Artist Brett Bolton of Nevada brings together audio and video in his art

A creator who started off as a musician, Bolton began to develop immersive visuals for some of the biggest musicians globally. He talks to STIR about his developing practice.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Oct 01, 2020

Chicken nuggets bring comfort as the favourite fast food for many today, but have you ever known them to inspire an artist? In a conversation with Brett Bolton, audio-visual artist based in Nevada, USA, he shares a delightful anecdote which propelled him to create Lyten Up, an art installation which encourages viewer participation. While much of his practice is for commercial purposes like concerts and events, his artistic endeavours have found their ground nevertheless. Bolton says, “It started as a fun surprise I built for my friend’s wedding. It’s a bit of a long story, but in short, the bride is a big fan of McDonald's chicken nuggets... So, the groom and I thought it would be funny to surprise her with an interactive projection installation where wedding attendees could play in a rain of projected chicken nuggets. It turned out really well, so I decided to make it into a little side business (minus the chicken nuggets) that has been used for corporate and nightclub events here in Las Vegas”.

Potential Energy is divided into three zones - drum, bass and melody | Radii | Brett Bolton | STIRworld
Potential Energy is divided into three zones - drum, bass and melody Image: Courtesy of Brett Bolton

“I have been playing various instruments since I was about 11. In high school I started playing drums in multiple bands and music took over my life,” he says, explaining his journey into sound and motion graphics design and elaborates, “Right after college I had a two person band, named Kid Meets Cougar that was an outlet for all of the audio and visual experiments that I was interested in at the time. To enhance our live shows, I built custom MIDI controllers, got into projection mapping, and steadily learned how to create my own visuals and play them back live”. With a comprehensive tool kit of self-taught skills, he went on to create visuals for a variety of commercial clients, like hotels and casinos, before switching to creating visual experiences for concerts exclusively. Bolton worked on projects for studios, which gave him the opportunity to design experiences for massive names in the music industry like The Rolling Stones, U2, Blink 182, Bruno Mars, N.E.R.D and more.

01 min watch A look at the audience interacting with Potential Energy| Radii | Brett Bolton | STIRworld
A look at the audience interacting with Potential Energy Video: Courtesy of Brett Bolton

Brett Bolton’s journey is a testament to how resourcefulness and entrepreneurship are vital skills in the development of an artistic practice. He shares, “I am constantly trying to find a balance between client and personal work. In 2015 I decided to focus on creating concert visuals. I love creating visuals for other artists… but there are always personal projects that I want to build. I tend to get really restless if I am not building something of my own”.

‘Potential Energy’ encourages viewers to experiment with the audio and visually responsive elements of the installation | Radii | Brett Bolton | STIRworld
Potential Energy encourages viewers to experiment with the audio and visually responsive elements of the installation Image: Courtesy of Brett Bolton

What first caught my eye was a series of videos Bolton shared on his Instagram, of a hit-responsive installation where he uses the head of a snare drum to generate real-time visuals, which are projected onto the drum and the adjacent wall. Here, Bolton is essentially developing a new instrument altogether which combines visual and audio textures into one, using it for his audiovisual performance called Radii. Through this work, he has found a way to harmonise his passion for music and his adeptness for using light as a material into a singularly engaging performance. While Bolton might be relatively new to the space of independently driven artistic creation, his experience and skill using the tools and software required are overtly visible in a confident practice. Due to his relatively nascent entry to the space of ‘art for art’s sake’, his portfolio does leave the viewer hanging as his independent endeavours comprise fairly few projects. However, the innovative nature of his creative practice definitely leaves me wanting more and looking forward to seeing his next idea come to life.

04 mins watch A live audio-visual performance by Bolton titled Malleable | Radii | Brett Bolton | STIRworld
A live audio-visual performance by Bolton titled Malleable Video: Courtesy of Brett Bolton

Brett Bolton is currently working on the development of an installation titled Potential Energy, which is divided into three zones, and encourages people to walk through the exhibition space with every movement unlocking a ‘projected portal’. Bolton explains his concept further saying, “There’s some sort of energy build up behind the walls. Small streaks of light and electricity leak out from time to time as the pressure from the energy world behind the wall intensifies and tries to escape. As participants walk through three different zones, their movements are able to break open pieces of the wall in a number of interesting, intuitive, and musical ways. The sterile and monochromatic 2D marks on the wall open up to reveal a vibrant and chaotic 3D world behind. All three zones (drums, bass, and melody) together will create a constantly evolving piece of music based on the interactions simultaneously happening in each zone. Without human interaction, the zones slowly close their openings to the energy world and the music fades away”. This project is currently ongoing and continuously evolving. To say the least, I am excited to see this upcoming artist push and dissolve the boundaries between visual, audio and performative stimulus even further.

A portrait of the artist, Brett Bolton | Radii | Brett Bolton | STIRworld
A portrait of the artist, Brett Bolton Image: Courtesy of Brett Bolton

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