August 21, 2014 - 12:37 pm
Some artists live for their art.
Brian Gonzalez (alias Taxiplasm) and Renzo Vitale live their art. Literally.
Five hours a night, four nights a week, one of them reports for duty, swathed in black body paint. (On Saturday nights, both undergo the transformation.)
After the body-painting process, the artist then climbs into one of two mirrored, pyramid-shaped pods surrounded by a white, fluidlike substance. A soundtrack of disembodied voices floats overhead and colored lighting shifts as the artist moves.
You can see him. He can see you.
You can even break through the unseen barrier separating artist and audience by adding your voice to the mix. Or by reaching out and touching the artist’s hand. Or by climbing into one of the mirrored pods yourself, facing its shattered-mirror interior on a journey of self-reflection.
Clearly, this is not the sort of thing that springs instantly to mind when you say the words “Strip casino,” but that’s exactly where all this takes place — at least through Sept. 7.
That’s how long Gonzalez and Vitale will present “Tell Me Your Secrets” as artists-in-residence at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ P3Studio.
Outside the studio last Saturday evening, weekend revelers bounce between bars on the casino’s third floor, ponder restaurant menus or take advantage of the pool table in a lounge area.
A few, however, wander past the P3Studio, pausing to read the intriguing invitation on the studio’s exterior wall: “When you step beyond these doors, your whole life will come with you,” it promises.
“It is the doorway between your words and your voice, your face and your reflection, your pain and your catharsis.”
Still other guests peer at two video monitors relaying the action inside: Brian and Renzo, each ensconced in a mirrored pyramid, shifting and stretching, surrounded by liquid, lights and voices. (The live video feed is also streaming live online at tellmeyoursecrets.co.)
A few visitors venture inside to experience “Tell Me Your Secrets” for themselves.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” says Josh Magana of Costa Mesa, Calif., after seeing — and hearing — “Tell Me Your Secrets” for himself. “It’s different — very dark. A bit of a Gothic kind of thing.”
And definitely not what he expected to see during his Vegas visit.
“No,” Magana blurts out. “Not like this. This is totally random.”
No, not really.
If there’s one thing “Tell Me Your Secrets” isn’t, it’s random.
Just ask Gonzalez and Vitale, who have been collaborating since 2010, when Gonzalez was shooting a fashion film and needed a pianist. He told a friend, who also knew Vitale.
Vitale showed up at the shoot “and said, ‘Hi — I am the pianist,’ ” Vitale recalls.
That was in New York, where both artists are based.
Gonzalez grew up in South Texas before attending film school and becoming a multidisciplinary visual artist. (He’s currently co-directing a feature-length documentary with Sean Ono Lennon.)
Vitale, from Italy, is a pianist, composer and acoustic engineer, with a Ph.D. in acoustics and master’s degrees in electronic engineering and English as well as piano. (He’s recorded two solo albums, “Zero Space” and “Storm,” and has won grants and prizes for his research on such topics as architectural acoustics and music communication.)
Both are involved with the New York-based art organization Contaminate, which focuses on “experiential art,” according to co-founder Alessandro Spreafico. “We’re trying to convince people to start collecting experiences.”
The experience that became “Tell Me Your Secrets” first took shape when Gonzalez was invited to submit a proposal for the P3Studio by the nonprofit Art Production Fund, which produces public art projects — and helped The Cosmopolitan develop and curate its artists-in-residence program.
The invitation came in the wake of a 16-screen video installation Gonzalez created in Times Square and additional video installations at the Standard hotels in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, he recalls.
“Tell Me Your Secrets” was “originally conceived for an art salon,” and produced by Contaminate to “work out how the technology and the music would mesh” and “see how the immersive experience could work,” Gonzalez says.
To create The Cosmopolitan’s version of “Tell Me Your Secrets,” Gonzalez and Vitale “built everything in New York,” Vitale notes, then rented a truck to transport everything to Las Vegas.
And Vitale designed the algorithm that translates the shared “secrets” into vibration patterns that not only form the project’s soundtrack but set off ripples in the fluid surrounding the pod-shaped pyramids, which “acts as a solid if you punch it,” he explains.
Those who find themselves inside those mirrored pyramids — artists and visitors — see “a broken image of yourself,” Gonzalez explains.
“But the longer you’re in the pyramid and you study your own reflection,” he adds, “it will morph into a collective truth.”
Or, as Gonzalez describes it, as “a multisensory immersive experience” — one that “will always change because of the human elements,” he adds. “The people in the pyramid are experiencing what we are experiencing. We will go to that place with you — you are not alone.”
And because “the pyramid is not entirely closed,” Vitale adds, “there’s an invitation for a connection. People could reach out with their hands and touch and play with the fluid,” or “start a conversation with you.”
Which is exactly what happened during Gonzalez’s first night inside one of “Tell Me Your Secrets’ ” mirrored pyramids.
At first, it was “just a void — a sort of infinity of yourself. Then, before I knew it, someone would reach out,” the artist recalls, noting “the whole idea of active reciprocity within that physical dialogue. The human element is the key factor to all good art.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.
“Tell Me Your Secrets”
6-11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, through Sept. 7
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Free admission (702-6967-7000; tellmeyoursecrets.co)