November 20, 2022
A chilly drizzle on Friday couldn’t keep me from seeing Waterloo Greenway’s Creek Show, an “annual display of illuminated art” along the banks of downtown Austin’s Waller Creek.
I go every year with family or friends to explore the creative light sculptures. Last year’s Creek Show abandoned the creek in favor of the conveniences of Waterloo Park. But this year it was back along the low-lying creek (where monsters lie in wait?), with vendors and live music set up in the park for pre- or post-show fun.
Portal Potty by Salmo Gunn is the installation I most wanted to see. A row of porta-potties that whisks you off to another dimension? As long as there are no leaks, I’ll go. Here’s the official description:
“Like an urban wardrobe to Narnia, inside this magical corridor of porta potties is a seamless tunnel of disco lights and whimsy. Interior walls and all fixtures of the Portal Potties have been removed, creating a hallway illuminated by twinkling LED strips and panels, with an exit in the back that is not visible to outside viewers. Silhouettes of those who enter seem to disappear at the end of the tunnel, creating the illusion that entrants have been magically transported into Creek Show 2022. This installation is a smile and a wink to look past the surface of things and to find beauty in unexpected seats.”
Entering at the “hidden” entrance in back.
Slip on a pair of 3-D glasses, and the magical portal is revealed. Away we go, into Creek Show!
Next up is Dream Pants by Baden-Schaffer:
“In that twilight time between awake and asleep, I became aware of a flickering dream. Down along the banks of a forgotten creek, strange apparitions were calling to me. Pants, just pants, frolicked about. They laughed and whispered, ‘Hey, check it out!’ They glowed with the light of a promise to tell, that soon this place will be happy and well. Thank you dream pants for sharing your secret! I’m so delighted! (I don’t think I can keep it.)”
Black light-illuminated pants sit on benches, playing guitar and listening. Note the pants in the background with actual people in them. Were they part of the installation? We weren’t sure.
Other pants are climbing down to the creek and wading or sitting on the bank.
A family of pants lounges on a blanket with plates of food (HoHos?) spread out before them.
And a pink pair of mom jeans pushes a baby stroller with a tiny pair of pants lying inside. Dream Pants was zany enough to become a surprise hit with our group.
Under a bridge we found NeonCity by AIA Austin, a pleasing, neon-colored representation of Austin’s skyline:
“NeonCity is an abstract representation of Austin’s downtown skyline on Waller Creek. The exhibition portrays the city’s colorful and vibrant energy that can be appreciated across Lady Bird Lake, watching the lights of downtown and its reflection in the water. As the city expands, these building blocks represent the growth and potential opportunities as Austin becomes an ever-evolving city that creates opportunities for more people to come together as a community.”
Enter the Dragonfly
Enter the Dragonfly by Odonata wowed me with giant, colorful dragonflies that seem to swoop and dive above the creek.
Here’s the official description:
“Enter the Dragonfly envisions the ecological restoration and transformation of Waller Creek as a healthy habitat for a diversity of native life. Dragonflies are one of the oldest and most reliable indicator species of a thriving and stable aquatic ecosystem.
Enter the Dragonfly consists of larger-than-life metal dragonflies hovering above the creek waters, their reflections glowing beneath them. Using scale and light, the sculptures visually bring attention to the critical relationship between urban and natural environments while inspiring curiosity, excitement, and thoughtful engagement from the viewer with Waterloo Greenway’s mission.”
Next up is Sirius by National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) of Central Texas:
To be marginalized in America
is to be a star on the face of midnight.
We constantly have to rise above everything
and shine our brightest
When it’s dark outside. – Rudy Francisco
“Sirius is a visual translation of the poem Margin by African-American spoken word poet Rudy Francisco. Francisco’s oeuvre confronts issues of race and politics, and in Margin, he expresses the diminishing feelings of marginalization through the beauty of celestial imagery. While emphasizing a star’s solidarity and comparing it to social exclusion, he challenges us to ‘shine our brightest’ as an exemplar for social change.
Through a natural meander drawn from Waller Creek, NOMA’s Sirius breaks down the rigidity of the bridge’s infrastructure and guides users through a collection of star-laden vessels – a visual representation of the beauty and strength of marginalized communities. When we come together we shine brighter through the darkness.”
Luna by Austin Foundation for Architecture seems designed to look like drainage pipes in a stone wall under a bridge. A mirror and lights hanging on the wall create the illusion.
“The dance between the moon and Earth’s bodies of water is one as old as time itself. From influencing tides along our seacoasts, to regulating precipitation feeding our inland rivers, invisible forces are at work right before our eyes. LUNA seeks to illuminate the invisible bonds between our environment and each other. With its mirrored materiality, the installation serves as a symbol for diversity and equity, while encouraging reflection on the idea that we all contribute to the future of our urban fabric. The infinity effect of the lights and the mirror creates a place for everyone and alludes to the endless possibilities we all represent to our city of Austin.”
Environmental commentary is a popular theme at Creek Show each year, and Inventories by Lawrence Group fills that space this year:
“Joseph Jones, late UT Professor and champion of Waller Creek, would spend his lunch hour walking the creek where it passed through campus, keeping an ‘inventory’ of things seen and found – flora and fauna, along with beer cups and plastic bags – acknowledging the signs of human presence amidst the abundant natural beauty. For our installation, we are channeling our inner Joseph Jones and collecting hundreds of used plastic bottles directly from the creek and from other local sources, coating the inside with luminescent paint, and arranging them geometrically just above the surface of the water. We will then shine UV light across the tops to transform them into a field of glowing objects – a bright ‘inventory’ of trash – highlighting the human contribution to the story of this wonderful ‘cretaceous limestone gutter.’”
Good-Vibrations by Studio 5-1-2 ended up being my favorite installation, for sheer disco ball and stalactite sparkle alone.
“GOOD-VIBRATIONS is a celebration of the hidden landscapes that run beneath our feet and continue to shape our urban environment by bringing them to the surface. Inspired by stalagmite and stalactite formations within caves, this installation drips and oozes over Waller Creek to recreate a cavernous experience. Forms are covered with mirror pieces and spotlighted to scatter light in the spirit of a disco, set to the echoing sounds of dripping water and chirping bats (with some remixes in-between). We encourage attendees to celebrate subterranean landscapes with GOOD-VIBRATIONS by immersing themselves in an experience that employs lighting and sound to highlight rich interactions and the dance of life’s organisms.”
Illuminated bats swoop under the bridge, as their chirps echo through the mirror-ball cave.
If you want to attend Creek Show, there’s one night remaining in the 10-day run. Free advance reservations are recommended to be sure of getting in, so go sign up now, as spots are limited. The organizers have had to cancel a few evenings because of rain, so that could happen. But if the Creek Monster allows, it’s a fun show to experience.
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