Towering above the futuristic design universe of Heineken Thirst will be one of the most iconic international pieces of public and festival art of recent years. Already a favourite at festivals across the United States, the 50 foot high Wish makes its Asia debut at Heineken Thirst. Designed by San Francisco public art conceptualists Robert James, Wish consists of ‘three contemporary dandelions that are losing their seeds in the wind’.
Wish has made its iconic appearance at international music festivals like Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, Nocturnal Wonderland, Burning Man Festival and now for the first time in Asia and Malaysia at Heineken Thirst 2012.
1. What inspired you to build the WISH art installation?
I like to build projects that captivated me as a child; I also like to build flowers so while researching and building storyboards for a new project, I kept coming across iconic images of dandelions losing their seeds in the wind. The image and idea is already so powerful to so many people…
2. Why did you decide to call it WISH?
The project is a figurative sculpture of three dandelions losing their seeds in the wind. As a child, I was always told when you held a dry dandelion and blew the seeds off that a wish was to be made. The name for the project couldn’t have been a better fit for nostalgic reasons; people connect with the piece.
3. Can you explain to us the interaction aspect of Wish? We read the sculpture will react to the music playing during the event.
Yeah, the project’s seeds are made of polycarbonate glass that glows different colors with the help of 22,000 LED RGB diodes. We control the lights with a remote control and usually walk around in the crowd talking with people and asking them, “What’s your favorite color?” The project will also be hard wired into the main sound board… so when Justice is dropping their heaviest bass line, Wish will pulse to the beat of their music.
4. How is art installation different from any other form of art?
Most artists when designing their upcoming projects don’t require the budget like I do. The hardest part in building on my level is having enough capital to properly finish the project. The steel members that I require are expensive and so is the equipment required to manipulate a 40’ dandelion stem. Also, designing a project that can be moved on highways within certain weight and dimensional limits…
All the components of WISH have to break down into small pieces to fit on the back of a code loaded semi truck – super difficult. I also have consultants on board like Architects, Structural Engineers, Lighting Tech’s, and sometimes Inspectors to ensure quality of work. All this while fabricating the piece by hand using traditional craftsman means and methods.
5. We saw in an interview – you said that your mother sketched together with you for another one of your project – Perhaps. Are your parents imperative in shaping you into an artist now? Tell us about your background, are you from an artistic family?
My parents are the best. They are definitely the reason why I molded into such a fun, outgoing, creative human. My father and grandfather were carpenters by trade – my mother and grandma… painters and all around creative creatures. My dad taught me how to use a drill and to operate a tractor, while my mom and grandma were giving me lessons on pretty flowers we found in our yard. That’s some easy math right there… tractor + flower = large-scale sculptor.
6. What’s the weirdest or funniest feedback you ever got from people about Wish? What’s the expected reaction you’re hoping to get from them?
People love taking pictures of their reflection in the mirror mosaic. I like it when people come up to the flowers and give them hugs… you know people like your work when they give it a hug.
7.How long does it take for Wish to be completely assembled?
8. Heineken Thirst won’t be the first event to have featured Wish, what are the difficulties of transporting it around and having to reassemble and disassemble it?
The lighting was really tough. We have 22,000 LED RGB diodes that need to coordinate perfectly, any small error in the system would blow the signal amplifiers and damage the diodes. There are thousands of connections on the project… working the bugs out of that system was a true test of my patience.
Storing the whole project when its not in use is a big deal. Most of the materials can’t be lifted with human strength so I need a forklift for everything. Moving heavy/awkward projects across the United States requires special licensing. My fleet of trucks and trailers increase as the scale of my projects increase. Getting my crew from show to show and making sure they are available for the dates is always an issue. Working long hours on the project beforehand and wanting to sleep during the
show is a big complaint from my crew… 😉
9. What is design to Robert James Buchholz?
I like design and art that’s light… not too heavy in meaning and definition. An object doesn’t need solve all the world’s problems and teach young people to be better humans, just to invoke a feeling, an emotion; enhance a moment and create an unforgettable memory.
I like the impact and strength that my scale of work encompasses; I really love the challenge too. The reason why I keep coming back to large-scale art is being able to dramatically change a large amount of environment… and I’m not just talking about the physical location and what you see with your eyes, I’m enhancing the people and all their senses…big time!
10. What’s your next sculpture idea?
I have a new 50’ tall Bonsai sculpture I’m developing right now. The project features a Bonsai pot with a catwalk around the edge of the rim for human performance art and theater… possibly something to look forward to for Heineken Thirst 2013.