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Aurora Dallas Transforms a Parking Garage Into a Drive-In Art Exhibition

Melanie Clemmons and Zak Loyd's Laser Wash, at Aurora.
Melanie Clemmons and Zak Loyd's Laser Wash, at Aurora. courtesy Aurora
There’s something satisfyingly clandestine about looking for art in a dark downtown parking garage.

Inevitably, dark parking lots conjure a sinister image of suspenseful possibilities; they recall Bob Woodward’s meetings with Deep Throat, any bad-guy scene in a suspense movie and a number of real life attacks. Venturing into a downtown building to find an immersive art event greeting you on the third story of its garage is a solid metaphor for the year: We can find happiness in the darkest corners.

Aurora, the biennial art exhibition that has dazzled Dallasites since 2010, has become a local must-see tradition where families walk around in the fall evenings, admiring and interacting with the high-tech installations in the open streets.

This year, Aurora will take place as a series of events. The first one, called Area 3, runs through Jan. 1.
click to enlarge David' Stout's The Chamber is another standout at Aurora's Area 3. - COURTESY AURORA
David' Stout's The Chamber is another standout at Aurora's Area 3.
courtesy Aurora

After reaching the third floor, visitors will drive through Dentonite Alicia Eggert’s installation: a colorful fringe of streamers with messages projected in lights, such as “There is no beginning” and “There is no end” (Like a car wash, but a fabulously existential one), to be met on the other end by a noise installation by Blake Weld, a group of washing machines filled with wood and other heavy items not meant for a “delicate” wash cycle.

As dictated by their tradition, the Aurora event is full of heavy conceptual thinking, high tech and sensory installations.

Local participants, such as Brandy Michele Adams’ collaboration with Robert Anthony and Michael Moore; Tramaine Townsend; and Eric Trich and Taylor Cleveland, offer 11 stunning installations that bathe visitors with sound and showers of colored laser lights.

Taking careful turns with the car lights off, one finds a clever surprise at every corner. Two works find us confronted by human faces onscreen; making eye contact with unmasked strangers is an experience many of us have not had in months. Townsend’s piece consists of red screens showing darkened faces with eyes piercing through the viewer, as singer and performer Francine Thirteen sits in a Dia de Muertos-type altar a few turns away.

Another standout is Zuvya Sevilla’s cluster of monitors, which form small mounts surrounding both sides of visitors’ vehicles with an explosive visual of rings of light — apropos of the six months-worth of watching the world burn through our screens.

Each installation is meant to be taken in with some time to make sense of it from the comfort of your car. But, at least in the press preview we attended, there was no designated time allotted for each car, which perhaps caused each viewer to move along faster than they would’ve liked as we observed courteous driving practices.

The exhibition, we were told, was to take place over 30-45 minutes, but most vehicles seemed to be clocking in at the 20-minute mark. Hopefully, crowds will be better directed during busy days.

Ultimately, Aurora tried its best with the pandemic hand it was dealt, and remains an unmissable experience offering a brief-yet-sweet escape from artless isolation. With a glimpse into the masterminds of the makers of local culture, we are forced into a state of hope as we remember that the city will find ways to offer a world of wonders, no matter how small or (seemingly) clandestine.

Area 3 takes place at Dal Park Dallas, at 1600 Commerce St. Tickets for Aurora are $30 per vehicle.
click to enlarge As trippy as it is, Zuvya Sevilla’s installation reflects our current reality. - COURTESY AURORA
As trippy as it is, Zuvya Sevilla’s installation reflects our current reality.
courtesy Aurora
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Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.
Contact: Eva Raggio