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  • Writer's picturescott kim

Invisible Site (theatrical title 1992)

In the early 1990s I worked for a while with George Coates, creator extraordinary theatrical presentations which combined live performers, unusual moving sets, mesmerizing music, and overlaid projections that confused what was real and what was virtual.

I told computer graphics producer Sally Rosenthal, who ran the momentous evening theater at the annual Siggraph conference, about George Coates. She immediately hatched a plan to hook George up with the graphics workstation company SGI (Silicon Graphics), and have him stage a show for one of their events.

Here's a contemporary review of the show, and a technical rundown with images from the SIggraph archive.

This is the logo I designed for that show. The title alludes to the space the show was staged in — a venue that George rented that was a uniquely tall church turned theatrical space in San Francisco. The logo is meant to capture the hair-raising effect of layered projections on live sets.

I also designed graphics that was projected during the show...diagrams of the VALS (values and lifestyles) typology of consumer behaviors. Here's a video I made recently about VALS.

I made the graphics on an SGI workstation using the 3d animation software SoftImage, which I had learned a year earlier while making the opening titles for the mathematical film Not Knot. The show was insanely ambitious, with live stereoscopic computer graphics) projected on a scrim in front of the stage. George's style of work was to start full rehearsals every night, and revise the entire production every night. It was an exhausting schedule that both pushed the crew and cast to new heights, and tended to burn people out. In one month, a first draft of the show was finished and staged for SGI, then for Siggraph, then as a theatrical show that ran for months. True to George's nature, the show continued to mutate during its run.

All in all, George's productions epitomize the heady blend of creativity and technology that is so common in San Francisco, most famously embodied by Burning Man and the Maker Faire.

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