I hope to install it in the Coney Island Museum this Saturday!
I recently posted an image of the parts all organized by tier:
and here’s an animation of how they all stacked together:
Up next I plan on modeling the Helter Skelter:
The world is all abuzz about sideshows and freak shows this week with the debut of American Horror Story: Freak Show so I thought I’d follow up by posting some images I just came across from my first season in the Coney Island Sideshow. Recognize anyone?
Christine Hell, straight from Hell and positively fire proof!
Ladies, I’ll show you now how I shave my legs!
Christine Hell and Casper. the albino python
A young Todd Robbins
Cutting his teeth on a lightbulb every hour
Michael Wilson, the Illustrated Man
Showing off his Ma Kali backpiece
Getting tattoos is like eating potato chips, you can’t have just one!
Ladies, if your sick of your man’s tongue waggin’ telling you what to do, here’s a sure fire way to do something about it!
Its Hammer Time!
Helon Melon- She’s so big and so fat it takes four men to hug her and a boxcar to lug ‘er!
Helon resting backstage in her Dolly Dimples dress
Yours truly as a young magician!
Dick Zigun and “Pookie” Valerie Haller
The first sword swallower I ever saw- Todd Knight, who later punctured his stomach after a fight with his girlfriend!
The Thunderbolt Rollercoaster
The Parachute Jump
Boardwalk Fortune Teller
The B&B Carousel before it was destroyed by renovations.
Sunset over Coney Island
Man against the arm wrestling machine
The Wonder Wheel
Laurel and Hardy at Spook-a-Rama
Neon Funny Face sign I designed for Coney Island USA and made with Chris Clark
I’m due to be in a Coney Island themed show at Yale University galleries this January. They want to place my 3D portraits adjacent to an Edward Kelty sideshow photo, so they want a similar grouping of performers. Maybe something like this would be good? WDYT?