Each year the city of Scottsdale lights up for a two-weekend-long event by the waterfront, Canal Convergence, filled with community projects, live music, workshops and artist talks. Following the event’s perennial themes of Water + Art + Light, interactivity and sustainability, this year’s featured theme married the concepts of “Art and Technology,” with the goal of expanding the public’s understanding of technology’s role in artmaking and exploring the impact it has on society.
Joining in this year’s Nov. 5–14 event were several Arizona State University research groups, faculty and students from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, as well as alumni from the School of Art.
The projects ranged in topic, from water tasting in enchanted spaces to augmented reality artworks based in imaginative futures. Each project was thoughtfully designed to prompt conversations about our futures and how we can better understand what outcomes we want to see unfold for our planet.
The roots between ASU and the Canal Convergence go even deeper than projects and performances; the director of Scottsdale Public Art, who organizes Canal Convergence, is ASU alumna Kim Boganey. She earned her BA in art history from the university in 1987.
According to Boganey, Canal Convergence has grown from four days to 10 in the last four years and now attracts nearly 300,000 visitors every November.
Below is a full list of the ASU projects, performances and installations that were hosted during the 2021 Canal Convergence.
Artist and ASU alumnus Roy Wasson Valle of Fireweather Studio created an augmented reality artwork, "AeroGels," that was one of the 12 featured artworks at this year's event.
He also provided animations for an augmented reality scavenger hunt experience, "The Case of the Missing Artwork," in collaboration with artist Bobby Zokaites (who, like Wasson Valle, has a master's degree in sculpture from ASU’s School of Art) and students from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale.
School of Arts, Media and Engineering Assistant Professor Lauren Sarah Hayes presented a workshop focused on site-responsive sonic art.
Participants built circuits using light and sound sensors and connected them to portable microcomputers. Then Hayes invited them to take part in a collaborative sound installation to explore relationships between people, sounds and spaces.
School for the Future of Innovation in Society Assistant Professor Christy Spackman, Marisa Manheim, a PhD candidate in School of Sustainability, and Shomit Barua, a PhD candidate in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, presented “Tasting Water With ASU.”
The fully immersive experience encouraged participants to taste different waters, such as surface water, groundwater and purified water, and draw conclusions about what the waters told them about their environments, all while encapsulated in a space with various images and visual projections.
The workshop was designed to help people curate their own water, improve their skills at water tasting and contribute their insights to help water professionals think about the future.
In this workshop created by Vigas, the Brazilian multimedia artist behind the Light Falls installation, and led by School of Arts, Media and Engineering clinical assistant professors Kimberlee Swisher and Seth Thorn, participants used various industrial materials, including air conditioner exhaust hoses and other scrap, to build 30 LED lanterns. Once the construction of the lanterns was finalized, they used a special app to control the intensity and colors of their lanterns.
School of Arts, Media and Engineering PhD candidate Alejandra Rodriguez Vega hosted a workshop where participants interacted with a DJI Matrice drone to encourage a better understanding of what drones can sense, provoking discussions about the future of drones based on community needs and desires.