Magical Snowbirds Take Over Discovery Green in an Art Frenzy That Will Have You Seeing Double

A Wonderland for the Eyes and the Ears

BY // 12.01.19

As winter approaches a flock of very unusual snowbirds has found a seasonal home in Discovery Green. Houston’s favorite urban park and one of the 13 Great Places in America recently unveiled the latest in its series of public art projects, a two in one immersive experience. Paloma and Here and Now takes flight in Brown Promenade from now until Feburary.

For this world premiere installation, Discovery Green brought together creators who had never worked together, the French visual design studio, Pitaya, and local sound artist Lina Dib. PaperCity spoke with one of Pitaya’s founders, Arnaud Giroud, along with Dib at the recent opening of the installation.

They began last summer to turn their different projects, one of sight and one of sound, into one, whole connective experience. The collaboration creates a four dimensional installation as lights change over time and an environmental sound scape evolves over 22 minutes.

“We were already ready working on these things, so it wasn’t that we had to change our trajectory,” describes Dib at how well their projects synced together. “We just started conversing in the process and it turned out really well.”

Art Takes Flight

Paloma becomes the first Texas installation from the internationally renowned creative studio Pitaya. Founded by David Lesort and Giroud, the experimental studio usually creates light and object sculptures, and has produced many public art projects in Europe and North America.

The word for dove and sometimes peace in Italy and Spain, Paloma has become an iconic image for the studio, explains Giround. Instead of striving for overly naturalistic birds, the artists design their doves as overtly created aluminum origami creatures, that appear folded into existence. Using the magnificent live oaks as their canvas, Giround says “The idea is to have them attached as a kind of flock.”

Giround wants the birds’ constructive design and “festive” wing colors to evoke the feelings we might have known as a child cutting, coloring and playing with paper.

“I hope people and families will walk by and be happy. That’s the main idea, a very simple one but something that’s in me, maybe because I feel myself as an old child,” he says.

As Pitaya works in light into much of its work, the LED lighting laced into the installation becomes an intrinsic part of the installation. Getting to know the environment, the team decided to use a colder white light to contrast with the warm lights of the surrounding skyscrapers and street lights of downtown Houston.

Viewed out of the corner of our eyes, the flock seems to soar through the branches of the trees, only landing as we look head on.

Songs of Migration

While Pitaya’s work has only just alighted into Texas, Houstonian art lovers intrigued by sound works will likely be familiar with Montreal-born, Houston-based artist, anthropologist and Rice University lecturer Lina Dib. Her projects have been on view, and on hear, at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, Space HL and Galveston Arts Center.

“My work looks at our relationship with nature. I tend to use technology and make interactive pieces but also reflect on how we inhabit this world, and my work tries to sharpen our sense of attunement to the world,” Dub says when I ask about why she thought Discovery Green thought the artists might create well together.

As Pitaya has used images of birds and nature in their projects before, so Here and Now becomes the third piece in Dib’s sonic triptych focused on Zugunruhe, the biological phenomenon that sparks animal migration. The first work, North to South and Back, exhibited at SpaceHL last summer, wove together the sounds of migratory birds that stop in Houston.

Paloma Sponsored by PNC Bank at Discovery Green (1)_Photo by Morris Malakoff, The CKP Group
The aluminum birds will remind viewers of childhood creations. (Photo by Morris Malakoff, The CKP Group)

The second part, There Is No Going Back, was on view through November at Site Gallery as a part of Sculpture Month Houston. Dib describes the multi-channel sound installation as a piece of introspection, which features endangered bird sounds and sounds of outer space.

The Discovery Green third piece, Here and Now consists of both bird and human sounds and contemplates the act of migration for both. Dib uses bird call, cries and notes to create the music of the piece. She also asked immigrants like herself to mimic birds. Listeners might not recognize when they’re hearing birds sounds woven into music or humans singing the language of birds.

“It takes a step back and thinks about global migration. It also reflects on our collaboration and I come from Montreal to call Houston home. There are a lot of different cities in conversation with the piece,” explains Dib, who just became a U.S citizen in November. “I stretched my net a little wider in terms of learning about different kinds of birds that travel the globe and realizing how what one person does in one place and what someone does somewhere else can affect each other and third parties.”

Surround Sound and Light

Paloma and Here and Now stretches the entirety of Brown Promenade so as visitors walk closer to Avenida de las Americas and George R. Brown Convention Center, they’ll likely begin to hear the ambient wind and water soundscape from the monumental sculpture Wings Over Water. Dib says she knew it would became difficult to distinguish where the sounds of Wings and the sound of Here begin and end.

“But I feel they’re in conversations. I feel like there’s this motif going on, something epic, sort of singing about that piece and about the sounds here.”

Following the sounds of Wings Over Water across the street into Avenida Plaza reveals a sweet holiday art treat from Houston First, the unrelated but somewhat aesthetically similar Prismatica. This series of 25 prisms each stand seven and half feet high and weigh 700 pound. Yet, visitors can easily rotate the multi-colored crystal-like sculptures sending rays of color out into the night. The installation designed by RAW Design in collaboration with ATOMIC and produced by Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, of Montreal also contains a sound component. Give the prisms a slow spin and hear the music of bells.

Together the park and plaza are gifting Houston with magical public art to light up the season.

Prismatica remains on view in Avenida de las Americas Plaza until January 5, 2020. Paloma by Pitaya and Here and Now by Lina Dib will remain on view in Discovery Green until February 24, 2020.

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