SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Now in its tenth year, Canal Convergence, along the Scottsdale Waterfront district and part of Scottsdale Arts, unveils 15 large-scale interactive artworks from artists working locally to the Phoenix Valley and as far away as the Netherlands. This year’s festival showcases site-specific commissions, works created from ocean plastics, augmented reality, and some old favorites reimagined. 

Some standouts include Calgary’s B!G ART collective — Paul Magnuson, Matthew Waddell, and Devin Giles — who first showed their work the DOOR(S) in Scottsdale in 2021. The playful work comprises a standard-looking front door, which upon opening reveals a full-length video screen that pictures other locations, environments, and figures. This year the collective boasts three installations including a reprise of the DOOR(S), installed on the canal and in the nearby Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping center. The two works will look at each other, equipped with cameras that allow viewers to see what is happening in each location. B!G ART’s other works “the TUNNEL” and “the STARQUARIUM” also offer up notions of otherworldliness, portals, and transport.  

Jen Lewin’s work “The Last Ocean,” made of a proprietary mesh network LED system and recycled ocean plastics, is a series of interlocking patterns tessellated across the ground that invites visitors to walk upon it. Originally premiered at Burning Man, the work is equipped with “magic buttons” in select platforms, allowing people to shift the work’s color field simply by standing on it. Though whimsical and engaging, the artwork prompts a consideration of the impacts of plastic pollution on oceans and ecosystems writ large. 

Phoenix-based artist Fausto Fernandez originally created “Flowing Overlapping Gesture,” a site-specific work in 2010 (two years prior to the first Canal Convergence). The original floating installation, destroyed by a significant storm, had to be dismantled and was never fully able to be seen by the community. For Canal Convergence 2022, Fernandez resurrected the work with Hoverlay, an augmented reality platform and collaborative animations by Nicholas Townsend. Visitors can access the augmented experience with their smart devices and explore the work in a real-time hybrid virtual/physical environment. 

Canal Convergence is accessible, at times interactive, and also probes into deeper conversations. But more often than not, the light-filled environment of the festival, which allows a variety of folks to enter into contemporary art landscapes, is wonderfully fun.

Fausto Fernandez demonstrates how to activate his “Flowing Overlapping Gesture” via smart devices. Originally created as a a site-specific work in 2010, the work was destroyed by a significant storm and had to be dismantled. For Canal Convergence 2022, Fernandez recreated the work with Hoverlay, an augmented reality platform and collaborative animations by Nicholas Townsend.
Netherlands based artist duo AlexP (Alex Prooper and Simone van Dam) present their interactive point-and-shoot video piece MAAP (Mapping At Private Properties). The interactive work captures images of those who step into the projection, which in seconds incorporates them into the painterly landscape of the work. 
Immerge Interactive out of Philadelphia created interactive light installations that hover above the canal and mirror in the water. The 14-by-40 grid-like sculptures respond to movement in real time as people pass through activation zones powered by cameras placed around the viewing platform.
Local artist Jeff Zischke’s site-specific Sun Drops hover above the canal. The work, which references transitional desert light, is installed on an east-west axis in a descending and ascending pattern to relate to the rise and fall of light.
Large-scale inflatable sculptures come to life with when activated by people on stationary bikes. When activated, the static sculptures begin to breathe, emanating color as cyclists pedal away. Set-up in two different areas along the canal, “Canopy” merges a fun art experience with green electricity and technology.
Brooklyn-based artist Jen Lewin’s interactive sculpture “The Last Ocean” brings recycled ocean plastics into the art world, commenting on plastic pollution and the urgency to recycle. The work is a series of interlocking patterns, tessellated across the ground that invites people to stroll over colorful platforms.
Angela Fraleigh and Josh Miller’s Sound the Deep Waters is an interactive work that blends digital technologies with viewer participation. Upon visiting the work’s website, participants can write a short message that is then transfigured into Victorian flower language, creating a beautiful and sometimes ominous swirling pattern of imagery.

Canal Convergence continues along the Scottsdale Waterfront (info booth: 7025 E. Via Soleri Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona 85251) through November 13, 2022.

Erin Joyce is a writer and curator of contemporary art and has organized over 35 exhibitions across the US. She was a winner of the 2023 Rabkin Prize for arts journalism from The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin...