Meet Beamhacker, The Local Artist Creating Magic with Tens of Thousands of Lights
We get to know the LED wizard who was recently announced as part of Vivid Sydney 2023
Image: Still from the 'Deep Freeze' video
If you’ve ever been to a late night underground dance music party in Perth, odds are you may have enjoyed the work of Beamhacker. The alias of Josh McAuliffe (who also co-runs Outer Body and the Planet X festival), over the last few years Beamhacker has expanded to taking his intricate and engaging lighting installations out of the club and into a variety of other spaces, including recently his Deep Freeze piece at The Ice Cream Factory, and his upcoming appearance at Vivid Sydney with The Hive.
Having just released a video of Deep Freeze, a project that utilised the music of local producer, promoter & DJ PTMC, as well as being announced for this year’s Vivid Sydney, we caught up with Beamhacker to find out all about it.
How did you first get into designing and building lighting installations/experiences?
I have been putting on events and parties since the early 2000s and from the start have been coming up with ideas to augment the space and make it an immersive and unique experience. Starting out using traditional materials, upcycled items and whatever i could get my hands on slowly progressed towards the more high tech to using projections, 3D renders, Virtual Reality, Lasers, LED, EL wire, fibre optics and and an array of software. It wasn't until 2018 when I teamed up with some friends to create Planet X that I started to work on things outside of my own events, things progressed very quickly afterwards.
Who or what are some of your biggest influences/inspirations?
There are many artists and studios doing epic work in the A/V space such as Nonotak, 404.zero, Gmunk, WHITEvoid and more but a big influence has been Jobe from Reelize.Studio who i met when we he came on board to design the LED installations for Planet X. I learnt a lot from him about LED programming as well as the build process and the electronics side of things and have since been able to work alongside him on some collaborative projects.
Tell us about your creative process, from initial idea to completion?
The process varies somewhat depending on the scope of the project, but usually I need to first ascertain some key details before I can get to work such as location, scale, budget, duration of install, is there an overarching theme for the event/space the installation will be etc?... Once I have this info I can start to develop the concept. On many occasions ideas have come to me whilst dreaming, sometimes fully formed ideas including details on exactly how I could pull off the build in reality. On other occasions I will workshop concepts in 3D using blender or Notch. Once I am happy with the design I will figure out the logistics of the build and make sure it is achievable within the budget. After that comes the fun part where I am able to build and program the installation and bring it to life.
How important is music as part of your art?
Basically my whole career has revolved around music in varying capacities, from playing in a band and DJing myself to touring and managing artists, booking venues and promoting events. My work in lighting so far makes no exception and has mostly involved music in one way or another - sometimes there is live music from a band or DJ and my lighting is brought in to compliment the performance and sometimes my light installation and the music are created side by side as a fully formed work. Music and Lighting both elevate each other when they are brought together in unison so I always aim to integrate it where possible.
Tell us about your recent Deep Freeze piece, including the concept, space used and working with PTMC?
I was approached by Factory Summer to activate a space at their pop up festival in northbridge that ran all of december. The concept was to build a large empty room that resembled an industrial cool room, people would step inside and be immediately immersed by a grid of LEDs on all sides, programmed with patterns along with a lush soundtrack that could make the viewer feel like they are being transported into deep space. Bringing on Pete McAvan aka PTMC was a clear choice, his background in electronic music as well as more experimental sound design and his work with dancers and choreographers meant that he was an amazing collaborator and was able to create the perfect soundtrack for the Deep Freeze.
Congrats on being accepted for Vivid Sydney! Tell us about ‘The Hive’, including it’s location and the music of Mike Midnight?
Thanks! The Hive is going to be by far my largest and most ambitious installation to date. Built as a homage to the Bees, to align with Vivid Sydney's 2023 theme of Nature, The Hive is a towering three dimensional honeycomb structure, comprising over 50,000 LEDs. Mike Midnight is on board to produce a bespoke composition, incorporating stretched and manipulated recordings of bees and their different wavelengths. The Hive will be on display from May 26-June 17 at Jessie Street Gardens in Sydney, near Circular Quay.
What else is on the cards for the rest of 2023?
I am currently finishing the build of a permanent work for The City of Perth called 'Portal Squared' and am expecting to have it installed in its final home on Nicks Lane in Northbridge in the coming month. There is also a very cool video clip that should be released sometime soon that my lights were featured in, can't say too much more about that though. Apart from that, some rest, maybe?!