A Look at The Installation Art of Entertainment Design Corporation

An Expose on the Artist Behind the Award-Winning Crane Dance, Alex Calle

Written By: Dan Peel Alex Calle
Photographed By: Taylor Lewis

Power takes many forms. Is the electricity that fuels a 90-foot crane different from the power that moves human emotion? Alex Calle, one of the artists behind the award-winning Crane Dance, the 2015 Nicki Minaj Pinkprint Tour and the dark rides “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon” at Dubai Parks and Resorts views the two forms of power as one in the same.

And he should—it’s his job. Because the creative power of Entertainment Design Corporation (EDC) CEO Alex Calle stems from his rare ability to combine the artist’s inner world of abstract thought with the businessman’s hardboiled approach to contracts and negotiation, skills he learned from theater and his mother, who has worked with him on real estate side projects since he was 18.

The seeds for Calle’s career as a large-scale artist and CEO were planted at age 10 while acting at the community theater, his single mother’s creative approach to daycare. He was talking to the stage director and the set designer observing the actors at work when he was engulfed by the realization that everything they did on stage and behind the scenes was engineered to inspire an emotional connection between the story and its audience. Calle has spent the past two decades rising to a position that has enabled him to create immersive installation art pieces that emotionally move viewers while telling stories that transcend language.

“You can look at something as an audience member and feel a certain way, but you can’t really describe why, ” Calle said. “Well, there’s a whole team of people manufacturing that for you.”

According to Calle, an actor can use his body to communicate emotions that the audience can identify with, such as laughter or sadness. But when working with robotics and effects, you have to use inanimate objects to tell the story.

“An audience member can’t look at a shaft of light and automatically think of happiness, ” he said. “But as a designer you have to define happiness with a shaft of light. That’s incredible storytelling … and it’s why we have standing ovations. At the end you’re so enthralled in the story that you have to jump to your feet.”

Before he was transforming installation art into capital product, Calle worked as a set designer for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest and III: At World’s End with a BFA in scenic design from the California Institute of the Arts. He then worked as a set designer for the MTV Movie Awards and as an assistant art director for Starz’s Magic City before catching sight of an open art director position at EDC from his mentor Jeremy Railton in 2009. It was an opening he landed.

Since then, Calle has served as EDC’s director of design and CEO, and as of March 2016, became its chief creative officer. He and his team, which ranges from 12 to 50 artists and contractors, recently installed two $20 million attractions in Macau, where his work is becoming a popular sensation.

One of EDC’s best-known pieces is the Fortune Diamond show at the Galaxy Hotel in Macau. Located in the hotel lobby, the show combines lighting effects, mobile chandeliers, fog machines, fountains and robotics with adventurous music to create a fantastical story of the birth of a diamond. As the music crescendos, the fountain rises and then descends to reveal a diamond that flashes and hovers above a bed of colored fog.

Calle said that while installing the piece the artists, designers, engineers and other workers took on many different roles to see to its completion.

“I could be writing a script in the morning, but that turns into illustration work, which transitions into storyboarding, then it’s back to directing and setting up cues at the end of the day, ” Calle said.

One of EDC’s most internationally treasured installments is Crane Dance, a 70-million dollar iconic art show designed for Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. “In the performance, two 90-foot, 150, 000-pound robotic cranes carry out a graceful courtship dance amid a rush of water and light effects from a steel island 200 feet offshore, ” said Calle. In 2012, Calle and his team received the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement: Show Spectacular for Crane Dance.

“[With Crane Dance] we wanted to connect to the audience just like film or theater does, ” Calle said. “Not only do people from every culture understand it, but they connect to it. Basic storytelling is what mankind has been doing in caves for the past 10, 000 years. The language doesn’t matter because there’s no language involved in the story at all.”

As the newly appointed chief creative officer for EDC, Calle says he looks for opportunities to combine ideas with new technological developments so that EDC stays on the edge of contemporary art. These developments include augmented reality sequences and holograms akin to Musion’s famous Tupac revival at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Calle says that EDC plans to incorporate these and other inventions into arena and touring shows.

The horizon is rich with opportunity for EDC. Calle is currently leading the development of an installation piece for a festival in Macau and a new kinetic art architecture attraction for mainland China. And while he patiently works in the U.S. and abroad—it takes 18 months to four and a half years to move pieces of this scale from concept to reality—he also plans on creating an impact near home, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. If accepted into the museum, EDC’s walkthrough installation piece will be based on Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and use special effects to dig at questions about the true nature of reality.

It Takes a Village: Alex Calle’s foundation is strong. He credits his girlfriend of 15 years, Jamie; his mother and his close-knit group of friends, mentors and co-workers for his continuing success.

 

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Los Angeles, CA 90036

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