One of the things that always amazes me about Savannah is how many hidden gems it contains, specifically people that I had no idea were out there doing incredible things without much fanfare or acknowledgment.

Frank Unger, one of my guests on this week’s episode of Art on the Air, is such a person. He won an Academy Award as part of the team that did the visual effects on the film, "Life of Pi," and he’s using those digital talents as a contributor to this Saturday’s Earth Rise event at The Clyde Venue. “There’s the infamous photo of the earth rising up from the lunar surface,” Unger explained, “It changed the perspective of humanity, really. So we used the rise up idea for initiating change. Rising up to be instruments of change. Rising up to take part in the community. We need to be in front of each other, in the presence of the human being.”

He’s taking on the role of VJ, working four projectors at once. He and his collaborators AJ Perez and Matthew Duplessie have come together to create a sort-of mixed media experience called “Human Origins,” with the goal of creating an immersive space that will allow people to be inspired.

“We filmed some faces from around Savannah,” said Unger, “I had 35 volunteers. I simply set up a video camera. I said ‘Okay, look in the lens for 30 seconds, and I want you, without words, to project how would you make the world a better place. What do you want to tell somebody you love, but haven’t yet?’ And I got the most amazing reactions.”

“Human Origins” is an extension of work that Unger and Perez have been testing over the last several years at Sulfur Studios. The artists didn’t make a big deal about those happenings, but some people, myself included, managed to wander into them from time to time in the midst of other art events.

“We’ve conducted these things upstairs at Sulfur as experiments,” Unger reflected, “Luckily we’ve had really sweet responses, from the heart, where people say ‘I wasn’t overwhelmed by what you’re doing, and I really like that.’”

They’re refreshingly uncomplicated, but still impactful.

“We’ve seen people just sit in a chair and just stare at these landscapes that we make, and we’re just projecting on some white sheeting,” he described, “It’s incredibly simple.”

So how does this compare to the work for which he won an Academy Award?

“Working for Life of Pi… is unlike anything,” proclaimed Unger, “But being here in Savannah with the local artists and talking to them and making friends with them is better than any of that. Because we’re all able to share and volunteer quite a bit of our time because it’s what we love doing.”

“Human Origins” can be experienced as part of Earth Rise Savannah happening this Saturday, November 2nd at 6:30pm at The Clyde Venue, located at 223 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Tickets are available in advance via Eventbrite for $30, or at the door for $40.

Listen to my entire interview with digital artist Frank Unger, as well as additional interviews with Karina Rosenstein, Honor Hall, and Kench Lott, embedded here:


Tune in to “Art on the Air” every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at Next week’s guest on the show will be Brittany Reidy of The 2201, plus special guest host Kevin Clancy of The Hen House.

Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show “Art on the Air.”

Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.