Christopher Schardt has been creating large-scale sculpture since 2000, focusing on LEDs since 2013. He works in aluminum, stainless steel, glass, plastics, electronics, and software. Schardt’s pieces are of various sizes and configurations, from 2,000 to 22,000 individually controllable LEDs. The animated imagery displayed depends on the installation. Sometimes a slow, organic pattern is appropriate, sometimes something more photorealistic, at other times psychedelic. Whenver possible, music is incorporated into each piece, dramatically enhancing its impact. This is incorporated whenever possible. Mr. Schardt seeks to create sights and sounds that delight and surprise, while staying in concert with the surrounding environment.
LED Lab, the software that controls Schardt’s pieces can respond to various types of input. A live camera feed can be mixed into its animated output. It can respond to audio to modify such things as color, position, rotation, and image size. External hardware can send it signals to modify various parameters. This allows the creation of highly interactive sculptures. Conveniently, Schardt is the creator of LED Lab. He can easily modify its code to suit any particular piece as needed.
Many of Schardt’s pieces strive to be a place to be. He learned how important this is with a piece called Yantra in 2003, and again in 2015 with Firmament. Rather than just walking up to Firmament, looking for a while at the pretty lights, and moving on, visitors would smile, sit down, and eventually recline, gazing up at the lights, sometimes for hours. This piece has many nicknames. A favorite is “Permanent”.
Schardt realized when watching these visitors that Firmament transcended some art-role boundary. It stopped being just a thing of beauty and became an environment with an emotional impact - calmness, serenity, safety.
Schardt is currently exploring combining the LED motion and physical motion. Before making LED art, Schardt created a number of kinetic sculptures propelled by the thrust from propane ramjets, culminating in Char Wash. He has nearly completed his first kinetic LED piece, called Spokes. And he hopes to build another called Paraluna in 2018.
PUBLIC ART EXPERIENCE
Firmament, Schardt’s largest LED piece, was installed publicly at the Life Is Beautiful 2017 festival in Las Vegas. It delighted people seeking a quiet, serene space in the midst of an event with 100,000 visitors.
Firmament was installed in Houston’s Discovery Green for a 6-week run in November of 2016. It was wonderful to see non-Burning Man, non-music festival folks interact with it. Americans for the Arts named this installation one of the Best 50 Pieces of Public Art for 2016.
In the summer of 2016, Schardt completed a commission for the ArtPrize Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 32 LED strips were suspended just underwater, the image they displayed gently wigging in the current. It was called Light Ripples. He enjoyed creating a piece that interacted with the river - the heart and soul of the city. He also gained valuable experience working with city government and other entities.
In the fall of 2016, Schardt completed a commission for the Market Street Prototyping Festival in San Francisco. He created the piece for a particular street corner - Market and O’Farrell and Grant. This interactive piece, called Follow projected an image for the pedestrians who came near, following them through that intersection of so many sidewalks and odd angles.