Light and Public Art, revisited

Recently, I wrote a post about a temporary art exhibit entitled “Open Air” in Philadelphia, PA by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. I had the good fortune to experience the exhibit at its tail end on Saturday, October 13th. It was a bit nippy out, but it was really a very lovely light display. Viewers congregated at the parking lot in the middle of the parkway and in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where the Rocky steps are).

I am including this clip, well, just because I felt compelled. Skip to about the 1:40 mark to see the approach up the parkway to the steps (during daylight in the mid-1970’s).

Viewers and participants sat in couches in the parking lot directly under the display and listened to the submitted vocalizations that drove the light patterns. The 30 second audio recordings ranged from lovely songs and readings to hilarious and/or drunken rants and even the occasional heartwarming expression of love. There was also a microphone for contributions by any willing audience members who weren’t using the iphone app.

People were also sitting (and children were running around) on the PMA steps a bit further away, where I sat to take in the display. I rather enjoyed the experience and think it benefited from being a temporary one; for a long term display like that, it would be hard to maintain the excitement and interest, and it would risk falling into the background. But as it was, it certainly made for a festive experience away from the TV and computer and drew attention to the skyline that a long term resident may come to take for granted (I say this speculatively as a New Yorker who tries to remember to look up every once in a while). As a bonus, one had an excuse to take in some of the lovely architecture of the area. A highlight of which is the new Barnes campus, which has a lovely glow at night.

[A quick note on the Barnes: It has a fascinating history, which I encourage any art loving folk to read up on, and I emphatically disagree with the post on it in the Huffington Post. My disagreement is largely because, as the paintings were originally displayed in an affluent suburb that is hard to get to, especially by public transit, I don’t see how they are now less accessible in Philly. But this is off topic!]

I thought I would share some of my attempted photos of the “Open Air” exhibit.

Since my camera wasn’t so great for night photography and did not pick up the lights as well as human eyes, I am also including a link to a flickr gallery which includes not only the lights but people watching and contributing.

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