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Adding to the Spectacle

PLSN Staff • Laser FocusMarch 2019 • March 6, 2019

Lasers spew from Arcadia’s scrap metal spider. Photo by Ben_Daure

Arcadia Spectacular Brings Laser Effects Into the Mix

or more than a decade, the art collective known as Arcadia Spectacular, or simply “Arcadia,” has drawn crowds to their DJ booths and dance spaces with monumental sculptures made from recycled parts along with a carnival of special effects ranging from flames and pyro to strobes, CO2, light beams, lasers and mapped video to stunt performers working as aerialists and as chain mail clad bolt handlers called the Lords of Lightning.

Launched by scrap metal sculptor Pip Rush Jansen and engineer Bertie Cole, the collective is best known for Arcadia Spider, a 55-ton behemoth made from jet engine and helicopter parts along with military tank treads and other scrap metal. Housing a DJ booth and suspending costumed performers dangling from moving appendages, this three-legged structure has thrilled EDM revelers from Glastonbury in the U.K. to Ultra Music Fest in the U.S. along with major festivals in Australia and Asia. And since the DJ booth is elevated, it can pack in tens of thousands of revelers for an immersive in-the-round EDM experience.

Laser beams shot beneath the dangling aerialists. Photo by Shotaway

Last year, although the Glastonbury Festival had one of its regular “fallow” years and was not staged, Arcadia celebrated their 10th anniversary by bringing the Spider out to London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park during the U.K.’s Bank Holiday Weekend in early May, and as the Spider and related spectacles were drawing interest during the daylight hours, Arcadia also drew crowds to a hex-shaped tent dubbed the Reactor Arena, where lasers and beams created an immersive spectacle. (The Spider and Reactor arenas will return during this year’s Bank Holiday Weekend as well).

A ring of laser beams trap the artist in the Reactor at Arcadia London. Photo by Ben Daure

Along with its Spider, Arcadia is known for its Metamorphosis shows and flaming lampposts (sometime incorporated within the Spider shows), Afterburner flaming spire (which has also been paired with flaming lampposts) and amphibious Bug mobile stage. The spectacles vary, but all strive to engage the audience with a 3D, immersive experience rather than just present a 2D show experience seen from afar.

The laser beams shoot just over the revelers’ heads

As such, their use of lasers plays a key role, harnessing their focused energy to shape geometric spaces. On the Spider sculpture, there are three main lasers in use, one for each of the creature’s three faces, creating a vivid counterpoint to the sound and fury of flames. The Spider’s lasers are positioned in a way so they will cross under the elevated DJ booth, creating a lattice pattern that evokes a spider’s web.

Looking up at the beams at Glastonbury.

For the indoor Reactor arena show, meanwhile, lasers play a central role in creating architecture through light. There might not be a practical way to incorporate something akin to the fiery spire of Afterburner seen at Burning Man inside a tent structure, but Reactor’s design replaces the physical central spire with a laser “cage” in the center while more lasers line the outer edges of the 360-degree arena. Creating both art and architecture from patterns of motion, the laser effects sculpt the space above the heads of the audience.

Hand-held lasers in action. Photo by Shotaway

The collective has worked with ER Productions and Laser Hire London in the past, and they have recently added Kvant ClubMax 10 lasers and Pangolin’s FB4 media servers to their special effects arsenal. They have also announced that, while the Spider will not be featured at Ultra Music Fest and Glastonbury this year, 2019 will be an “intensely creative” year for the collective, with some big visual surprises in store for showgoers attending both events.

Lights and lasers intermingle. Photo by Shotaway

PLSN will be keeping our eyes open and report on these developments as they happen. In the meantime, enjoy this pictorial showing the laser effects that have accompanied Arcade’s past projects, including their Spider and Reactor shows.

Performance art at Arcadia London. Photo by Lukonic Photography

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