READY, SET, GLOW: How Cindi Drennan is putting Coffs in the spotlight

Cindi Drennan is a multimedia artist and projection art pioneer who has been carving a path in the medium since the early 1990s. Cindi is the founder and director of projection art collective Illuminart, who specialise in immersive public art projects which tell stories, interpret and share local heritage, provide mentorship and much more. As artistic director of SWIFF Light Box, Cindi is guiding the collaboration between its four featured local artists, to bring a truly magical experience to the Coffs community. We catch up with her to hear how it’s going…

What does your work on SWIFF Light Box involve?

My role is chiefly to guide the collaboration and to keep a holistic approach throughout the process. On the more mechanical side, there’s also quite a bit multimedia problem solving, as the artists are coming from lots of different disciplines.

To use a cooking analogy, each of the artists, their work and ideas are like a special ingredient from which we are creating a new dish. But like in cooking, when somebody gives you three mystery ingredients, to make an amazing dish you have to add spices to it to make it gel together; processes to help it raise up properly. While we are making a feast for the eyes, all these elements work on the strengths of the contributors.

There’s also the role of technology in bringing the work to life. The animators will develop the artwork – each artwork or contribution will have its own requirements and need to be treated slightly differently. The artworks all have to be processed and manipulated in different ways, according to how they will be interwoven into the sequence, and to technically prepare them and ensure they are suited to the site it will be appearing at.

For the uninitiated, what’s SWIFF Light Box all about?

The concept is all about taking a cinematic experience outside of the four walls of the theatre, and giving audiences the chance to enjoy moving images within a new context. We’ve chosen four sites, each offers a very different experience. We’d love the audience to visit them in a particular order, from Jetty Theatre, to the Forestry Corporation building, down to Element Bar, and eventually heading to the quarry (South Coffs Island).

It’s a bit like going to see a film, except that no longer are you sitting in a cinema watching the film unfold. It’s a progressive journey where the sites themselves are part of the experience of the story.

Each site has its own qualities and opportunities. As a projection designer and director I don’t fight with the space. You have to work with it, so that the art projection develops what naturally is already going on in that site. For example the Forestry site is in a beautiful park, a spot where you can pause, relax and be immersed in the projection and really connect with what’s happening in the story at that point. In contrast, Element Bar is a playful, bustling, meeting space. We’ve created a little projection installation that’s going to be part of the way people meet in that space.

See some of Illuminart’s past work here…

Can you tell us a little more about the art projections?

It’s been so interesting bringing these four artists together and exploring their relationship with their own artwork, with the Coffs region and with the sites that the work is going to appear on.

Ash Johnston’s work is very immediate – graff is very much about provocation and leaving a mark, it has an ephemeral quality, versus Alison Williams’s and Brentyn Lugnan’s work, which is very long-term; very connected to deep time and stories and values that are passed from generation to generation.

So we’re exploring this really interesting context around time – awareness of time and multigenerational time that are coming through the juxtaposition of these artists’ work. It’s not just about their individual work, but also what it’s communicating in relation to the other work and the sites.

What do you hope festivalgoers and the Coffs community will come away with after experiencing the projections?

Projection art combines the forces of cinema and augmented reality, theatre and installation. We’d love for people to feel that they are experiencing a progression of time, to recognise the talent of these local Coffs artists and to see the interconnections flowing between their work in a really animated way.

We want to grab people and intrigue them, like any good film would. People will hopefully not only be talking about “wow that building looks good with the projection on it” but be moved or inspired by what they’ve experienced, and reflect on the deeper meaning within the artists’ imagery.