Oliver Hess has a wealth of experience and insight into the fusion of media and space. He has been working for over a decade in the field of visual effects using the advanced software and hardware, and whenever unavailable he writes and builds his own. His work leaps between mechanical effects built out of necessity to bring a virtual concept into the built environment, and virtual worlds created to bring physical concepts into the expansive algorithmic realm of the computer.
For the past several years he has worked with artists and architects to help them explore the digital realm even further by creating custom hardware and software systems for visualizing and/or creating unique and responsive spaces. Often, the software that he creates is specific to hardware or devices of his own design. The piece, Here There Be Monsters, that he developed with Jenna Didier, used machine vision to analyze the motions and facial expressions of visitors, and transform the results into different responses from a submersed distribution of fountain jets – resulting in aquatic “monsters” that leap up when you wave your hand, and dance with you when you sway side to side, among other responses. He has also has done drum machine controlled sprinkler systems, drench buckets, programmable muscle wire matrices, music controlled fans which blew up a 30′ skirt over a dj booth for Magic in Las Vegas and many other systems for architects, designers, and artists. This year among other things he lead a team to build a system for Heartbeat Sasaki to use at the Venice Bienalle which was a thin polished aluminum disc that when touched extracted and amplified your heart beat.
In 2004, Mr. Hess became Co-Director of a non-profit outdoor exhibition space in Los Angeles called Materials & Applications(M&A). This facility mounts two temporary installations a year that showcase architecture and landscapes by firms or individuals who demonstrate new or emergent materials or techniques. M&A has won three AIA Design Honor Awards for their exhibits (2005, 2006, and 2007), and the top award for environmental design from I.D. Magazine in 2006. Their exhibitions have been featured in many publications – such as the New York Times, The Architectural Record, and Dwell – as well as television, radio, and major blogs. Mr. Hess’ visionary ideas for community engagement and new forms of collaboration have been a major influence on the development of programs at M&A.
He also belongs to the art and technology collaboration, Didier Hess, formed with Jenna Didier in 2004. Didier Hess creates interactive artworks for public places. They discover the invisible but powerful forces influencing a site and make them tangible. Designs respond to the infrastructure supporting each site and the history and community surrounding a site. Inspiration comes from close observation of natural phenomena: air quality monitoring, air currents, solar rays, persistent weather patterns and even the flow of people. In this way, the creation of a consistent language in their work grows from the existing fabric of the location. Currently they are about to begin construction on a new landmark, a gateway over the 101 freeway in downtown Los Angeles, designed in collaboration with Ned Kahn and have several local and
national permanent public art commissions in the works. Their last major project was an aquaponic fish farm at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a water jet brass origami sculpture on a fire station in Baldwin Park which contains 64 leds which animated in response to humidity trending.