Photo by Pearcey Proper
Since the inception Vita Motus in 2006, Heather Shaw and her dedicated team have been using unorthodox means and expertise to change the way people think about live performance and set design. Before starting the company, Heather worked with car companies designing concept cars, and that eye towards the transformative future clearly informs the companies work to this day. I spoke with her about design and the night.
What is your primary goal for this collaboration with Absolut? The inspiration behind the project?
Heather Shaw: The word that has been coming up more and more over the years in our designs is Immersion. We feel there needs to be an evolution in nightlife. There are many designers, artists, dreamers, and promoters out there that feel this very thing, and I believe we are all tapping into the collective idea at this point. The goal, from the moment we were approached with this project, was to surround the audience in spectacle, to blur the lines, to re-imagine the legend of the disco ball. How often have we danced around those mirrored surfaces? This one is about those same surfaces coming to life, to immerse the audience in a 360-degree experience.
How do see your sets transforming the live music experience? Did you go to any concert in particular growing up that made this appealing to you?
I'm not sure its a concert per say. The underground electronic music scene feels like one of my strongest influences. Not for the look, but more for the feel, the feeling of adventure, mystery, and excitement. In those dark underground settings where you can't even see the DJ, and the music is completely engulfing you. Again we get back to Immersion. An environment should inspire a feeling, a connectivity with the people and the music you are ingesting. If our concepts bring people out of their comfort zone, if they break the monotony of the familiar concert experience, then we are succeeding.
What do you see now when you look at a blank stage? Where do you see potential at the beginning of a project?
Generally speaking I see the potential to connect a group of like-minded people and bring them together for an inspiring experience. Linking to a story or concept that drives an emotional response to carry people through an adventure like no other. When I see a blank stage I always want to extend past it, and beyond it, to get outside of the box that has been the stage in the past and create in the space above people, next to people, around them, and not just in front of them. Blurring the lines.
Have you played with the dynamics of day turning to night in your sets before?
All the time. This is a challenge but always very exciting. During the day the sculptural aspect of the design is the feature element, and when night falls, the integration of technology gets to transform the sculpture into an animated glowing new experience.
Photo by Andrew White
You've been designing sets for live shows for over a decade now, what do you hope for when you go to an event yourself? What are you trying to give people in an experience?
To be honest, we have been lucky. This passion has driven us to seek out and experience some of the most unusual and boundless events the world has to offer. Gathering at these benchmark moments introduced us to an artistic community that constantly keeps us guessing about what might come next.
I like to be surprised; we are all looking for novelty. In a world where we have the right to know everything that is happening, its the little novelties that we seek.
We are trying to give people that same novel experience, but more so we are trying to hit one of the most important feelings of all; connectivity. During every project we challenge ourselves to not only make something that is fun to look at, but something that might inspire movements and leave a lasting mark.
In the past you've used tension to create a 'floating' effect with your sets, are there any new transformative aspects to design you've been working with recently?
We are always focused on interesting sculptures, and smart ways to achieve that. Right now we are playing with a number of new transformative elements which will hopefully be very exciting … but it's a secret—a gal's got to have some tricks up her sleeve.
What is an effect you'd like to use, but the technology isn't there yet? What's your favorite development since you've started working? Something that has transformed your work?
Synesthesia would be really fun to work with. Technology itself, is the main base development that has enabled and shaped our work. During every stage of technological innovation there is a new opportunity in design. Projection mapping is just the beginning; it led us outside a particular norm of useable products into an infinity of sculptural options for media playback. As technology evolves so will we. Our own experiences help us to gauge what is good or exciting design and the more we get out in the world, the more our work is transformed.