Nuit Blanche 'Bright Smiles' promises to light up the room

Thursday, August 9, 2012




Conceptual sketch of Bright Smiles by Britta Evans-Fenton

Nuit Blanche artist profile by Tony Martins  /  Images courtesy the artists






The concept is delightfully simple—the proof of concept is proving to be a little more challenging.


That’s just fine, however, for collaborators Britta Evans-Fenton and Darcy Whyte who are enjoying the process of realizing Bright Smiles, an installation dreamed up for Nuit Blanche Ottawa 2012, the one-night festival slated for Saturday, September 22.


When installed in the ArtEngine M70 lab at Arts Court, the work will reward viewers who smile when gazing upon a cluster of crystalline stars fixed to the ceiling. The reward? Brighter twinkling from the stars.


“I started thinking of the theme of Nuit Blanche, ‘Life is Beautiful,’” explained Evans-Fenton, who first conceived of the installation idea. “When I thought about beautiful moments, I could not help crack a smile. It was that same feeling of happiness that I want to convey. The intent is to give everyone an excuse to smile.” 

To make her vision real, Evans-Fenton enlisted the ingenuity and technical expertise of inventor and designer Darcy Whyte. The first-time collaborators are frequent visitors to the M70, where Evans-Fenton is the lab coordinator.


To realize the artwork, multiple cameras will be installed while a custom-designed smile-detection program will convert pearly whites to twinkling lights. 


As Evans-Fenton points out, the required smile-detection technology is not new (it appeared about five years ago), but exactly how it will be incorporated in the installation remains to be determined.


“The technology is still up in the air and we are looking at a couple of things,” explained Whyte. “Hopefully the proof of concept will come forward soon.”


The materials that will create the star-like lights are also not finalized.


“We've been talking about lots of materials including acrylic and foam,” Whyte said. “I’ve already got some lasers and LEDs that I’ve been experimenting with.”  


Crystal experimentation images for the Bright Smiles project.

While Bright Smiles was conceived specifically for the inaugural Nuit Blanche Ottawa, the artists hope to exhibit a more refined version at other shows in the future.


“Ottawa could use a few more smiles,” explained Evans-Fenton.


Evans-Fenton is a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Ottawa. She specializes in new media and installation work, much of which includes manipulation of light and interactive elements.


With an extensive background in physics and computer science, Whyte is an active member of ArtEngine and the Ottawa ModLab community. His notable projects include the highly successful Squirrel model airplane, drawing robots, and various interactive artworks.